Upcycle is a very real thing in my life. It’s largely how I manage my own wardrobe because cutting your costs without cutting your ethics is a very real challenge. As well as clothing rotation which I wrote about here the other week, shoes are another major bugbear because cheap shoes are absolutely a waste of money, and the environment, and better ones cost real money.
I am not especially hardwearing on shoes. I suppose it’s because most of my work involves standing or sitting. And I have a serious love of Converse which generally start at £60 upwards which is way out of my league quite frankly. Also, I expect something of that price to last me a lifetime and they just don’t.
So I tend to buy second hand. COW in Manchester has been my main source of Converse purchases since I moved to Manchester 2 and a half years ago, but eBay can also turn up some real gems. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than £23 for a pair of nearly new Converse and I usually get a couple of years use out of them before I have to start considering my options.
Converse have two major weak points in their design, both of which I am trying to devise quirky repair options for because I absolutely refuse to ditch my current pairs. I’m taking a leaf out of the skaters book, and I’m also looking into Shoe Goo, so I will keep you posted on that. I’m sure someone has done this already. Please tell me if that’s you.
Higher priced upscale is nothing new and I think this is a great way to further the preloved message. It may be at the higher end of the market, but if it means a product is getting more use rather than hidden at the back of a cupboard and stops someone buying a second brand new one, what’s not to love? This method works at every end of the industry. They’re called charity shops although many of them have fallen out of favour because of high volume sales at shops like Primark. Also, charity shops have a real problem with reselling that kind of tat in charity shops. If you paid £5 new in Primark what do you do with it in a charity shop?
That said I still have Primark clothes that I’ve owned for almost 10 years which are still doing great. I’m not completely against the Primark method, I am against its throw away mentality. I would pay more for something from them on the basis that I would wear it until it fell apart. The right purchase at Primark can last you years.
But retro and preloved is a stable industry from what I can tell. Manchester is littered with stores that seem to be surviving (check out Oldham Street) and I love them. Clothes right back to the 1960s and 1970s are getting a new lease of life and inspiring generations of new fashion lovers to take their eyes off the dull and depressing high street and try something different. Fashion used to be about personal statements – standing out. Now its about blending in, and looking like everyone else. Which is a sad end.
I long for the 1980s where fashion was inspired by anything and everything from the previous 200 years and personalisation and upcycle were how you made your mark in the world . But we all look back on our childhoods with rose tinted glasses and I’m sure my younger and older friends would recommend their decades too.