Expensive clothes in the US aren’t high quality. Expensive clothes in the US have a fancy designer label but are made with the same awful stitching with loose threads out the wazoo that can’t handle going through a few washes. Medium brands like Land’s End that cost in the $50-$100 range are the only brands that actually don’t fall apart on you and last for awhile. But then they aren’t the most sophisticated pieces so if you want that you are doomed to poor quality at any price basically.
I’ve heard a lot of reasons why we should buy better quality clothes for our wardrobe. I think this is a super important thing to keep in mind if you are planning on doing any Black Friday sales and want to get things at a good deal- because things that are cheap but last for very little time are not actually a good deal. It’s something tough I’ve been learning by trying to buy a professional wardrobe on a shoestring all-my-money-goes-to-college-debt kind of budget, and I want to remind myself why I have limited which companies I shop from as much as you.
Better Quality Brands Save you Money over Time.
Granted, this only works if you are buying quality, not name brand, because in the US at least a lot of companies will slap a famous label onto crummy made clothes and charge you a fortune for a tee shirt that will die in the wash within two years.
This also doesn’t work if you are buying a lot of things that must be dry cleaned, as that costs more overtime than just doing your own laundry in your house or local laundromat would. But in the end buying higher quality pieces made with sturdier fabrics and actually good stitching means you won’t need to replace your clothing basics like tees and jeans and trousers you’ll want to wear over and over again for ever within just two or three years (and cheaper things like Gap or Target only last that long if you are very careful with your laundry cleaning habits and never wash things with zippers in the same load as soft jersey tee-shirt fabric or you’ll be lucky to keep them a year in good shape).
My definition of a quality brand is one that claims to sell clothes that will last, and have guarantees or customer service that backs those claims up. Some good brands to find in the USA are Land’s End, partially made in the USA LL Bean, or my favorite store which is a fair trade and ethical company Fair Indigo.
High Quality Materials
I think the words of my young relative, “You shouldn
t wear man made materials, like nylon, because they kill dinosaurs" is a valid argument. Even though they arent in dinsosauric form anymore, plastic based fabrics are still made out of a limited resource. Another good reason to not wear plastic fabrics is because they do not breathe well and they can make you sweaty or have big pit stains even when you are standing in a freezing cold room, so that is super uncomfortable and not worth buying to me at least. The third one is that several tons of second hand clothes are trashed in the USA each year, and plastics do not break down in landfills or compost piles and can only be recycled a handful of times before they become too brittle to remold but do not break down enough to decompose and must be piled up in a landfull. Donating your used clothes a few years down the line is a good thing to do, but you should be aware that if your clothes ever develop rips or holes they would be better off being composted, and synthetic fabrics cannot be composted or broken down in any way. The fourth and most important reason is that some synthetic materials have been proven to hurt your family’s health in the same way some plastics that have now been banned from use in kitchenware do. Some synthetic materials to look out for are:
- Anything called “vegan leather” or “pleather”is 99% of the time plastics that won’t decompose and might not be good for your health
- fleece (everything labelled this is made from synthetic fleece, at least in the US)
- Velvet (You can get natural velvet in the US, but you have to look for it in green and organic stores)
- satin/sateen (usually a code word for smooth polyester, a plastic that may harm your health)
Other materials, like spandex, are not known to be actively bad for human health, but they like other plastics will not break down over time so they are still pretty bad to buy new as far as the environment is concerned. I like to limit myself to one or two percent spandex in the clothes I wear so I can still get the benefit of a forgiving fit without consuming a lot of plastic. The biggest culprits for synthetic fabrics is mainly affordable formal wear or workout wear. I’ll link you to some stores that fit the ethos of green and fair trade that fill this gap- but most of all keep in mind the kind of fabrics you’re aiming for that will last you forever and be worth the a cost that’s usually comparable to Banana Republic type prices, especially during Black Friday sales!
- wool (it’s easier to find humane alpaca wool, but there are sheep wool farms that pasture raise the sheep as well)
- peace silk (silk made from cocoons left by silk worms- no boiling insects alive for this approach!)
You can also buy fabrics made of recycled plastics. I did not list those because I personally cannot use them with an already compromised immune system, but for the general populace I think it poses a very minute health risk and should be embraced with open arms as a way to extend the time it takes for our endless disposable plastic consumption to lead to building more landfills.
Quality Materials AND Construction
Here we’ll embark on a short list of some of my favorite retailers that combine top notch materials and construction methods.
- USA West Coast Indigenous
- USA West Coast Synergy Clothing
- USA Midwest Fair Indigo
- USA Midwest 1758
- USA DC region Aid Through Trade
- USA South A Fair Trade World
- USA North A Bernadette
- Canada Quebec Distribution Solidaire
- Canada Ontario More Than Half
- Canada Nova Scotia Fibres of Life
- Europe Freitag
- Europe master list of Fair Trade Organization members in the continent
- Asia East Oliberte
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a lot of options on organic fair trade store companies that actually sell in India, North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, Central Asia, North Asia, or a lot of the island nations. I don’t doubt they exist, mind you. I think it’s just hard to find them on Google.com- the Google of your country would probably come up with a lot better local results for you.
Additionally I know a teensy bit about Japan from traveling there and keeping in contact with friends there from both the cities and the countryside, and when I asked them all of them agreed artisan products are basically a guarantee of finding high quality and fair trade products. I am not sure if there is a more affordable variety available that way, but I think that if you can’t afford to buy things new you can find much higher quality used clothing and even formal used clothing there. As a matter of fact I think many countries in the world have access to second hand clothes, and they can be quite high quality items if you look in the right places.
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