Several years ago during a closet clear out, I was struck with a deep sense of guilt as item after item of fast fashion clothing was piled into a bag, destined for a charity shop.
Not guilty that I was giving them up, but guilty at the number of trend pieces I purchased and never wore – hello sweater vest. Or items I wore a few times only to find when they went through a wash cycle they were virtually ruined.
Left hanging in my wardrobe were items that had been there for years, made of quality fabrics, purchased with consideration and tailored to suit my body shape.
I realised that if I forewent buying two to three pieces of fast fashion, I could invest in one quality piece that would give me a much better cost-per-wear than that polyester knit ever could.
So I set off, making it my mission to create an impeccable capsule wardrobe full of quality items, and managing to nab some bargains where I could.
Part of this commitment came from my belief that you shouldn’t ever shop for the sake of consumerism. I also strongly believe you should never shop outside of your budget to a point where it makes you financially vulnerable. While I might feel okay spending several hundred dollars on quality leather boots now, University student Jenni wouldn’t have been able to pay rent after such a purchase.
A wardrobe should be something that brings joy and is thoughtfully curated, transcends seasons, time, size and age.
There are certain items in a wardrobe should be invested in once, and invested in well.
For me these items reign supreme in what I call a “forever wardrobe” – items that age with grace and are incredibly functional.
Here are the top five items every Kiwi needs in their forever wardrobe.
A pair of quality black or brown boots in a style that’s functional and timeless are essential in any wardrobe. Something that you can chuck on with jeans or chinos, or a quick tights, boots and dress combo for a night out. For me, one shoe ticks all those boxes, The Chelsea Boot, and one brand that absolutely nails this iconic British style is R.M.Williams.
The brand is renowned for quality pieces that last a lifetime, and their Chelsea boots are the epitome of this craftsmanship. The women’s Lady Yearling is the perfect elevated version of the timeless boot. Both the men’s Comfort Craftsman and the Lady Yearling can elevate a simple jeans and sweater look, but also stand the test of time on the farm, in the office, or on a night out.
Yes, they are pricey, but for a pair of boots that will literally last 10-plus years, the cost-per-wear is low and their Goodyear welt construction means soles, tabs and even elastics can be replaced over and over, by the brand themselves.
Quality merino sweater
Sick of your knitwear getting horrendous pilling and not lasting more than a season? Same. That’s why investing in one or two high-quality merino sweaters will see you through many cold seasons to come.
Invest in one with a higher neckline and one with a crew neck in order to make sure they are wearable with any outfit. A pair of black jeans, a high neck merino sweater, boots, and an equally timeless trench, will be in style now and in a decade.
Investing once in beautiful merino is not only better for the environment, but it also feels better. Quality merino shouldn’t itch and should wear beautifully over the seasons without extreme pilling associated with cheaper materials.
My top picks are the Country Road merino high neck style for women, and their crew neck style for men.
Pro-tip: Size up in order to make sure it’s a piece that lasts a lifetime. Slightly oversized knitwear will always be in style and means that any washing mishaps can be forgiven.
Classic cut jeans
No wardrobe is complete without a good pair of jeans – ideally one in black and one in blue.
Try a style that’s been around forever, like Levi’s 501 jeans – an enduring pair that form the backbone of any self-respecting denim roster.
They suit any body shape and are made to last, no matter what you do in them. So much so that vintage Levi’s 501s sell for big money on TradeMe and Gen Zers are desperate to get their hands on the jeans that their grandparents’ generation wore in the 60s.
The perfect leather bag
Designer trend bags come and go, and it can be a pricey experiment in getting the right bag for you. If early 2000s Von Dutch bowling bags taught us anything, it’s that just because something is cool now, doesn’t mean it will be cool in a year’s time.
Investing in a medium-sized leather bag in a classic style will see you through years to come, and you won’t have to worry about going out of style.
The same goes for wallets, with a classic zip or dome closure wallet in good quality leather, lasting virtually forever if treated well.
The Deadly Ponies Mr Mini Leopard is a classic style but with enough edge through the gold detailing that it looks like it could be brand new when it’s been in your closet for years. It’s a wearable size and looks as impeccable with a dress and heels as it does with an oversized shirt and Mom Jean.
The puffer jacket
Hear me out. The forever wardrobe is about functionality and is there any more functional of a jacket to come out of the last 20 years, than the iconic puffer jacket? You buy it once, and then never have to think about a cold-weather jacket again.
There will always be a chilly game or rugby at Eden Park, a Saturday morning coffee run in the midst of winter, or adventurous lovers hike when you are both still pretending you are into outdoor activities. These events are where the humble puffer jacket shines. You never have to think about it. You never have to worry about it. It’s just sitting there when you need it. And that to me, screams forever.
If you are a fashionista at heart and cannot bring yourself to rock this utilitarian gem, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Moncler all have now famous puffer jackets worn by the likes of Gigi Hadid, Ariana Grande and A$AP Rocky.
Pro tip: Kathmandu drastically slashes their prices through their Kathmandu club and Huffer have insane markdowns for their end of season sales, where you can snag their puffers for more than 50 per cent off-peak winter prices.
The final word
Need more convincing that now is that time to invest in forever clothes instead of trend pieces?
According to researchers at The True Cost, the world consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year and discards an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste each year. That’s the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes going into landfills every second.
So stopping buying two to three new sweaters per season and buying one to last many seasons makes it better for the environment and your forever wardrobe.
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