Stored and Adored

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Is Pre-Loved Designer Fashion The More Sustainable Choice? #30wears

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Photo by Rawle C. Jackman / CC BY

I don’t know about you, but I’ll often pick up a glossy magazine at the beginning of the month and then not find a solitary moment to sit down and enjoy it until the next issue is already on the shelves. That, certainly, is what happened last month when I bought Elle, and only this week did I finally make my way through its pages.

Somewhere in the middle of the magazine I found a piece by Jess Cartner-Morley where she identifies and examines a high-fashion shopping trend of ‘dressing for you’. In contrast to years of shopping designer fashion for elaborate and often un-wearable pieces, Cartner-Morley explains that she has now discovered the pleasure of spending that same money on everyday designer items, such coats or shirts. For her, this represents a movement away from curating a museum-esque collection of dramatic high-fashion that barely sees the light of day. This shopping culture is replaced with something more suitable for her lifestyle, with a sustainable edge that fits with Livia Firth’s mantra of ‘will you wear this a minimum of 30 times?’

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Photo by Tinou Bao / CC BY / edited: cropped and colours enhanced

I’ll say now that really enjoyed this article. It would be an easy one to overlook within the magazine as there was nothing to arrest your attention in terms of photography, but it had a good message. I don’t think that this is a new phenomenon by any means, and Cartner-Moley attests to this by referencing her ‘more elegant friends’ who have always shopped in this manner. However, I do believe that this is something that you have to discover for yourself. Despite the countless blog posts and YouTube videos where women all agree that wearing them is the most painful thing that you can do to your feet, it’s still very easy to be swayed by the glamour of Laboutins. And my more personal example always comes in the form of a designer clutch bag, which despite my every effort will never get as much wear as a designer shoulder or cross-body bag.

Luckily for us, Cartner-Morley points out that designer brands are embracing this trend and producing more and more pieces that are suitable for everyday wear. For every full-length gown and bejeweled box-clutch you’ll also find immaculately tailored shirts and trousers. Indeed, for every jewellery-esque handbag (I’m thinking of Chlo├ęs Drew bag) there are plenty of beautiful and yet robust options that might represent a more useful and sustainable choice.

stored and adored designer and pre-loved bag blog
Photo by Joseph Brent / CC BY / edited: cropped & colours enhanced

Although I understand that buying fashion items that you'll wear at least 30 times doesn't magically make an item 'sustainable', it is quite a good test to halt our fast-fashion (and often incredibly expensive and wasteful) shopping urges. A lot of the conversation about this 'eco shopping principle' is going on under the hashtag #30wears, and I'm personally quite interested in what people think about buying pre-loved designer fashion. 

To me there seem to be two sides to the coin. First, the model of buying and selling pre-owned fashion items might be seen as promoting the idea that fashion is disposable. Even as you're buying a new dress or bag there might be that thought in the back of your mind that you could always sell it if you don't truly love the item. Alternatively, the second way of thinking about pre-loved fashion is that it helps to layer multiple owners and each of their '30 wears'. This might mean that eventually one designer dress or bag has seen over 90 uses, or even more, resulting in those individual items becoming more and more sustainable choices over time.

I'm inclined to believe that buying pre-loved designer fashion has to be a good thing. I know from my own experience that most designer bags are made to last a lifetime, and yet they're often disposed of after a year, or even a single season. All that design, craftmanship and the actual physical stuff that they're made from - all of it would go to waste without a pre-loved designer market. Although pre-loved items can certainly rack up a bit of mileage between owners, I think that this has to be weighed against all the energy, materials and man-hours that it would take to create (and advertise!) something brand new.

But what do you think? 
Do you think the pre-loved designer fashion market could be improved, especially in regards to sustainability?


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