Wednesday, 5 May 2010

About Spending, again

As you all know, I have spent way too much time thinking and writing about spending recently. I can't help but share a couple of more words on the topic though. Lynn had her jewelry party on this past Saturday, and I bought this calsilica-necklace, bracelet and earrings. The set wasn't cheap even though Lynn's prices are more than reasonable, considering the amount of work she puts in in choosing her materials and assembling everything. I had no trouble splurging a little at her party, for reasons that got me thinking more about what I am willing to pay for the things I buy, and in what circumstances.

I realised that I really want to know what I buy. I know how hard Lynn works, and I know how much effort she puts in making sure her materials meet her standards of quality (and let me tell you, she has high standards - I have seen her disregard as much as more than a half-a-strand of gemstones because they weren't drilled exactly they way she wanted them). I watched her make this piece myself, and you can just see the passion and the care in her eyes when she works on her one-of-a-kind pieces. I also know that what she charges me is more than fair; in fact, she could charge way more and I wouldn't care. Also, when I buy straight from her, the designer, there are no awkward middlemen or marketing and store-keeping expenses that I have to pay for. I also know that no one else is ever going to have this exact necklace.

I doubt if I'd ever stop buying new things completely (as opposed to buying only second hand), because I do want to put in more of an effort to support small local businesses. I want to support people whose real passion is to make beautiful things, not just sell them. I want to support designers who boldly stand by their own vision, not those who create what they know people want to buy. When the passion shifts from making to selling, I lose interest. Regardless of whether a small independent designer goes big one day, I want the passion to remain. I want to see more transparency in that creative process. I want details and reasons behind production, materials and prices. I want to be able to see more than just an "organic cotton" label on an H&M t-shirt - it is just not enough. But neither is a designer label, because it doesn't really guarantee all that much.

Considering that I used to work in higher-end clothing retail, I don't know all that much about business. I do know that in order to become successful one needs to sell large volumes. Big business means there are compromises that will be made. Polyester and other man-made fabrics have become more and more common even in designer clothing. Invisible seams have become serged ones, and the production moves from Italy and France to Romania, Bulgaria and China. Hand-stitched buttons have more or less become history. In order to stay in business, you have to push more and more products out there for people to buy, and you essentially have to stop encouraging people from investing in pieces they can wear for years to come. Even if the production stays in a country known for its high-quality tailoring, the imported employees might work in sweatshop-like conditions. Clothing is assembled on a production-line rather than individual tailors working on a piece from start to finish. So how are you supposed to know what the real production costs of high-end designer goods are? And who wants to put their money in a big "I don't know"? No matter how passionate a designer might be about his or her vision, once they get big, the jungle of production is a completely different beast. We don't know unless they tell us, unless they show us.

This is not to say that all designer labels make compromises like the ones I have encountered, but I have heard several times, for example, that newly made designer handbags don't last the way they used to. I have heard this about Chanel and Louis Vuitton, but I don't have first-hand experience so I don't really know what the truth is. The fact that I don't know, that I can't trust, really disturbs me. But I do know that I can trust designers like Lynn. I know her personally, so that helps, but even if I didn't, she'd be perfectly open about her work process. She has nothing to hide, and her passion is visible. It is that type of openness that I feel I need in order to feel comfortable spending more money on something. That kind of openness is pretty hard to come by these days. My two cents: keep it small, get to know what you buy, demand openness.

Dress: second hand / Salvation Army
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Scarf: second hand / ?
Shoes: Trippen / 2or+byYat
Necklace, bracelet and earrings: JBL


Modesty is Pretty said...

what a beautiful dress you have and those sandals are great too. =)

Camelia Crinoline said...

You look lovely in that dress and the jewellery is beautiful.
I agree, I would much rather buy something when I know where it's from and who made it.
I was quite horrified by the article you linked to about sweatshop labour in Italy. It just shows that even when you make a conscious effort to avoid clothes that are made in China, India etc that this is no guarantee that they have been made in decent conditions.

Marie McGrath (The Joy of Fashion) said...

I loooove this dress on you! the shape is so unique and beautiful!

Dorky Medievalist said...

This is so carefully considered and responsible and not at all a tired topic. You propose a shopping programme that requires this kind of care and reminder--a tough programme to follow to be sure, but a rewarding one. I try to eat this way, but I have yet to expand this responsibility to my non-food items. How can that be?

On a secondary note, I want your shoes.

Charlotte said...

The earrings are truly beautiful. Does she sell on etsy?

Teenysparkles said...

I like your view!

Vasiliisa said...

Looking great, you are. I love your Trippens!

Just one thing to add - I think we really should try to buy stuff made in the 3rd world too. A job is much better than charity. The problem is that it's hard to know what businesses are worth supporting. I did buy some stuff from, and I was happy, but unfortunately the VATs and shipping costs made my purchase super expensive :(

jesse.anne.o said...

I am also struggling with buying. Timely and interesting post!

wardrobeexperience said...

you look stunning wearing this dress... just love it.