Planned Obsolesence

I learned a new phrase recently. Planned Obsolescence. And whilst I don’t usually fall for conspiracy theories this is one I can well and truly believe.

It was coined in the 1920s but it wasn’t really public knowledge until the mid 1950s. It was born out of a need to convince the American car buying public that they had to buy a new car before the old one was ready for the scrap yard. Because quite literally everyone had a car and salesrooms couldn’t sell any more. To encourage it they began producing products designed not to last too long. And they hit on an idea – ‘planned obsolescence’. Quite simply it means to ‘Instill in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.’

Wikipedia’s explanation is a little more detailed: ‘Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time.’

In the days before shopping became a pastime, you bought what you needed. You only replaced when things were beyond repair. You saved hard for those new investments. They were not casual purchases.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the fast fashion industry being a little more than just a way to bring fashion to the masses. Companies after all, don’t do things from the goodness of their heart where profit is concerned. Why else would an industry be so reckless with its resources? In the combination of third world production and a fashion company’s seemingly endless ability to regurgitate designs on a weekly basis, the fashion industry hit on a way to fuel the relentless desire for clothes. Simply make them so badly you have no choice but to buy new ones.

And as we de-skilled our UK workforce rendering ‘make do and mend’ nothing more than a harkback to the good old days of the war, and spoonfed new generations with the belief that quantity rather than quality were what you really needed in your life, so we became more relient on a continuous stream of bad production with no idea how to tailor it to our budgets.

Furthermore ‘…contrived durability is a strategy of shortening the product lifetime before it is released onto the market, by designing it to deteriorate quickly.’ Source: Wikipedia

You could say we’ve all been the victims of a big con. A big wheeze designed to keep you addicted and the big fashion companies rich. Imagine how much money you’d have if you hadn’t been so obsessed by the latest from Primark. Now that’s really nothing to boast about.


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