In her book The Human Condition, Arendt turns out to be particularly visionary when she describes a modern world drowning in mass consumption, without goal or hope, and ultimately leading to the end of commons. Think of the fashion industry today. Think of the extraordinary amount of standardized clothes in standardized sizes that we buy – a 2006 Cambridge study showed that women had four times as many clothes in their wardrobe than they did in 1980. Clothes don’t last for an entire lifetime, but are meant to be thrown away and replaced season after season.
To counter this programmed alienation, Arendt calls upon a vita activa, advocating for speech and action in order for us to express our uniqueness, share ourselves, and, by the same token, align us with other human beings. “With word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world” she writes, “and this insertion is like a second birth.” What Arendt didn’t anticipate was the advent of the Internet – the “web” -, which set up a new order, that happens to be, in many ways, favorable to community building. While, until now, the Internet tool has largely served capitalistic purposes, giving birth to a new type of consumption – e-commerce -, it could also possibly lead to an alternative model of creation, production and consumption, new ways of thinking about fashion “as a mode of human togetherness,” as expressed by Pascale Gatzen. Of course the Internet allows us to express and share our identity through blogs and other social media. What interest me the most, however, are the platforms of microfinance that have been burgeoning on the web these past years. They have proved their efficiency in fields such as music or cinema, but have yet to gain prominence in the fashion industry. Such platforms would allow us to choose projects, choose a certain vision, a certain aesthetic that speaks to us, and lend money to those emerging designers that we like. The lenders would then have their participation rewarded in some way – getting free clothes, being invited to fashion shows, walking down the runway (even if they aren’t a size 0), or having their name written in golden letters in the big book of fashion (for example).
Such an organic process could change the face of fashion, if only human beings would overreach their materialistic desires to own things!