The Goods

The Amazon Coat Was Always Just Fast Fashion

And now, it is over.

just a coat

Local women are casting aside a “remarkably cheap” seasonal clothing item that was rather popular last year, reports the New York Times. It would just be the normal step in the life cycle of fast fashion. The tossing of this particular piece of clothing is newsworthy, though, because it is the Amazon Coat, as it came to be known last winter. The viral item, which cost just over $100 and features “an unholy assemblage of zippers,” as Reyhan Harmanci writes, could be seen on women all over the city last year. But this year, Harmanci is having trouble wearing it. Is it still even cool?

Popularity was always what the Coat was all about. When I ordered one for myself last winter, sparked by a post from the Strategist enumerating how it was a hit with fancy Upper East Side ladies, it was with a sense of excitement. Maybe we had agreed as a group that something affordable and practical and even a little ugly was worth coveting! But when the package arrived, I discovered that the proportions of the coat were off: The body was wide and bulky, the arms T-Rex-y in comparison. Within five minutes of puzzling at myself in the mirror, one of the many zippers got stuck. It did not look good. It did not work well.

This experience is probably familiar if you’ve ever shopped at Forever 21, or H&M, or any of the many fast fashion chains that proliferate America. The clothes are almost always better in theory than in practice, especially if they involve a lot of stitching, moving parts, or a distinctive silhouette. (For the Coat: check, check check.) Like the filaments of light bulbs, or the batteries of iPhones, fast fashion seems almost designed to break down and necessitate a replacement purchase. I know this from plenty of experience wearing, and being failed by, cheaply made goods. In this case, I opted to return it.

I’m glad I did. Harmanci reports how a couple women (both recognizable names in a certain corner of media) who bought it last year are faring now:

“I put it on the other day and felt really weird about it,” said Caroline Moss, a writer. “I just felt like I was putting on a meme that was done.”

“I’m so sad that I’m still wearing it,” said Emily Gould, a novelist in Brooklyn.

What differentiates the Amazon Coat from, say, the cotton-candy-colored H&M earrings that were popular my freshman year of high school, isn’t that this life cycle happened. It’s that it happened so publicly, meticulously reported on by virtue of exploding in wealthy-ish and media-ish parts of New York. Harmanci credits the coat’s popularity with old fashioned word-of-mouth—perhaps turbo-charged by social media. But as she also notes, outlets from the Strategist (which sparked the fervor) to CNBC to Reuters covered it, too. (Oprah even included it in this year’s edition of her favorite things; apparently unaware of the changing trend tides.)

I’m compelled by a theory in Rebecca Jenning’s analysis at Vox: The coat was positioned as something worn by women on the Upper East Side, known for being picky and rich, and yet, it was also this inexpensive Amazon thing, at once intriguing and accessible. It seemed like a magical discovery. But in the end, the glow around the coat was just plain and simple popularity. With that removed, we can see the coat for what it was: a regular old piece of fast fashion. If you’ve bought in, you can take heart in the fact that the coat is warm.