When I buy an item of clothing or footwear, I will wear it to death - usually things will literally have to fall apart in my hands before I will consider throwing/giving them away.
This is partly down to the fact that I'm quite picky about what I will wear (which keeps my wardrobe reasonably small) plus my conscious efforts to only buy things I will get a lot of use out of.
Fast fashion is problematic for me for a multitude of reasons. The need to churn out items quickly and cheaply leads to downward pressure on the supply chain, as manufacturers look to reduce costs by paying less for materials and most importantly, labour.
Factory workers bear the brunt of this squeeze. Overseas garment factories have become synonymous with low, exploitative wages and dangerous working conditions. This less savoury aspect of the fashion industry is rarely alluded to by brands, however movements such as who made my clothes are shining light on the hidden workers in the fashion industry and the issues they face.
There is also the issue of waste, as UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year. In 2015, 1.2 million tonnes of clothing went to landfill, a figure which surely has increased! (source)
With all this in mind, my fashion mantra has become "buy little and buy quality".
Ideally I want to buy from brands who can prove they have sustainable, fairly produced supply chains. However this information is hard to obtain. My frustration with transparency around these issues actually led me to start Bright Ethics... but that's another story!
In the absence of a perfect world, I mainly focus on buying pieces which will last, seeking fairly traded/sustainable alternatives where possible.
Recently I have made two quite big purchases down these lines - a new jacket and a new pair of boots.
Starting off with the jacket - my needs were mostly driven by the Yorkshire weather. I wanted something which could stand the wind and drizzle in style and also look smart enough for work.
Barbour was the obvious choice really from the beginning. I have always admired their jackets from afar for their smart vibe and utilitarian functionality. (Many pockets equals a happy Bethan.)
The thing that really sold it to me though was the fact that this could conceivably be a jacket for life, as Barbour offers a repair and reproofing service (re-waxing helps keep the jacket waterproof). This means that any tears can be repaired (for a cost), no matter how old the jacket gets.
Barbour's jackets are also manufactured in the UK, the North East of England actually. Whilst this is not a given, as recent scandals show, UK employers are subject to a minimum wage and also have to adhere to reasonable labour legislation.
After 3 months of basically living in the thing, I have to say I'm extremely happy with the purchase! Whilst it wasn't cheap, my Barbour has proved extremely useful, especially due to the well placed internal pocket - a rare feature in female clothing.
I also love the way it looks - as it's very versatile. I can either pair it with jeans or smarten things up with a dress and knee high boots.
If you have met me in person, you will know my signature style is a pair of black ankle boots. I love the fact that they can be worn as part of pretty much any outfit!
After the final and decisive death of my last pair of boots (when the sole falls off, you know it's time to start thinking about a replacement) I decided to look around and try and find something which would stand the test of at least a few winters.
I actually have a pair of ancient Dr Martens lace ups, back from my old school days. I still wear them occasionally and even after almost 10 years, they look barely used. Funny side note: I actually got bullied quite a lot for wearing these at the time, which was ironic as literally a few years later they became a fashion staple. I guess the kind thing to say here is that I was just a very fashion forward individual at 15, with my patchy dyed black hair... So cool Bethan.
Anyway, remembering these previous boots and their durability, I decided to pop on the Dr Martens website to see if anything would fit the bill of being ankle booty, comfortable and warm. These (faux) fur lined beauties immediately jumped out at me as the perfect solution!
Whilst I'm probably closest to an 8 1/2, I plumped for a 9 in this style as I reckoned that the fur would take away a bit of space inside the shoe. It was the right call, as they fit like a glove and even have room for an extra sock layer when it gets really cold.
I love Dr Martens because their shoes are super comfortable, having been designed originally in the 1940's with air padded soles to help with injury rehabilitation. This mean that I can wear my boots all day and night without getting the horrible foot ache you get from wearing thinly soled shoes.
In terms of sustainability and labour concerns, whilst Dr Martens were originally manufactured in the UK, they are now made in China. However the brand does have a clear Code of Conduct around ethical trade and an environmental statement. All of which are very encouraging.
Long may both my jacket and shoes last - because I am going to wear the hell out of them!
Classic Beadnell Waxed Cotton Jacket - Barbour,
Lenore Fur Lined Boots - Dr Martens