Sunday, 6 October 2013

Marching On

Last week my room became a maze of dresses, shoes, shorts, silk scarves and coats flung over chairs. Requiring careful navigation as I tiptoed around jumpers and scrabbled for paperwork under piles of laundry, this clothes-labyrinth has now been folded away into suitcases. Yet despite packing two months’ worth of outfits in preparation for university, my wardrobe still bulges around the edges. Slightly more breathing space between each coat hanger, but to the outside eye it seems that nothing has disappeared.

Under the circumstances, shouldn’t I be considering thinning out my clothes, not amassing more? It’s a good aim. I managed to root out four boxes of items earlier this summer (now sitting in the loft, waiting to be sold/donated). But I am still too entranced by old ball gowns and ankle boots to dispense with any more. Things will just have to continue surging in and out of my room like brightly patterned flotsam. Fresh items from charity shops and vintage stalls replace their predecessors. 

In addition to my adoration of all things second hand, I’m continuing in my commitment to buying new sustainable items from time to time. Latest on the list is the soldier print shift shown above. A collaboration between Peter Jensen and People Tree, it’s fantastic to know that the cotton is organic and that those who cut and stitched the dress were enabled by their work rather than exploited. Moreover, it’s fun, accessible, versatile and desirable, showing marks of thoughtful design. I wish that more items like this were generally available. The terms ‘ethics’ and ‘aesthetics’ are often shackled together, yet I’d like the two to be more often matched in practice as well as words. It would be so exciting to see more fairly traded clothes that catered to a younger, style-savvy market: clothes that stretched from breathtakingly inventive to casually wearable; clothes that make eyes widen at the sheer beauty of design. At the very least, ethically made clothes that compete head-to-head with the kind of sought-after items found in Topshop and Zara. This dress does it for me.  

At the luxury end of the scale, headway has been made by Livia Firth and others. I was particularly impressed by her latest venture, the GCC2013 partnership with Net-a-Porter resulting in five designers lending their expertise to a sustainable capsule collection. Unveiled at LFW with the support of Natalie Massenet and Anna Wintour, the items range from a Roland Mouret black silk tuxedo-style jumpsuit to an Erdem white satin dress suited to the prettiest of (strong and independent) princesses. They cater for well-heeled consumers, certainly, but are no more expensive than many other gowns on the website.

What Massenet also does so brilliantly through her roles at both N-a-P and the BFC is to support independent British design. Although I can’t afford the clothes, I can at least show appreciation through writing – discussing the artistry of Corrie Nielsen and Mary Katrantzou, or the sharp colour contrasts of Roksanda Ilincic (or looking across the channel to covet the odd Chanel dress). On a more practical level, my next venture is to do more research into British-produced brands.

Fashion as an industry exists on various levels, broadly embodied in the divide between high end and high street, with several steps in between. One isn’t necessarily better than the other when it comes to production, and often it’s reliant on the individual company or conglomerate (Lucy Siegle has an interesting breakdown on what’s finally being done by groups such as Inditex and Arcadia six months after Rana Plaza).

Presently, it's difficult to make every individual clothing choice sustainable, just as it’s almost impossible for most of us to use technology entirely free from environmental, societal or worker damage. But that doesn't stop one trying to make active choices as and when we possibly can. 

People Tree dress accompanied by an array of vintage items and other hand-me-down-from-family accessories. One of the reasons I do hoard certain clothes (such as my late great grandmother's silk blouse worn under the dress above) is because they fit into a versatile 'for ever' category: "can I see myself continuing to wear this in 5, 10, 15 years time?" If the answer is yes, I keep it. I may have a bulging wardrobe, but the contents get well worn. 
Last image snapped very quickly as the only car in 15 minutes hurtled along just as I'd stretched out my legs.


MsNotWeirdAtAll said...

Very unexpected vintage looking outfit :)

AVY said...

Remember, you can never have too much clothes.


Maisie W said...

You have a wonderful way of writing :)
My room has definitely been in that state recently as well! Beautiful dress


Natalie Suarez said...


daisychain said...

I love that dress m'dear and of course how you've styled it and the beautiful words that accompany it x

Melanie said...

"Active choices when we possibly can," yes, so right.
I am loving these photographs, the quality of the light especially. You seem to hover in the landscape. Truly stunning.
I can't imagine the difficulty of packing, but hopefully it will be fun sifting through the flotsam! I'm glad your ball gowns are not being culled.

Vix said...

What a chore, how on earth can it be possible to pack your fabulous clothes into a capsule wardrobe? My idea of a nightmare.
Love that dress, those soldiers could be my waistcoat's mini-mes!
Good luck! xxxxx

Amelia said...

Great post, lovely to see other fashion bloggers focusing on ethical fashion- hope to read more in the future! ps love the dress

Emalina said...

Gorgeous images, I love the Japanese/Russian touches you've given this lovely People Tree dress. Saffia and Livia are doing a great job of creating desirable eco clothing. I wish it weren't so expensive but understand that it has to be...
Best of luck with the packing, it certainly clarifies the mind about what one needs doesn't it! And most importantly, the very best of luck with your move and your first days settling in to university!

Eva Kesh said...

I always adore your posts because your writing style is so beautifully elegant. I'm excited to see how the photographs in your posts will change and develop during your time in university. ❤

Izzy DM said...

Thanks for this informative piece! It's something I'm trying to learn more about as well. I've been spending more of my limited free-time in second-hand shops, and there really is nothing like scoring a pair of brand-new Chloe boots for $75, AND the money went to charity!

I loved how you styled the colorful dress with the contrasting black belt. And I'll definitely check out the links when I get a chance.

Charmaine said...

Completely agree with your sentiments! If what I am buying is not secondhand, I make a point to buy as fair-trade as much as possible and when I can afford to. Sustainability is extremely important to me, I am SO happy it's being embraced the world over, and in so many industries.

Louise said...

I love your writing.. made for a perfect lunchtime read. I do agree that ocassionally we need to thin out our closets.. (and it's great to give back to the charity stores in the knowledge that what you don't wear will most likely make someone else happy for awhile) but I feel also that we can never have too many clothes. You just have to become more inventive with solving how to store them! :)

Good luck with packing for university, hope you enjoy the start of term! x


I was imagining your stuffed suitcase of fashion treasures bulging out from the corners of the case.

It's such a marvellous collaboration with Jensen and People Tree. And, I agree, it's very difficult to sole buy/wear sustainable, I do what I can when I can, but also enjoy shopping for pieces that I can't make myself.
I do love your outfit, as well as the sky in the photos ... pure art!

Wishing you well at university!

Sacramento Amate said...


Anonymous said...

You are brave taking photos in the middle of the road! Looking forward to seeing how the new backdrop of university alters your photos. I've been trying to buy better for a long time now but it's not easy - mostly it's been giving up the frequency with which I buy clothes, avoiding Primark like the plague and buying more 'investable' pieces.


love the last pic,pretty look:)

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Totally agree on the "forever" category, which unfortunately means I nearly never cull down my wardrobe either! I mean, there will always be a need for that velvet gown, even if it is only to be worn every few years as a gothic Halloween vampire.

It's wonderful you are discovering sustainable, ethical clothes that are also stylish. We don't have much choice here. Most of the edgier outfits I'd like are also priced beyond the edge of my budget.

Can't wait to see photos of you in Oxford! - J xx

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