Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes", during his exhibition in 1968. His intuition was right, as we live in the digital age of the selfie. The easy use of digital technology can put a spotlight on anyone instantly and globally, so it has become a tool to become famous anywhere at any moment. Consequently, the role of social media like Instagram and Twitter have become not only a communication tool but a mirror of “selfie”: everyone wants to be known. Susana Saulquin is an Argentinean sociologist who believes in the arrival of an individualistic time, yet claims that there will be “conscious” consumers.
How do you characterise the fashion consumer?
The fashion consumer does not show all the features yet that are important in order to drive the change in society. The future begins with the conscious consumer but the current one is still attracted by the massive consumerism. The new figure will be trained in the possibility of making a choice and thinking by themselves. To put it another way, a consumer that chooses freely, without paying attention to trends or fashions: just takes what he truly likes.
How is the fashion consumer integrated in our society?
I believe that the new trends are nesting in the social networks. The new consumer has an incipient training to surf these networks and shows a certain level of individualism, even though he still looks for the possibility of going viral. However, social networks will help to develop the conscious consumer’s role.
Is it possible to raise awareness amongst consumers?
I think that the press and the academic spheres would be of some help to raise awareness, but ultimately it means an insight, a personal process. It all must fall into place for people to change. We are at a beginning of something and thus, communication and education are essential.
What does it take for a garment to be considered “clean”?
Fundamentally, that it comprehends an ethical practise and that it has a clear traceability all the way back to its origin. It must give you the possibility to know the piece’s complete history. This can’t include sweatshops or non-sustainable elements in its production.
Do you believe in the transition to a whole new fashion system as you stated in your book La muerte de la moda, el día después (The death of fashion, the day after)?
I believe there is going to be a change in the social system and clothing is a part of it. The society that is arising nowadays will be completely different. Regarding the products and production system, it will be interdisciplinary. I think that the changes will be huge in all the aspects of the system. However, I believe that the fashion system as we know it will endure for a time because there is too much money and interest at stake. But it will eventually founder.
What will the basis of this new system be?
It will be based on the artisanal production and localism, in other words, local design. I don’t think it will be a global system but a great number of local productions. To my view, the industrial scheme will be over. Maybe there’s going to exist a semi-industrial system but the new technologies will allow us to create small series of almost unique products. Another system, whose core will be a network of individualisms. There’s an individualistic culture in the sense of associations, in social networks. The digital system will remain.
Susana Saulquin is the director of a master degree specialisation in Design Sociology at Buenos Aires University. She is also the author of books such as Historia de la moda en Argentina (History of Fashion in Argentina), La muerte de la moda, el día después (The death of fashion, the day after); and Políticas de las apariencias (Politics of Appearances).