Last friday I attended the Babalon Blognight at The Public Image store*. Coco Chanel once said: "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." This phrase could actually be the definition of this concept store. The store breaths fashion and offers a mix of items of different designers and brands addressed to ecologically friendly, street wear oriented customers.
Concept stores give the buying process a different meaning. It's all about the shopping experience for the customers. My thoughts started drifting away. Fast versus slow fashion, is it that difficult to choose for quality?
It seems that we've got a ravenous appetite for fashion. Clothes have gone from being investments to being disposable items. Garments have become more than a third cheaper than they were ten years ago, and the average woman owns more clothing now than at any other time in history. This is all thanks to the 'fast fashion industry'.
International chains like Spain's Zara, Sweden's H&M, America's F21 and Ireland's Primark have conquered the retail world by not only knocking off designer duds minutes after they appear on the runway, but completely restocking their stores with brand new fashions every two week or so. True story: where once there were two fashion cycles a year - spring and fall - we now have two a month.
I'm not going to point the finger at anyone else. We want to have fun with fashion and fast fashion can definitely be fun. It's great for those who are still trying on new styles to learn what suits then best and have small allowances to pay for it in any case. But for the rest of us, shouldn't we know better by now? Shouldn't fashion be more luxurious than this? Shouldn't it last?
One of the reasons we all fell for fast fashion was to express our personalities through our clothes. Ironically, all we've managed to accomplish is looking like everyone else out there. We're every few months wearing the same trends, how cocky :-)
There's a reason why nearly 20 years after her death, actress Audrey Hepburn is still considered one of the most stylish women ever to have graced the planet. She favored simple garments devoid of embellishment. She pursued clothing that remained chic year after year. Also, did you ever see Karl Lagerfield in anything else than a suit? And what about Grace Kelly?
Women like Audrey and Grace knew that timeless style is built on a few simple pieces. The key is to figure out which wardrobe staples - your from now on faithful basics - best flatter your figure. Should you invest in pencil or A-line skirts? Skinny or straightleg trousers? Should your white tee be fitted, loose, asymmetric or... what about black? Finding a collection of go-to combos that flatter your figure requires a little experimentation (and an honest friend or two).
But when you've found what you love and what looks best on you, the urge to buy fast fashion will take off. Dressing yourself in a few well-made basics that you can update with well-chosen accessories will make you feel so much more confident than dressing yourself with so much junk. We women have been dressing ourselves in nasty, flimsy, scratchy, badly made and ill-fitting clothes, all for the sake of being on top of a trend that lasts about two minutes. We're worth more than that.
Once you've got these essentials sorted, it's easier to figure out which trends to incorporate into your wardrobe and which to leave on the rack. As a general rule: the more details a garment has, the more quickly it becomes outdated. For example take stripes: they've been popular since the early 1900 when Coco Chanel first designed tops inspired by French fishermen. Right now, stripes are back. But when you buy a striped tee with embellished shoulders and military-style buttons on the cuff it will feel like an expired rend by this time next year. So ladies, keep it simple.
I once bought (read: grabbed) something at F21. When I came home I saw that the stichting was already ripped and that besides it was already damaged, it really didn't suit my figure. I gave 10 euros for something that was already damaged and would probably not look good on any woman's body type. Pfff.
This is the reason why fashion guidelines always used to say that women on a budget can't afford to buy cheap clothes. Those inexpensive garments just don't last. It's better to buy less but high quality items that are locally produced and ethically made. At least they will last more than one season, probably for years.
Keep in mind that an item's expense doesn't guarantee its quality. The trick is to shop like your grandma would have done: turn down the seams to see if they're well finished or if threads are loose and the stitching is uneven. Is the garment lined? Are heave-use areas such as buttons or zips reinforced? Is the fabric durable? The list of questions goes on.
It can be expensive. I think that when a garment is extremely well made, it's worth a splurge. The old idea of actually saving up to buy something special instead of racking up more debt on a whim has something "romantic", right? Invest in your clothing. Invest in your style. Invest in you.