One of my loves is ‘slow fashion’. This is a pretentious way of saying I buy clothes secondhand (except knickers: I am not a complete beast).
I’ve always done this. I spent hours in a massive, messy open plan Oxfam in Dalston as a teenager finding ridiculous outfits. I get it from my mum, who proudly announces ‘Marie Curie, £3’ if you comment on something she is wearing.
I did buy loads of fast fash as a young’un. H&M, Topshop, Oasis; Mango and Zara when I lived in Spain. But in recent years learning about Rana Plaza and so on left a horrible sick feeling in my guts. I now only buy new if it was made in Britain by a company with decent ethics for workers’ pay and environmental impact. This means the occasional new things I buy are expensive, but I will use them for decades.
I also get immense satisfaction from finding something well made that is bashed and messed up, and fixing it.
I don’t have the mad skillz of Jay Blades (Hackney boy!) and Suzie from BBC’s The Repair Shop, but I try. It feels good to return something to a state where it can be used for many more years. It feels good to learn a new skill and do something patient, meditative, time consuming.
Spending time salvaging instead of buying something is the opposite of extractive capitalism.
Small accordion handbag from The Bridge
Got this on eBay for £15, cheap because of frayed stitching and scuffs. The Bridge is a gorgeous Florence leather company. New, their small handbags are around the £300+ mark, bigger luggage pushing £1,000, and they make me drool with desire.
I glued it, re-stitched edges, cleaned hardware with Brasso, conditioned and polished.
Rich blue Jaeger crew neck jumper
I got this in – IMHO – the best charity shop in Edinburgh (Shelter in Stockbridge – small, dark, atmospheric, staff and customers with personalities, good music) for £8. Its 100% lambswool, a lovely rich deep blue halfway between navy and royal, soft and warm. I guess from the label (strangely cut in half) and from the sleeves (tight on lower arms and slightly batwing at uppers) that it is from the 1980s or 1990s, so made in Britain before they moved production overseas in the 2000s. For label research, I found this great site Vintage Fashion Guild which gives history of various clothes brands and label dating. My label looks similar to the 1980s ones with the three lined lettering on black. So I think it is at least 30 years old. It was covered in bobbles, fluff and had some big moth holes. I put in the freezer overnight to kill moth eggs, debobbled and darned. The darns are quite visible but it is now in great wearable condition. I love it with a white shirt collar peaking out.