Vivienne Westwood said in an interview after her runway show during this September’s London Fashion Week that “poor people should buy less clothes”.
Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes. -…- I hate having too many clothes. And I think that poor people should be even more careful.”- Vivienne Westwood
“Let them wear rags” was the start of the headline the lovely Daily Mail came up with to write about this slightly controversial statement. I personally think Dame Vivienne Westwood has got a point though. Not just ‘poor people’ (whatever she meant by ‘poor’, maybe she meant everyone but the rich and famous, maybe she actually meant the impoverished, who knows!) but everyone, including myself, should take a minute or two to reflect on their purchases of the fashionable kind (or not very fashionable, but you know what I mean: clothes).
I like to shop, you probably like to shop, we all like to shop. For the purpose of this article I’ll take one high street chain as an example: Primark. I chose this particular store not because I’m a Primark hater, but because it has come to my attention that people like to shop at Primark. A lot. If you don’t believe me, look up ‘Primark Haul’ and be amazed at the 7,790,000 video results that come up of people showing their Primark Purchases to the rest of the internet world. If you don’t regularly (or ever) venture into the world of fashion hauls, you’ve probably at some point seen a picture in your Facebook newsfeed of a car booth completely rammed with Primark bags.
We were all shocked when the garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed and because safety warnings were ignored no less than 1,129 people were left dead under the rubble. The factory was a supplier for about 40 companies, including Primark. This horrible accident has prompted retailers such as Primark, H&M and Marks and Spencer to sign an agreement to allocate 500,000 dollars a year for the inspection of factories in low-wage countries such as Bangladesh. It’s a start, but I think it’s fair to say there is still a long way to go and it seems far to easy to forget that these sort things happen regularly (though not on such a large scale). Another sad fact is that the wages in textile producing countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia have actually gone down between 2001 and 2011.
The conditions in which these clothes are produced could be a first reason not to buy cheap mass manufactured clothing in bulk. I’m not trying to be moralist here, I know it’s hard to think about where a products came from and whether the person who made it is the victim of modern slavery or not every time you buy something, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it or make an effort every once in a while.
Another reason to buy less is that when you think about what you REALLY want, wait, think again and then buy, the chances of only wearing that item once (or never) are significantly smaller. My very fashionable best friend has mastered this technique to perfection and has collected an enviable wardrobe of very good quality/designer items. It seems that a lot of people are drawn in by the low prices and buy something just because it’s cheap (I have also been guilty of this practice on a few occasions and almost always regretted those purchases afterwards). When you think of it, the money you’ve spent those three bags full of cheap Primark goodies that you so proudly ‘hauled’ on social media might have also bought you a nice winter coat you could wear for years.
The reason why Vivienne Westwood probably thinks we should buy less, judging by her t-shirt in the picture above, is that it reduces your carbon footprint. If you don’t really have a green heart or think that this sounds like environmental namby pamby, think of how much nicer your wardrobe will look when it’s filled with good quality pieces you love instead of crammed with cheap clothing that either lost it’s original colour or shape after a few washes.
My clothing purchasing behaviour in the past has been anything like the concious consuming I have been advocating for in this article, so quality instead of quantity in the wardrobe department is my very first new years resolution.