Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"They just don't make things like they used to."

                                                                         Image VIA                                                                                                       

Recently I bought a most unfortunate pair of stockings from a reasonably well-known Australian designer. They were packaged in a cute jam jar, so it wasn't until I opened the jar, tried the stockings on at home and faced the laughter of my brother and a friend that I realised my mistake. 

How does a designer get away with selling cheap home brand stockings with a few pompoms glued on for $50? If I wanted to wear stockings that laddered within 24 hours and had random pompoms so low on the ankle I couldn't wear shoes without removing them, I'd pop down to Coles / Spotlight and experiment blindfolded.

I suppose what was really disappointing to me was that I'd made the effort to support a local designer, and the inflated price didn’t guarantee high quality. I am normally happy to spend more money if that bit extra equates to better quality, but I’m starting to realise that good quality, long lasting products are becoming few and far between.  

I genuinely think we need to address the questionable standards of the lucrative fashion industry, or perhaps we as consumers need to address our own standards and question why we are settling for less than we were 50+ years ago. I just refuse to believe that my standards are too high.  

When did we stop caring about the longevity of our clothing, and the overall quality of a garment? People used to not only take pride in their appearance, but also in the craftsmanship behind the items they bought. They expected something to last, and therefore designers designed to meet this expectation. These days, people have somehow forgotten (or have never known) what it is like to wear something of good quality. 

This notion obviously extends beyond items of clothing, and can be seen in many industries. IKEA, for example, shows how cheap and convenient overrides long lasting and well crafted. Many people are convincing themselves that things aren’t in fact meant to last and they are becoming more concerned with trends and less concerned with how things are made.

In saying that however, this does not apply to everybody - a certain level of quality is still important to some. Those who do not want to be part of this throwaway society might choose to buy clothing second hand, as second hand generally yields better quality items. Recycled clothing gives people the freedom to wear something unique; whilst also giving them the chance to wear a quality garment they wouldn’t necessarily have access to first hand. The fact that these items of clothing are still in wearable / sellable condition, often decades after being manufactured, is testament to the point I’m trying to make.

More and more, fashion labels emulate the styles of times passed; yet they don't produce garments of the same quality as those that they were inspired by. The design elements are there, but the level of construction is nowhere near on point. It's really refreshing to find designers creating garments that have integrity and that are genuinely made to last.

Recently when speaking about the new Lanvin book, Alber Elbaz spoke about the ways in which his label still values craftsmanship:

"…I wanted to show how many threads you have to put together to make one rose; how much thought goes into a button. I wanted to show a shoe in the factory in Italy being held like a baby by an old man and then attached to a machine as if it was going to the dentist."

Unfortunately these designers cannot earn a living if consumers are not prepared to pay for the man-hours and higher quality materials involved in their garments’ construction. Global Studies graduate Primrose Riordan is concerned with both sustainability and aesthetics when it comes to the clothing she wears. As would I, Primrose ‘…would love to see more trend-conscious and creative recycled clothing labels in Australia’. 

Without trying to sound too dramatic, good craftsmanship is being bulldozed to make way for cheap, high-profit junk peddlers. Those passionate about making beautifully crafted garments are now an endangered breed. Soon there won't be heirlooms, only short-term junk items destined to unravel or deteriorate shortly after being received.

It seems that packaging is becoming longer lasting than the garments themselves, yet people are not questioning why they’re left with a closet full of empty shoes boxes and garment bags.

I’m still haunted by the image of me in those cheap stockings but hey, at least one year on the jam jar will still look good.
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