I was ironing a pair of jeans last night that I had resurrected from my collection of ‘out of sight clothes but not out of the house clothes’. They had been deliberately put in a storage bag then tucked away in a fairly inaccessible cupboard above my wardrobe, not deemed worthy of a space in my day-to-day wardrobe for over five years.
Why had they not actually left the house with other items donated to charity over that time, especially when I hadn’t worn them in so long? Clearly I don’t actually need them or they wouldn’t have been relegated to a storage bag for so long? More and more we are being encouraged to clear our living spaces. Cleanse our closets, to give to a good cause, to let go of things we don’t wear anymore…but these beige jeans had remained. Why? Because they were expensive. The guilt of parting with something that had cost as much as they did was the reason they survived the charity donations edit time and time again.
I’ve never regretted getting rid of anything cheap. That Primani (Primark) skirt, that Quiz top and Topshop dress that I bought on a whim without really considering what I was purchasing. Ugh, all of them because I never truly valued it form the start. They were ‘just for fun’ and before I understood the impact of fast fashion. Their value was zero.
I’m sorry landfill or African country that you now find yourself in. I gave you to charity over the years in good faith but they were of poor quality even when new, secondhand after a few washes and wears they will have deteriorated even more. You are probably there somewhere and will be for another 300 years slowly breaking down into micro plastics to further pollute the soil and waterways. I wish I hadn’t bought you in the first place. I wish you hadn’t been made in the first place.
Good quality clothes cost more than £20 for a pair of jeans. The beige jeans I mention above were bought in a boutique in America and I had never heard of the brand before, nor have I come across it again since. There was no seductive marketing influence or fancy recognisable brand label influencing that choice.
As I looked at them properly last night, possibly for the first time ever, acknowledging how good quality the fabric was, I also realised just how beautifully made they were. The attention to detail and little design nuances inside and out, this was the reason why they were expensive. With their little kick flare hems and yummy warm beige tones, with a cut that makes my butt look ten years younger than it is, to me, this season (and I'm sure for many more,) they are priceless. The only carbon footprint inflicted on the planet by me adding them to my wardrobe this season is washing them and ironing them.
The distinguished leaders of fashion are passionate about quality. These brands have never produced inferior quality goods. Don’t get me wrong, you are paying in part for the designer label but there is also a significant difference in the cost price of raw materials and workmanship between a £10 top and a £500 top. The £10 top is too cheap; the £500 can be overpriced. Profit margins at the mass-market end of fashion are around 100% mark up on cost price. The more prestigious a brand, the higher the markup will be with 400 or 500% markups not uncommon. The sweet spot is the brands who sit in the middle and the good news is, more and more of these are coming to market to satisfy the demand for high quality, well made clothes in sustainable fibres.
I watched a recent short talk by Chris Packham on the environmental crisis and he states that if we in the UK alone, continue our current rate of consumption of stuff (including clothes) it will require two Earths worth of resources to meet the demand.
As the Spring clothes appear and the temptations of a new season start, consider the less is more approach. Have less but make sure anything new is better quality even if it is secondhand. If you were guilty in the past of buying three or four average priced things in a season, buy only one more expensive (and sustainable item instead.) Reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’ is essential. Buying only what we need is a big step in the right direction to being more sustainable.
So as usual, my motto is; shop in your wardrobe first, buy right first time and wear with love often.