Have had this post in my brain for a loooong time, because I knew it would be difficult to write.
One of my fashion weaknesses has been designer handbags. I know- not so in line with the rest of my closet philosophy. But, I’ve got to be honest about this particular closet failing, otherwise I’m a total conscious-fashion-hypocrite who talks a lot about the topic without stopping to be critical of my own consumerism.
I own two designer bags, a Chanel wallet on a chain and a Bottega Veneta shoulder bag/ hobo, as well as a Chanel wallet (though the wallet was not purchased new). I love them so much and use them, well, nearly every day. But learning more about conscious fashion had me wondering about the production of these bags, and if conscious fashion and luxury goods coexist in any way. Does the craftsmanship lend designer goods to being acceptable in a conscious wardrobe? Or are the exorbitant prices and production methods problematic? And how guilty should I feel for carrying these bags?
Chanel prides itself on quality goods and preserving craftsmanship. However, it doesn’t disclose much information about its supply chain or sustainability goals (outside of the suppliers it has purchased in recent years). The brand does not share a public list of suppliers, and scored only a 1% in the 2017 Fashion Revolution Fashion Transparency Index. Brands scoring between 0 & 1% disclose nothing at all or few policies – mostly related to hiring practices or local community engagement.
In this same report, Bottega Veneta scored a 28. A score between 28 and 30 means brands are much more likely to be publishing detailed information about their policies, procedures, social and environmental goals, as well as supplier assessment and remediation qualities. When it comes to policies and commitments, Bottega Veneta scores a 78. However, they scored extremely low in traceability and spotlight issues (meaning their commitment to topics such as a living wage, collective bargaining and circular or innovative processes).
So, I’m not feeling great about my Bottega Veneta, but am feeling a lot better about it than my Chanel bag. I also like how the Bottega Veneta headquarters is LEED certified and that they are committed to the process and craftsmanship behind their intrecciato pattern.
Beyond all the questions about sourcing, I found this article from The Fashion Law to be really eye-opening. We are so out of touch with what our clothes should cost, that we don’t seem to find it odd that a shirt could cost $4 or a bag could cost $2,000. We are so detached from what it actually takes to make our clothes. And I’m learning that neither of those prices are right. I mean, did you know that $100 is the loosely agreed-upon minimum of how much denim should reasonably cost in order to avoid unethical and inhumane manufacturing practices? And let’s be honest with ourselves – how often do we really spend $100 on a pair of jeans?
All in all, I think everything I’ve learned has killed my love for designer bags. A $2,000 bag might be good quality – but it’s also way, way overpriced. I feel good about the fact that I use these bags every day, and intend for them to be heirloom pieces, but that doesn’t mean that the cost and potential mistreatment of workers is justified. They also may not fall apart like a fast-fashion item, but are they really any better quality than an ethically made leather bag? Most likely, no.
And I have to confront that reality in my closet and my shopping habits.
Were any of your favorite brands included in the index? Has it changed how you think about them?