"There's something morally wrong with having a swimsuit or a dress that costs the same as a cappuccino", said respected fashion critic, and now Vogue International Editor, Suzy Menkes, when quizzed about her views on 'fast fashion'. This high turnover low cost business model, practised by the likes of H&M and Zara, treats us to new stock at super low prices every week. But at what cost?
While I'm firmly in favour of affordable fashion (where would we all be without the great British high street?), I'm not so comfortable with the way the price of 'fast fashion' has changed the way many of us now think about our clothes. According to Lucy Segal, writing recently in The Observer, "A piece of fast fashion will last five weeks in the average wardrobe". Do we really care that little about what we wear?
As a stylist and owner of a designer resale boutique, mixing high end and high street labels with some well-chosen second hand finds, is what fashion means to me. I treasure every piece in my wardrobe, regardless of how much it originally cost, and regularly get things restyled or repaired rather than get rid of them.
One of my old fashion favourites is an Ann Demeulemeester black leather jacket. I bought this special piece from the Belgian designer's flagship store during my first visit to Antwerp back in 2006. It's special for two very different reasons. Firstly, it holds great sentimental value, as it was bought with some money that my late grandmother left me, and secondly, the day I bought it the designer herself was in the store. I felt like a soppy teenager when I sheepishly asked her for her autograph, but she was more than happy to oblige. I was star-struck!
Come rain or shine, this is my go to jacket, so when I noticed that the lining was starting to wear quite badly I wasn't surprised. I was more concerned about being without it while I had it repaired! But after a week away with my trusted tailor, it's now as good as new. How could I ever have simply consigned this special piece to the bin?
Having a great tailor to rely on is a must have in every woman's fashion armoury. The buzz from bagging that perfect new season something, is the same high I get when I have a piece of clothing restyled or simply restored to its former glory, whether it's a designer brand or fast fashion find. Just recently, a Mango jacket of mine has had a bit of a nip and tuck, my love worn Gap jeans have benefitted from some 'debagging' and when a brand new black leather Céline dress was left for sale at the shop, it had my name on it, despite the fact that it was two sizes too big. It now hangs proudly in my wardrobe, tailored to perfection!
Treasuring our clothes doesn't have to mean an end to shopping. Far from it! But what it does mean is not settling for second best. So next time you find yourself heading for a fast fashion fix, why not take a step back from the rail and simply ask yourself, is this item truly worthy of my wardrobe?