Tried, Tested and Taken to Task

If we’re honest with ourselves, the term ‘Buy less, buy better’ is as snappy as it is potentially vapid. Sure, the ‘buy better’ goes down nice and easy. After all, there’s a romanticism to the idea of investing in well-made, hard-wearing and authentic goods that acquire a little character over time, picking up a few stories along the way. 

‘Buy less’, on the other hand, is a tougher pill to swallow. The gears of the fashion industry are oiled, greased, slathered by our constant and collective drive for newness. Fast fashion – the logical extreme of this on-to-the-next-one philosophy – thrives on the ridiculous notion that last year’s jacket is somehow worthless this year. Not only does fast fashion instil a glaring disrespect for the value of – and passion for – solid craftsmanship, it also makes us lazy. Torn jeans are binned and replaced before their time, worn out shoes are put out to pasture without a second thought. In more severe cases, clothes are discarded for the simple fact that they’ve served their one-night-only purpose, or because they’re no longer that month’s definition of cool.

Slow fashion positions itself as the solution to this disposable mindset. As a rule, slow fashion brands’ selections are minimal, their designs enduring and their production lines strictly small batch. The trade off, of course, is that these brands often have a price tag that matches the loftiness of their ideals. 

Over the last few years, I’ve subscribed to the principles of slow fashion. I’ve bought jackets built on the promise that they will outlive me, denim that’s said to be able to stand up straighter than I do for longer than I can, and boots built to walk me further than I’d ever need (or want) to walk in a lifetime. I’ve done this with a smug sense of self-assurance. Not because these garments are more expensive than the off-the-rail average, but because they come with the promise of being built on longer-lasting philosophies and sounder ethical foundations. 

But here’s the kicker: As happy as I am to buy better, I still struggle to buy less. Without really taking the foundations of slow fashion to task, you could argue that all I’ve really done is buy into a more expensive marketing campaign.

That’s why, over the next few months, I’ll be focussing on the ‘buy less’ aspect of the slow fashion philosophy. The premise is simple: No new purchases for the coming season. Instead, jackets will be rewaxed, jeans will be hemmed and mended as needed, and boots resoled and reworn. Likewise, leathers will be treated, socks darned and suits tailored. Anything that falls out of regular rotation will be sold off, swapped, donated or otherwise bartered with. 

In short, this column will be an to attempt to make clothing personal again. Following conversations with cobblers, craftsmen, menders and merchants, it will revel in the smaller details and share the stories behind the stitches. It will become an exercise in functional minimalism and, hopefully, a testament to the perseverance of slow style over fast fashion. More than anything, though, it will celebrate well-made goods, their makers, and the people who maintain them. WH

Words by Will HALBERT
Image Credits by Llya Lix