Banksy’s famous ‘Sale Ends Today’ stencil
Since i’ve learnt to sew I’ve found shopping increasingly difficult. Which is not to say I don’t love going in to Zara or H&M and admiring the lovely clothes…I just can’t bring myself to buy them in the same ‘mindless’ way I did before. I constantly look at how the labels to see in which part of the world the clothes are made, and take a good look at the construction of the garment and more often than not think ‘hmm…I’m pretty sure I could make that’.
Which brings me to yesterday lunch time in the Whistles concession in House of Fraser. I love Whistle’s clothes, the fabrics they use are lovely and the patterns are equally beautiful. I only allow myself to look when there’s a sale on (too unaffordable otherwise!), which is why I was looking in the clearance section yesterday. There, on the rack, was a beautiful, pale blue midi skirt marked down to £40 from £115 (I do love a ‘bargain’) – just the kind of blue i’m obsessed with at the moment and it was just so pretty. But looking at the label I see ‘made in China’ and become disheartened, and then again at the construction of it and think, actually, it’s just some gathered material with a waist band and a zip, and put the skirt down. On top of that, it’s just plain polyester fabric (a nice polyester, but nothing special!). Hummph.
I was then talking to my friend last night about it, and how I was actually quite disappointed that I had discovered that the skirt was made in China, and did that even mean anything? My view of Whistles is that it’s a premium brand, one that I aspire to having, and discovering that their clothing was made in China made me think that actually it’s probably all made in the same warehouse as the others…their statement in the ‘About Us’ section of their website vaguely addresses this (although doesn’t mention China):
Our values of fairness, integrity and transparency are encompassed in all that we do and are extended to those who touch our products so that they share in our growth and prosperity. We are committed to ensuring that our products are safe for consumers’ use and manufactured under safe, fair, and humane working conditions. We are dedicated to reducing our environmental impact and we strive to make a positive difference within the local and global communities in which we work. We will actively engage with critical stakeholders who want to contribute to our progress in a positive way.
So was I wrong to question them? I don’t know…the power that sewing has given me to make my own clothes, however pain-staking and time-consuming, has given me a renewed view on consumerism and all this ‘fast fashion’ that people talk about. I feel guilty when I buy things from Primark, and a recent coat I bought which has had loads of compliments is a once-in-a-blue-moon purchase really…I feel guilty when I buy things from my favourite high street store, Zara. I work within 3 minutes walking distance of the newest shopping centre in Bristol, which means there is temptation almost every day to go in to the shops, have a browse and end up coming out with something you didn’t really need.
I will admit that there are things i’ll probably never be able to make, such as knitted items, shoes, and although i’ll give it a shot, I can imagine trousers would be pretty hard to make from scratch. But I feel in more control of my wardrobe now, and although I don’t think i’ll ever be able to resist a sequin dress (although you never know!) I feel better for not being enslaved to the high street.
Do any other ‘sewists’ out there feel the same way? Has shopping become a slog for you too? I’d love to know.