A good friend of mine was celebrating a significant birthday last month, and her three sisters decided that they wanted to all chip in and buy her an expensive designer handbag. She called me to ask for some advice.
“I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I don’t want an expensive bag,” she said. “But they have their hearts set on buying me one.”
I don’t know if it’s because of our age, or an increasing awareness of the waste involved in the fashion sector – or both – but none of my friends really care about spending big money on fashion anymore.
The issue of climate change and sustainability has quickly and necessarily become a major consideration for many fashion brands, and consumers are pushing back against needless purchases and one-time use tat that is destined for landfill.
“I’d like a vintage bag, if anything,” my friend said, a line of thinking that is completely on trend and the most effective line of attack on waste.
Lovers of vintage had it right all along. Wearing something pre-loved has always been a cool thing to do, and now it’s also the right thing to do.
Whereas some of us may have been a bit self-deprecating or embarrassed when someone mentioned what we had on (“Oh, this old thing? I’ve had it for ages”) the response now is more “Yes, I’ve actually had this for twenty years – and it still looks fab!”
I ran into a male colleague who is a very dashing dresser, and complimented him on his fitted tweed suit. “I’ve had this suit for 15 years,” he said. “I’m shopping my own wardrobe.”
This is a term the fashion media often use, the idea of rediscovering the quality items you already own, and wearing them again, maybe updating them with an accessory, or a different shoe.
I was a huge vintage shopper when I was in my teens and early twenties, because I was poor, and because it was a damn good look, especially when mixed with green woollen military jackets from the army surplus store.
We didn’t have Zara, we had Vinnies.
My wardrobe stuffed with angora sweaters and 1950s full floral skirts and paste jewellery and brocade stiletto pumps.
There seems to be a sort of thirty year rule that applies to vintage: in the 80s we bought things from the 50s; in 2019, the kids buy things from the 90s.
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Some unfortunate generation had to plunder the 80s. I moved from vintage into mid-range designer and then into designer, and now I’m heading into jeans, sweaters and sneakers and a scant interest in any trend whatsoever.
But another friend has introduced me to the unprecedented joy of online auctions and the possibility of buying estate jewellery and vintage accessories for a song.
Good for the planet, good for the bank balance, good for a wardrobe update.
I found a pre-loved Chanel handbag, outbid the digital competitor and called the sisters.
Birthday present solved. No waste necessary.