Welcome to Sustainability Week! While Fashionista covers sustainability news and eco-friendly brands all year round, we wanted to use this time around Earth Day and the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse as a reminder to focus on the impact that the fashion industry has on people and the planet.
"Smart shopping" is often defined as a means of saving money when you buy something. And while a "smart purchase" is considered an item that was bought for far cheaper than expected, we're defining the term as a purchase that has outperformed its worth above and beyond what we expected. They're pieces that we truly love and will likely last a lifetime, which is what ethical brands are always trying to push. When it comes to our own smartest purchases, we narrowed down them with a few parameters: Clothes or accessories that are at least three years old, were intentionally acquired — no heirlooms or gifts — and are worn regularly.
Dhani Mau, West Coast Editor
I don't remember what year it was, but I was definitely in college (so over six years ago) and I definitely didn't have much money. I was recently obsessed with the store Opening Ceremony and would sometimes just go there to look around and feel cool. Back then, I'm pretty sure their customer service policy was to ignore customers, so it was fine. At some point, they had a huge sale and I went on one of the last days and found a super cute Band of Outsiders jacket/shorts combo in my size for probably 60 to 70 percent off. They were both made of a stiff cotton material in olive green with a pattern that can only be described as a subtle, vaguely floral camo, with a blue-and-white striped lining. I desperately wanted the set but could only afford one piece, so I chose the jacket, thinking it would be more versatile — and I'm so glad I did.
It's basically a lightweight, cropped, boxy trench. The color and pattern are completely neutral, and the shape is timeless but still distinctive, structured but laid back. Even though it's not what I'd call a statement piece, it somehow livens up anything I wear it with, whether it's jeans, a dress or a pair of shorts. In New York, I could only wear it in the spring and early fall, but in Los Angeles, it's perfect year-round. It's lighter and airier than a leather jacket and a bit more elevated and stylish than a denim one. I still find new ways to wear it and still get compliments on it. And, unlike most things I've had for years (of which there aren't many), I still feel really good when I put it on. I can't even put my finger on why.
Tyler McCall, Deputy Editor
I will admit to being pretty bad at kicking things out of my wardrobe fairly quickly: It feels like my tastes are always changing, and I've only just started to feel settled into my #aesthetic. I've bought items because they fit a trend, only to decide I hate them after two wears — and then off they go to Buffalo Exchange.
To temper some of that, I've really reigned in my fast fashion shopping. By taking the time to decide if I really want something and by investing in clothing, I've cut way back on those in-and-out purchases. But one item that's managed to hang in through several years of change, surprisingly, is a jacket I bought on a whim at Gap. When I moved to New York from the south, I realized I needed a "transitional" jacket that could keep me warm in those weird months where an actual coat or jacket is too much. I wanted something in army green, which, if I remember correctly, was a trend at the time. I knew Gap was pretty much always on sale, so I wandered in and found a mid-length, hooded jacket that fit the bill. It was the perfect balance between lightweight and warm, and the hood would be useful against that weird, misty rain that seems to dominate transitional months. And, at my editorial assistant salary, the price was right: I paid less than $40 for it.
I got it one size up so it would be roomy, and I have worn it to death: I took it to Australia, used it when a friend's wedding got too chilly, brought it home to Florida for the holidays to guard against that barely perceptible "winter chill," and so many other less 'grammable moments in between. And while I've found Gap's quality has declined in recent years, it's held up against having beer spilled all over it and being shoved under bus seats (the beauty of buying machine washable!). While it certainly wasn't a considered purchase, or an expensive one, it's lasted much longer than many of my coup-de-coeur fashion buys, proving that sometimes, you just can't beat the basics.
Maura Brannigan, Senior Editor
When seasonally appropriate, I wear a leather jacket nearly every single day. I have four between which I alternate: The first is an oversize black bomber; the second is a driving jacket in buttery brown leather that used to be my mom's; the third is white and fringed, and I got it to look like Sloane Peterson (partly as a joke, but mostly in earnest); and the fourth is a beautiful, beaten-up motorcycle jacket. I bought it in 2010. It's Michael Kors, I think, and it's perfect.
