We consumers love stores like Forever 21 and H&M for the up to the moment styling and cheap prices. My last post feature a scarf and skirt from H&M. I love my new skirt! I am always impressed with their styling and fabulous prices. But sometimes the quality is poor, and if subjected to frequent washing , may fall apart. The fabrics may pill, the seams may unravel... In Manhattan, it can more expensive to dry clean or repair many of these items than it was to purchase them. I see why many would toss an inexpensive blouse after they spill their lovely Merlot on it. Also, there are any number of direct to consumer online stores that sell stylish dresses for $10 and below, Shoes for $7, on sale.....I have discovered these sources through other blogs and it is hard to believe. Its pretty cheap stuff, but some looks desirable. Okay, most of it is pretty awful, but some is passable, and the prices are astounding. This could represent a great savings for those who truly need these prices ranges to put food on the table.
Here I am wearing the skirt and scarf from H&M, that I featured on my latest post:
But it is am amazing, and unprecedented phenomenon, if not quite new, that an expensive designer can come up with a design, and these stores, with sophisticated technology, can adapt and manufacture them, and we consumers can find these designer inspired fashions in just one month! For a tiny fraction of the price! This trend is called fast fashion. Good, right? Not so fast. It is great for the consumer in many ways, but beware the hidden costs.
A snap of Forever 21 having a sale: From NPR, here is the link for the photo and a relevent story.
Much of this sort of cheaper, trendier clothing , is almost obsolete before the season is over. By most standards, it is poorly made. Because of these factors, they end up being thrown out or donated to charities. What most consumers do not know is that, according to figures from the EPA released in 2010, Americans discarded 13,100,000 tons of textiles. Of that, only 15% of that went on to become recycled. 11,000,000 tons of textiles were dumped in landfills across the country. That is an astounding number to me! Much of what you donate to charity ends up in landfill! This is news to me.
Photo source : Waste Biorefining Blog
It is important that we , as consumers know the repercussions of our buying habits. When clothing ends up in landfills, they decompose and release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, and contributor to global warming. Dyes and chemicals of the clothing, as well as the chemicals from dry cleaning can leach into soil and can contaminate surface and groundwater. Fast Fashion leaves a toxic footprint , and requires a lot of fuel ( crude oil) and water, resources that are in short supply.
The process of manufacturing is a source of trouble, too. The manufacture of polyester releases volatile organic compounds and particulates into the air and that causes respiratory problems. We have seen photos of the air in China, and often it is not fit to breathe. Real people get hurt in places that we can not see, and even in this country I am not always sure that laborers are treated fairly.
I try to be a mindful consumer. I tend to purchase very good quality clothes. Excursions to H&M, and Forever 21 few and far between, but I am small, and they fit very well. And, It is true, I do love the prices; I am no saint! I wash these items on delicate to help them last, and have had success. I try not to purchase items that are too trendy, and I keep my clothes, many of them, for decades.
My skinnies from F21 are 5 years old, for instance. That is a long time for a pair of jeans from that store. I shop at consignment stores, and thrift shops, and this helps to recycle. In one instance, I purchased a coat from a cancer resale shop, and then donated the item , when I lost some weight, to a place that supports battered women. Win, win, I hope! I am betting it does not end up in landfill, and I don't think it will: it was a leather trimmed cashmere and merino wool coat from Rena Lange....
When I buy something I expect I will have it for many years. Good quality clothing, in natural fibers have truly been investment pieces. And they feel wonderful on! I have a Chanel pencil skirt that is 14 years old, okay I have two, and I bought it on Ebay for $65.0o, and the other was from a consignment store for $145.00, and it came with an overcoat! (said suit would cost about $8,000.00 today.) The buttons alone would fetch that amount!
One can invest in second-hand designer goods safely. I don't presume that everyone can afford 65 dollars, but that is the same price of a Zara skirt made in synthetics, and in this country is considered reasonable. One thing is for certain, few items from Chanel will end up in landfill. Of course, styles change, so keep these items. They don't necessarily have to be designer duds to be high quality,: check for natural fibers and hallmarks of good sewing techniques. The style will be back before you can say obsolete! If you have a small closet, then consider your choices carefully.
As one example, my new H&M skirt, with good care and good luck will still be around , even it as it goes out style, and comes back. My Chanel pencils skirts, my Chanel bag, and coat will be in my wardrobe as I go gray and cranky. As will my wool cardigan from Dries Van Noten, from a consignment store that netted me a savings of about 90% off retail. As have many of my purchases, if you follow my blog.
