The price you pay for clothes that last

The Guardian - G2 - - News - Tam­sin Blan­chard

I re­cently spent a day clear­ing out my late mother’s wardrobe. It has been two years since she died so it was time to move on. There were four wardrobes and two chests of draw­ers – 10 black bags full of clothes for char­ity. And seven large boxes of other pieces that I will wear my­self, give to fam­ily and friends and sell to raise money for Kid­ney Re­search UK.

What struck me as I sorted through the rails was first, what con­sis­tent taste my mother had and sec­ond, how she never threw any­thing away. She didn’t buy clothes ex­ces­sively, rather ac­cu­mu­lated them over a life­time. And all the pieces she bought, whether they were from St Michael, H&M or Hel­mut Lang, she treated as equals. A vin­tage ki­mono; a coat she made in the 80s from a Kenzo Vogue dress­mak­ing pat­tern; the smart black jacket or­dered from Asos; or the 40-year-old over­sized T-shirt from Miss Sel­fridge were all im­mac­u­lately kept, care­fully hung up or folded, but­tons all in­tact, not a stitch out of place. She did not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween high-street bar­gains and Sun­day best.

So, when Dr Mark Sum­ner, a lec­turer in fash­ion and sus­tain­abil­ity at the Univer­sity of Leeds, told MPs at the en­vi­ron­men­tal au­dit com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sus­tain­abil­ity of the fast fash­ion in­dus­try that high-street clothes can be more durable than de­signer ones, it res­onated with me. “There’s no cor­re­la­tion to say that price will give you an in­di­ca­tion to say which prod­uct will wear out,” he said.

Some fast fash­ion is cheap, nasty and will fall apart af­ter a few washes. The same can be true of de­signer cloth­ing. It is a mis­con­cep­tion that ex­pen­sive in any way equates to sus­tain­able, or, as Sum­ner says, durable. As my mother’s wardrobe tes­ti­fies, if you have a good eye for clothes that are stylish rather than fash­ion­able, choose care­fully: look for the best-qual­ity fab­rics and treat the clothes you buy with the ut­most re­spect, care and love. Your clothes – what­ever the price tag – will re­pay you with years of ser­vice.

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