Aesthetically, it's become an absolutely integral part of my spring and fall wardrobe, but it does hold a fair amount of emotional weight. I bought it on sale with my mom at TJ Maxx, after which we went to see "Billy Elliot" in Chicago. I've worn it everywhere and all over New York in my five years living here. It's so worn-in that people sometimes ask me if it has a backstory.
A few years ago, I wore it to a bar and left it behind by mistake. I didn't realize how much I loved it until I got home and realized that by the time I got to call the bar in the morning, someone might've grabbed it and left with it. But it was there, and the rest is history, yadda yadda.
I remember looking at the price tag and thinking how expensive it was. I don't remember how much it cost, but it was a lot. It's certainly paid me back and then some.
Maria Bobila, Associate Editor
When Rodarte launched its tongue-in-cheek "Radarte" logo T-shirts and sweatshirts, I was very intrigued. The prices that came with it, however, deterred me from making a purchase. That's usually the reason why one would buy from fast fashion retailers, right? You know you can find something similar at, say, H&M for a fraction of the cost, so you turn down a high-quality product for an item that you're not quite sure how it was made or just how long it will last. I'm very guilty of this and it's something that I still struggle with.
But I eventually decided to spend the $168 (if my memory serves me right) for a Rodarte fleece sweatshirt in gray from Opening Ceremony's flagship store in Soho. The "Radarte" logo is in a barbed-wire type, and I believe I bought it one or two sizes larger for a slightly slouchy fit. I immediately felt buyer's remorse as soon as I stepped away from the cashier, but I must admit that it was definitely worth it. During the fall and winter, I put on this sweatshirt about once a week — to work, on the weekends, while traveling, sometimes even to bed. Over the years and after many wears, it's held up quite nicely, getting softer and slightly fading in color but in a good way, like a fine wine.
When I go through my seasonal closet cleanouts, I tackle my pile of sweatshirts first because it's a garment that I buy in multiples. (I know, I know, it needs to stop!) I almost always find myself getting rid of a few recent purchases — usually cheap buys from fast fashion brands — and you know what? The Rodarte sweatshirt has remained in my wardrobe every single time. Yes, the playful logo can come off as a bit of a fad — and yes, I can find another "newer, cooler" graphic sweatshirt — but I just don't give a damn. It's served me so well for so long, why would I ever get rid of it? Not anytime soon, that's for sure.
Whitney Bauck, Assistant Editor
I still remember one of the first times I wore my acid-wash Mom jeans as a college freshman. I was cutting through the science building in the jeans, ankle boots, a leather jacket and a T-shirt from art supply store Blick when I ran into an upperclassman theater major from Prague that I had a huge style crush on. As I held the door for her to come out of the building, she looked me up and down and said approvingly, "This is good," before breezing by me. I tried not to grin like a fool.
Part of what made the pants interesting enough to comment on was that they were pretty unique at the time. This was a couple of years before brands like Topshop started selling high-waisted, loose-fitting Mom jeans, and I didn't know anyone who wore anything other than skinnies. I found this tapered-leg pair with zippers at the ankles at our school's campus-wide clothing swap and nabbed them right away just because they seemed unusual.
Fast forward a few years, and jeans like my beloved vintage pair are everywhere. At some point, they went from being an outfit-making statement piece to regular old standbys, but I don't love them any less for it. They've started conversations with everyone from my most fashion bro-y friend (who used to warn me that they give me Mom Butt) to the boyfriend of a teen celeb I met at a photo shoot.
In recent years, I've worn the jeans more than anything else in my closet; they've accompanied me to work and the airport and church and fashion week. I love that they show wear in ways that are unique to my body, with rips created by my actual knees rather than by a designer "artfully distressing" them. I love that they're easy to dress up or down and look good with a backless bodysuit in summer or a sweater in winter. I love that they're loose enough around the waist to be as comfy sitting down as they are standing up.
With this much heavy usage in their history, I don't know how much longer I can expect the jeans to hold up, though I'm hoping it'll be at least a few more years. Regardless, it's safe to say I'm going to be wearing these until they literally fall apart at the seams.
Homepage photo: A street style look from Milan Fashion Week Fall 2017. Photo: Imaxtree