I struggle with the choices I make.
For example, I have recently decided to stop shopping at Urban Outfitters. As far as I'm concerned, their constant stream of collaborations with designers that appeal to people like me are essentially taking money away from the small local boutiques that I love; a $200 Sunshine & Shadow blouse at a boutique or a $50 Yellow is Gold by Sunshine & Shadow blouse at Urban Outfitters? Which would you choose? Up until a few months ago, I know which one I would have chosen. I know that I cannot afford a $200 blouse, but when I splurge on one, I value it so much more. I don't care about the fate of the less expensive item. It's nearly disposable. There is a reason why there is such a difference in the price.
My Contributor by Rachel Comey sandals (an Urban Outfitters collaboration, as you probably know) wound up being disposable. They fell apart after a few hours of wear and I had to spend half an hour walking home in broken shoes the other day, dragging my left foot through the hot streets. They are not worth repairing. I am very sad about this. I understand why the designers create these lines, of course. You do what you have to do. Certainly a lot of designers would love to do a line for Urban Outfitters.
I also understand that there are people who don't have the option of shopping in small local boutiques. I get it. It's tricky. It even gets tricky when I think about Rodarte for Target. The Rodarte customer is not going to stop shopping at Barney's. And what do I care about Barney's? But with collaborations such as Yellow is Gold or Fletcher by Lyell, it just hits a little too close. I feel as though I am being manipulated, and I resent it. Yeah, okay, the Free People blog is really cool. I know.
I am not trying to ruffle any feathers and I am not trying to preach. But incredible feats of merchandising are just not enough for me at this point. Small business owners can do it just as well, and better (I'm sure you have all seen the pictures of Saipua). I don't have a lot of money and I want to spend what I do have as well as I can. A company that is making enormous profits in a recession doesn't need me. That's all. That's my choice. I won't judge you for yours.
So I do struggle, and I feel so small. I know many of you do as well. Too often I give up and I settle for the easiest option, all the while trying to be weary of greenwashing and of corporations putting on an act. You can poke holes in any argument. I do like to use my critical thinking faculties. We all should. But sometimes I stroll into H&M and mindlessly buy a skirt just because it is inexpensive and I want to wear something new that night.
Erin and I have been chatting about the clothing label Bodkin a bit lately because Robber is going to carry select items from the line for fall (the line was started by Eviana Hartman and Samantha Pleet -- of Samantha Pleet but also of Rapscallion by Samantha Pleet for Urban Outfitters -- but is now Eviana Hartman's alone). I read the description of the dress above, made of hand-loomed silk blessed by the Dalai Lama. My cynicism took over. I complained about how such effort had been put into this beautiful fabric, but that it had to travel to this side of the world on an airplane, to be made into a dress sold to one who could afford it. I disregarded the fact that at least Bodkin had tried to do something different, because for too long I have been rolling my eyes at "green" marketing and irritating terms such as "eco-chic," and it has hardened me. I thought Bodkin was just another designer doing the "green thing" for the sake of the bottom line. I was wrong, wrong.
Yesterday Jenny posted about Bodkin with a link to Eviana Hartman's blog. I read the whole thing; I absolutely fell in love and had to revisit everything I had said to Erin. Here is a designer who THINKS about every choice she makes (down to the provenance of her safety pins & to garment care -- just say 'no' to dry cleaning; I do). She doesn't condescend to us and in fact solicits opinions on her blog. Never mind that the clothing itself is lovely! I am in awe.
Please do read her blog, particularly this post and this post. It demonstrates perfectly that there are so many grey areas, but that there are people who make the best choices that they can. I sincerely wish that there were more designers and more manufacturers and more companies that operated with this spirit & I hope that we can give them the space to thrive. It's legit.