Wait! Another post on clothing from someone whose last purchase was gold linen trousers she hasn't worn yet?
Because right after I wrote yesterday's post, I cam across this article at NYmag.com. I'd like to say I was cool enough to be tracking all of this, but no; Facebook or my Facebook friends are cool enough for the both of us...
Anyhow, the article profiled an up and coming company called Cuyana, whose manifesto is that their clients should trim their closets down to the essentials or things they love, hopefully some of which will come from the very limited, but of excellent quality, inventory they sell. To quote the article:
The theory is limiting the selection of items helps women to think about their wardrobes in terms of the long game, hopefully eschewing fast-fashion whim purchases for these items that are made to last.
Like Everlane, Cuyana uses a direct-to-consumer model that allows them to price their luxury, quality, goods at a lower price.
You will find a lot of Alpaca on their website (scratch, scratch just thinking of that), along with cashmere, silk and and a lot of leather goods that reminded me quite of a lot of Everlane's leather goods.
In the interview, the founders discuss the current craze amongst some (myself included to a very small degree, since if you looked at my closet it would probably still seem like a lot) around the Lean Closet Movement and even cites Marie Kondo of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (see this blog post for more on my preliminary experiences) as being an inspiration. They want us to buy with intention and say "if Americans could just slow down and be a little bit more thoughtful, they'll make better purchases." Hmmm, that's a risky marketing strategy, I think, and could be perceived by some as a tad condescending, although I think they are very sincere in their intent.
But I get them. I mean, we all should be buying less, because buying less means we are putting money away from our retirement, or our kids or whatever and mainly because we are being a lot less taxing on our planet, and yet....
Somehow I am not finding this new technique for taking my dollar not any more satisfying than the old technique that told me if I buy X, Y or Z I will be prettier, more stylish, part of the "in crowd". This approach makes me feel bad if I don't want to one plain black tote to "do me out". There is also a fetishism of clothing in this approach that makes me nervous - purses and shoes and the like have become things of worship with their own spotlights in our closets.
The clothes are very plain, like Everlane's. I have to say that is interesting to me that they want us to "invest" in their pieces. I'm not going to lie - an investment piece to me is something that I would have to save a long time to get and which I would pray to God will last: a pair of Laboutins or Charlotte Olympias or Valentinos and if I ever sell a book I just may go there, not a green alpaca sweater. It's all in the definition I guess.
Of course, everyone's idea of an investment piece is different and it depends on family income and age. I don't want rich people telling me what I "ought" to buy any more than I want people who are on retainer from retailers telling me what I "ought" to buy this season.I think if I was going for simple clothes, ethically made and good quality that weren't particularly thrilling, the lower priced Everlane might be more my cup of tea.
But I also am more uncomfortable with fast fashion now and am ignoring (mostly) the constant roll-out of CLOTHES! CLOTHES! CLOTHES! that the big brands are shoving down our throat and making us think we need. I look in my closet and it is very clear I need nothing.
Even the fast fashion criticism around quality can't be applied neatly across the board - remember my Joe Fresh cords from yesterday - washed tons and looking spectacular! I've had very expensive clothes not do so well. Still - would I prefer to buy my cords from a Made in the USA or Canada company, if they were as stylish and were not prohibitively expensive? Yes.
So where is the middle ground? Well here I actually like Jennifer L. Scott's concept of the Ten Item Wardrobe (which isn't ten items at all, just ten core items) - I realized today that I have basically been wearing ten core items all fall and winter, 3 or 4 pairs of pants, a couple of tops, a blazer and then just changing out the shoes or the Ts or the sweater. In her last post on The Daily Connoisseur, she discusses how the core of this season's core pieces were all from mid-range places. Remember - I work for home - it's easier for me.
What I like about Jennifer's approach is that it doesn't assume that a) everyone has the money to purchase more expensive items or b) everyone would want to only buy one new item a season if they could only afford one high cost item.
While that may be a European thing (and frankly I think that is a bit of a myth too) it is not a North American thing and may require moving towards that approach slowly, especially as one's style is evolving. My 22 year old daughter might pay more for a purse, but not for clothing - she doesn't even know what career she's moving into.
Jennifer realizes that many (most) people won't/can't buy the DVF dress and doesn't make you feel badly if you buy the jersey knockoff at Loft or Banana Republic.
Even the "love what you have" concept is a difficult thing, I think, for people who really love clothes, because some people really love everything about clothes and if you told them "only buy what you love" it would be open season for them!
And it also doesn't recognize the inherently human trait of wanting something new now and then, especially when you see someone you know with something new.
One thing I did really like on the Cuyana website is their Lean Closet feature, a series of posts to help us move to a less is more approach gradually.
The fatigue of consumerism is a real thing and I think businesses like Cuyana and blogs like Jennifer's are stepping in to address that.
And the amount of clothes I have given away or sold on consignment is embarrassing and makes me feel silly for buying so much in the first place and a little stupid for getting so caught up in clothes.
I would be remiss if I didn't applaud a business that has been started by two smart young women and wish them well. But I'm still not buying Alpaca.
I am sorry this has been a rambly post! I am thinking about all of this stuff these days and I would love to know if anyone else has been thinking differently about their clothing and this whole less is more approach. Do you think it is an effective marketing strategy?