Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mindful Fashion

A couple weeks ago, while getting dressed for a meeting and trying to figure out how best to complete my outfit, a voice rang out: "You have too many shoes."

I looked behind me to see if perhaps my husband was talking to me or if either of my dogs had suddenly been blessed with the powers of human speech. Nope.

"And, while we're at it, too many jackets," the voice continued, clearly taking on a strident tone. "And what's up with all the cashmere sweaters? Christ on a cracker, you could clothe yourself and probably a few of your friends for an eternity on what you have hanging, stacked, and piled in this closet."

It was like being hit on the head with a pair of Frye Harness Boots, but there was no way around it. The Voice was right: I have too much shit in my closet.

Don't get me wrong. Madonna's "Material Girl" was written for me. As an unabashed materialist, nothing makes me happier than discovering, touching, holding, buying human-being crafted items, in all their infinite incarnations of usefulness and beauty. And when it comes to fashion, my Add to Cart mentality is alive and kicking. Dancing, even.

Still. How much of it do I really need? Not only that, how much of it do I really like? Wear? Want? Finally, how much of it is of a quality high enough to provide the folks who make it with a decent living? (Yes, Virginia, semi-socially conscious epiphanies are possible with Dolce and Gabanna trousers hanging in your closet. Okay, D&G, and they were on sale.)

So here's where I took that epiphany: We are rapidly approaching the time of year when people make resolutions to change certain aspects of their behavior. What if I resolved to change the way I approach fashion and what would that change look like?

Here's what I came up with:

1. Buy less, spend more. You read that right: SPEND MORE. Not just on quality, but also on wearability. Yes, we Bitches are loathe to pay retail, but we are also familiar with the dirty little flip side secret to the so-called bargain bins: that 10 you clutch to your breast at 2 can quickly morph into a 2 at 10 when you find yourself dealing with split seams, pilled wool, shrinking, stretching, fading, and other hidden horrors to which your endorphin-flooded brain was totally blind because it was busy sending signals to your clutchy lil' hands to grab, grab, grab!

Instead, what if I took those dozens of times a year I spend "only X amount!" and tuck it away until I reach a big pool o'cash for something totally covet-worthy and well made? I can hear the Voice now: "That's right, Bitch, do not spend your money on anything that isn't of the utmost highest quality, I don't care if it is only a tee shirt. Or that doesn't play well with the other children in your closet. Don't tell me you need a pair of patent leather Mary Jane pumps, even if they are only $45 at Payless, when I can clearly see everything else in your closet is rock and roll boho.

2. Apply the reduce, reuse, recycle principle to my wardrobe by shopping primarily consignment. You know, those shops where another gal's discarded wardrobe—freshly cleaned and in like new condition, of course—is now your new treasure. And where you can sell your own cast offs and make extra cash to boot. I've been shopping 2 Time Couture here in Albuquerque since they first opened and the place is a revelation. As is Act 2 in Santa Fe. A few consignment-scored items currently hanging in my closet include an ivory cable knit Vince cashmere sweater, an Atelier slim-cut black wool blazer, an Anac By Kimi jersey tunic, a Hugo Buscati cropped silk tuxedo jacket, a whack-on-crack-patterned silk Diane von Furstenberg dress, and a pair of never-worn black and white Ferragamo Alerja wedges. All of which I nicked at prices between 50 to 80 percent off original retail.

The sucker who paid retail for these Ferragamos: $400. Moi: $90.

3. Finally, I will try to buy only from those designers who are committed to manufacturing in the United States or their country of origin and who pay their artisans a decent wage as a result. Why do politicians make so much noise about revitalizing America's manufacturing industries? Because they create and keep jobs here at home, and the lack thereof is one of the most pressing economic issues we face today. It can be done. I just completed a book on a U.S. founded, owned, and operated manufacturer of industrial equipment who for the past 75 years has not only sourced all their materials locally, but has manufactured their final product right here in the U.S., even though they sell all over the world. Yes, that product is priced at a premium, but it lasts forever and it allows the company to provide their over 100 employees with a compensation and benefits package nearly unheard of today.

I simply do not see why the same thing cannot be done in the fashion industry. And not just with luxury goods like Hermes and Chanel or high end designers like The Row, but at the pret-a-porter level, too, everyone from companies with name brand recognition like Frye, LL Bean, American Apparel, and Nanette Lepore to boutique designers like Filly and Angel Court Jewels (how badly do I want that blue velvet Lonely Hunter dress or Waters necklace? Thiiiiiiiiis badly.) Both are among a handful of designers who manufacture their goods right here at home. You can check them out here.

And then go listen to your own Voice.