I’d like to think that we could buy wonderfully expensive designer items with the intention that they form part of our children’s dowry, but is this wishful thinking or wise purchasing?

Theuniformprojectblog.com’s co-founder Eliza Starbuck (who has since parted ways with the project to start her own line) defines ‘heirloom sustainability’ as the school of thought that fundamentally says nothing is more sustainable than a high-end designer item, say an Hermès belt that is passed on for generations. If this were true, those of us who buy key pieces and take great care of them are building up quite an arsenal of heirlooms whilst also saving the planet.

Of course, there is another school of thought that, perhaps more accurately, says that those of us who waste £2,000 on a handbag are suckers who have been wooed by expensive advertising campaigns to part with hard-earned cash for nothing more than an inflated brand value. Such items will depreciate over time and eventually only be worth the materials they are made from.

Kelly Bag

As this argument rages and those with enough disposable income convince themselves one way or another, I wonder if there is any sensible investment to be made in fashion. As lay people, we can buy shares in fashion houses, buy goods from fashion brands and support companies by wearing their logos but can we actually profit from the industry? If we look to historic data to define the future, it seems that holding designer items for more than 30 years in perfect condition will give you something valuable to sell. Take an original Mary Quant skirt from the 60’s or a Dior suit from the 40’s – these items are worth their weight in fabric today and there is no reason to suggest that a carefully selected piece from the 2010 collections shouldn’t be as sought after in 2050.

The ethical argument too is compelling. If we hanker after a single item and keep it for the second generation, we leave a minimal destructive impact on the environment. Intriguingly, this whole debate might have been instigated by the big brands themselves so as to get us to continue to invest in so called ‘must have’ items through this economically challenging time. Whatever the truth, I believe that buying beautiful designs made with exquisite attention to detail is preferable to fast food fashion, both economically and environmentally and my daughter will have a plethora of items to parlay when I’m gone.

by Léonie Tovell

Skattie - Your guide to South African lifestyle


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