Vanessa Friedman is the new fashion critic at the New York Times. This spring, she spoke at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, and she declared that sustainable fashion is an oxymoron. Instead, she said, we should talk about the sustainable wardrobe.
She gave the example of her grandmother, who worked hard to save up for the precious clothes she had and then took great care in making the clothes last as long as possible.
This was slow fashion. It was careful conscious investments over time. Now, we all think we must all have everything we want immediately at our fingertips (or at least at our doorstep through overnight expedited shipping).
But what if we changed this sense of time?
Recently, I was tempted to buy an expensive pair of shoes (not surprising given last week’s post), but I couldn’t bear the thought of actually paying that much money for a pair of shoes. Then, a close friend asked me if I’d work a catering gig for her growing business, and she would even pay me.
Suddenly I started to think a different way: what if I could buy the shoes as long as I saved up for them? The money for me was outside of my budget, which is based on what I earn from my 9-5 job. The additional perks were, of course, that the longer, slower process would give me time to make sure I really wanted the shoes, and the hard work of earning them would make me take that much more care once I owned them.
We all have different limits of how much we are willing and able to spend on our wardrobes. Sometimes, for reasons out of our control, we need whatever is fast and easy, which sometimes means cheap and often means imperfect. But how can we make those instances the exception rather than the norm? What if each piece in our wardrobe had a slow lead time to when we actually swipe our cards and take our prize home? Would we buy less? Would we buy better?
After all of the hard work and with money in hand, I decided I still could not spend that much on a pair of shoes. Instead, I opted for a beautiful pair of flats that were still an investment but half the price of the original pair. It was not fast, easy, or cheap. It did not solve all of my wardrobe problems. But slowly, I’m investing through thoughtful purchases. And hopefully that brings me a little closer to a sustainable wardrobe.
Do you think “Sustainable Fashion” is an oxymoron? What word or phrase would you use instead? I’ve got a glossary of terms in the works, so please share if you’d got a favorite phrase or one that needs more clarity.