One year ago I made a resolution. No More ₤5 Bargains. Quite a turnaround for an avid Primani like myself, but rather than a decision towards fashion extravagance, this was a considered choice to save money, reduce my carbon footprint and to shop more ethically. Market research shows that attitudes are changing (Mintel), and that in the current economic recession, buying cheap clothes that only last a few washes makes absolutely no sense!

In recent years deflation has meant that clothes have been getting cheaper and cheaper. I’ll be honest; I was just as overjoyed as the next person when Primark opened in Liverpool several years ago. Dresses for a fiver! Jewelery for two quid! I thought, ‘You can’t go wrong, and even if you do, it was only a couple of quid.’ I even bought clothes from the dreaded sale rail – a nice black sweater with seams that came apart after one wear. Great. But after watching programmes such as BBC 3’s Blood Sweat and T Shirts, not only did I want to slap most of the British participants into the middle of next week for their insensitive whining, but I started seriously questioning the ethics of all those throw away bargains I’d picked up round town.

Market research insiders Mintel assert that working women (who are steadily rising in number) will be looking for investment buys from ethically sourced retailers and high fashion tailoring, as a shift away from trend focused, throw away fashion leads the way forward. Women who work want clothes they can wear now, and also in five years time. We are starting to see a move towards more classic fashion styles, more tailoring and dare I say it, vintage styling. After all, what better way to recycle than to wear vintage or second hand? This ensures you are buying from a local independent source, no one else will have one the same and that it wasn’t made in a sweat shop in India last month. And if you’re getting clothes from a charity shop, then I don’t think the benefits need to spelled out for you there!

Overall, the current economic climate should be telling us that bargain basement fashion has reached saturation point. No more ₤5 bargains please! Just think, if on average, like me you bought one cheap item of clothing per week, and if, instead of buying it you were to save ₤5 each week, by the end of the year you would have ₤260. Now all those ₤5 bargains would have lasted about a month but if you spent the money you saved on some well made, classic styles from a premium fashion brand, not only would you feel better about your choices but you would have beautiful clothes that will last you a lifetime.

But what did you do about your serious shopping addiction I hear you ask? Well, I’ve hit the vintage and charity shops of Manchester, having recently picked up a gorgeous pair of original Texan made cowboy boots (₤35) and a beautifully printed Orion top (₤7) from Oxfam Originals on Oldham Street. But then there’s always the option of buying handmade. Affleck’s Palace offers a range of handmade and customised clothing, from stalls like Clothing with a Conscience, and if you want to splash all that well saved cash on one beautifully extravagant piece to last a life time, check out some of the amazing designer makers in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Jewellery designers such as BLAC, design and make all their unique jewellery right here in Manchester, ensuring a low carbon footprint.

It’s time to wave good bye to the bargain buy blues and start embracing quirky local, handmade wares and saving up for those beautiful investment pieces that will last you a lifetime!

Sara Li-Chou Han. July 2011

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