HTSI editor’s letter: on how to spend it... wisely
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Not surprisingly this year, the subject of conscious consumption has been a common theme in all our conversation. What we want, why we want it and whether we need it are questions that are especially pertinent now. As are questions about provenance, the ethics of manufacture and whether, in our buying habits, we might be contributing to pollution, social inequality or environmental harm.
Which is why this issue, as suggested by several of our readers, is called How To Spend It… Wisely.
But first things first. This doesn’t mean we’re not buying anything at all. Here at HTSI we like our earthly pleasures, but we’re not about accreting stuff simply because we can. This issue is focused on the smart buys – whether that means investing in future heirlooms or in a school of thinking that might one day effect more seismic change. Stella McCartney was an outlier when she launched her luxury label that controversially eschewed fur and exotics and embraced pleather (or faux leather as it has now been renamed). Twenty years later, the designer has become an industry leader in the charge to make fashion more sustainable; has championed comprehensive research into her brand’s environmental impact; and is refreshingly transparent about the need to make qualitative change. She has marked her anniversary with a 26-point manifesto outlining her determination to reduce fashion’s global impact. It isn’t exhaustive, but Stella has never made any secret of the fact that the road to sustainability is incremental. In “S is for…”, she talks to Grace Cook about accountability, taking risks and the work that lies ahead.
Whether you’re shopping for menswear, lampstands, rubies or designer handbags, the resale market has exploded in recent years. While many were wary of the rash of online marketplaces that sprang up with the internet, resale sites such as Depop, Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal have since become a consumer way of life. They’ve also given rise to a more circular economy. My daughter delights in listing off the tiny prices she has paid for any given outfit, and spends weekends thrifting through car-boot sales and high-street charity stores in search of items that might find new currency online. But while there has been a spike in 15-year-olds sustaining a brisk business in “unworn Brandy Melville”, so are serious collectors, museum curators and designers getting in on the online rummage game. “Pre-loved” comprises a market currently worth $24bn, which is expected to rise to more than $50bn by 2023. Alongside our fashion shoot, “Head-to-Toe Vintage”, photographed by Sean+Seng and styled by Tamara Rothstein, Alex Fury investigates which brands have held their value, what buyers should look for and which revivals are to come.
Online trawling is OK, but I still find one of the great pleasures of shopping is in the physical experience of poking around a shop. No more so than when looking to decorate a room. Victoria Woodcock asked our experts to nominate their favourite antiques stores, second-hand and vintage destinations to offer you a global guide (“The World’s Best Antique Stores”).
But what of the future, you wonder? What of the innovations and materials that will transform our world? From eco-activists to follow, to ebikes (“Faster, Further, Funner”), many of our stories have an environmental focus – not least Alice Lascelles’ investigation of what the booze industry is doing about packaging, and the race to find an eco-substitute for glass (“Krug in a Can?”). Likewise Ajesh Patalay, who first forages for his dinner (“Stalk on the Wild Side”) before turning to the art of fermentation (“In a Pickle”). Good bacteria, long considered invaluable for gut health – as well as cutting food waste – might even help us preserve a more humane society, argues pickle proselytiser Sandor Ellix Katz in a new book on the subject. I need no convincing about the need to eat my kimchi, but I’m less confident in how our household experiment in preserving lemons is getting on.
And we have gadgets. Jonathan Margolis has found a smart sprinkler, an awesome indoor hydroponic garden and the Tesla Powerwall, a household battery that claims to save up to 75 per cent in energy bills – and charge your car as well. There are even ideas for the Extinction Rebels among us. When we discovered Fergus Scholes had spent months rowing across the Atlantic , we asked him to nominate the kit that really counted. He has since compiled an HTSI survivalist’s compendium: at the very least we want you to meet the apocalypse in fighting form.