My next point is controversial. I do buy fur. I buy it second-hand, but sometimes it brand new. This Missoni capelet/ jacket was brand new and purchased at Second Time Around in Manhattan's Upper East Side.I have 3 fur scarves, that I have owned for 7 years, eliminating the need to buy and rebuy a scarf. Although I do own and love a few wool ones, too. ( those are old, too!) I have a fur vest and I can walk around the city on cold days, with just a sweater underneath! I keep these in a cool place and I expect they will last for my lifetime.
Where as the scarf I bought from H&M, is something that I just do not like wearing. It looks good, but feels scratch and cheap. I bought the scarf while traveling and it was cooler than I anticipated. It looks pretty, is pretty warm , and was only $20. Yes, I was sucked in by that magic price point and now have buyers remorse. I wonder what it will look like in 3 years...I wont know. But It will go directly to a poor country, through a friend of mine , that appreciates all donations, in any condition.
This is me in an older post wearing a fur vest:
and this is me wearing me wearing it again:
and this is me wearing Faux fur, which felt nice and I hope to keep for a while, but I sadly think it will not wear well over time. I was seduced; pretty, pink and fluffy, and it is all of those things!
I know animals suffer when their fur is crafted into a scarf of coat. That makes me feel badly, but if I can wear it for years or decades, I can live with that. As well, I eat very little meat, choosing mostly vegetable and grains, and some soy. The fish I eat does not come from the deep ocean, as that process damages the beds of the ocean; I eat sustainable, carbon neutral fish like sardines, mackerel and anchovies. Okay, I eat bait!
Again, I am mindful about my choices. I know many women who will not wear fur, but will consume large steaks and bacon and leave a large toxic footprint . I care about little animals,( although if I saw a mink up close I may not be too enamored) but I fear for our environment, the numerous species still in existence, and I fear for our children and the ecosphere they will inherit. I am not judging, truly, but there are fifty shades of gray in the moral equation of what is right or wrong, when it comes to food and fur consumption. ( lets leave Mc Mansions and private planes out of this, for now..)
Also regarding fish, I do sometimes splurge on other fish besides anchovies and sardines. I do live in the real world. The meat I eat is kosher, as the killing process is more humane, and/ or free range chicken, or pasture raised beef. I do not eat pork, and they are sentient animals, and are often caged. In New Jersey they are caged so that they can not even move their limbs and lay down, and female pigs spend 80% of their adult life pregnant.
I consume small portions of meat, and infrequently as possible: it is better for me and better for our enviroment ( less methane in the air and contaminants in soil.) It is however necessary, as a purely vegan diet makes one prone to anemia, and I spent two years getting my iron levels up to normal in an outpatient hospital setting.
Note: one needs meat ( a heme source in medical parlance) in a meal to absorb the iron from the kale....
My point is that we be mindful. We should be mindful when we shop for food or clothing. We should care for the things we buy. We should care how our stuff is made, and where it goes when we are done with it.
We should buy from local vendors when we can. Indeed there is no right or wrong, but better and worse, and I hope my buying behaviors fall squarely in the middle ground that keeps me well fed, well clothed and able to sleep at night.
So I will wear some fur, I will wear leather shoes and bags, and some vegan ones, too. I am not a saint. Nor am I a sinner. I could make this argument: someone who buys large quantities of clothes, hopping obliviously on every trend bandwagon, sends many textiles inadvertently, to the landfills, causing great harm, and possible irreparable harm to the environment. Worsening global warming threatens entires species, it is threatening ours as I type this. Better to buy a few good things ( including fur that is kept and worn for decades) or in my case, a bit more than a few..and keep them, taking good care of them. In the long run I think I purchase fewer items than many, over time, at least, because my good quality clothing lasts so long.
There is an economic reason to shop this way, too. My items from Chanel and Hermes worth more now than when I bought them. Some fabulous vintage pieces are too. If I chose, I could sell these at a profit, in which case I was paid to wear them. Imagine that! Please do not hesitate to shop second-hand: the consignment stores in Manhattan keep their clothing like jewels. If someone stains something, while trying it on, it is removed from the store and dry-cleaned... This does not happen in pricier department stores.
I think someone who buys only what they need, and keeps it for a long time is being the most responsible. However, I am not that person either. I do have a lot of clothing, and shoes, and bags. I do not need all of this, but I do value it. Since I keep most of my clothing, ( and shoes, and bags) and I have been the same weight for 40 years, ( give or take, I was pregnant twice!) I do own quite a bit!! But I am mindful of where it can from, and I certainly appreciate every fine fiber, and every leather and rubber sole.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on the subject and I will be open to hearing yours.
For more information on this topic, please read Elizabeth Kline, her book is Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
I hope I didn't put a damper on your holiday shopping spree, just some thoughts to keep in mind as you fill your holiday shopping carts. I know I needed to hear it! Warm thoughts go out to you this holiday season.