Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book review: To Die For - Is Fashion Wearing out the World?

by Lucy Siegle (below), 2011

I am not really an environmentalist - mental maybe, but not really environ-mental.
But this was totally eye opening - a fascinating read.

For anyone interested in the environment OR fashion - a MUST read.

Will it change my buying habits? probably not immediately, but I have already started asking retailers about the origins & the nature of the production process in their offerings.

Easy to read, with well organised chapters & sub headings

Lucy covers every angle within the fashion industry -

*The rise of fast fashion & the discounters

*Impact of the recession

*A day in the life of a garment worker in the 3rd world

*The window dressing in sweatshop operations

*Luxury goods - "cheapskating" - the art of blending a luxury "It" item with many low cost items

*The low cost items are out of control - you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time

*The footprint - water, carbon, energy, toxic dyehouses, respiratory disease with silica from sandblasting jeans, pesticides, digestive and kidney disorder with cotton production, sheep mulesing

*Cheap cashmere

*Exotics - collecting crocodile skins & farming, Botox injected in python for plumpness, fur - by product or main product?

* Leather - toxic tanneries, impact on the Amazon,

*Discarded fashion - sorting of waste for the 3rd world, land fill, inbuilt wastage in the manufacture process


*Alternatives - hemp, nettle knits, tree bark, peace silk, crab shells, salmon skin, milk fibre


*Washing, mending, sewing


Harper Collins, 2011
ISBN: 978 0 00 726409 4
318 pages

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pssst - wanna know about a magical sale?

For the last, oh, about 5 years, I have been attending a very "under the radar" sale twice a year.
Its called the Peter Pan Sale (in aid of Barnados Australia) and has been going on for over 40 years by a committee founded in 1940. This length of time is a testament to its success. The sale is magic (read: gold), just like Peter Pan.

The sale is run twice a year, for the Barnados Children's Charity and the hard work behind the scenes is done by a dedicated committee of hard working women, some from the northern suburbs and most from the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

The committee's origins definitely has its benefits for us the attendees. These women network with the wealthiest of Sydney ladies (& from Melbourne) to clear their designer wardrobes and sell it for Barnados.

If you have ever considered recycled or vintage dressing, this is the sale for you.
The adage, one women's cast offs are another women's treasures is no where more true than this type of sale...the sale is a veritable gold mine & I will explain more later...

The committee runs the sale twice a year in May (winter clothing emphasis) & October (summer clothing emphasis).

They advertise in some if the eastern suburbs press, however have a dedicated email mailing list that is serious & robust & all you have to do is ask to be placed on it. They dont sell their list to anyone & they dont bug you with other stuff. With this committee you know what you're getting.

Location, dates, times etc

Currently the sales are held at Paddington Town Hall which is roomy, well lit & central to transport.

Typically the sale starts at 9.30 on a Wednesday & runs til Friday. Their days end at around 4.30 pm. Whatever is left on Friday is discounted 50%. But the real treat is the stuff that is there when the doors open at 9.30 am - this is the stuff that is lucky to last half an hour before being snatched by some savvy shopper & will not be discarded.

The behind the scenes information

The Committee getting the register table ready at around 8 am on Wednesday 25th May 2011.

Four or five girls (customers) are there by 8.15 am & it was a cold, wet, windy day. Better weather and you would have had more there and earlier. The Paddington Town Hall external door is open, so everyone makes their way into the building & sits on the stairs just outside the door of the hall which holds the bulk of the loot (to the left of the cash register area in the photo above).

Across the corridor in an open area (to the right of the cash register area in the photo above) is the mens & jewellery area. Geez, I need a strategy to cover everything....hhmm...thinking....

Both sets of stairs are filling up - sure its alot warmer in the Paddington Town Hall building than queued up outside on the street....but everyone really just only wants a better posi to get in & grab the goodies....

By 8.45 am, around 50 ladies are there...one lady says "no, no, dont take my photo, I am supposed to be at work!!"....so I have excluded her....the rest are happy to be snapped!

by 9.10 am around 200 ladies.....

and steadily increasing numbers from then on....

..at 9.25 am...

at 9.27 am....

at 9.28 am....

The loot - working out a strategy

The committee is dedicated, efficient and delivers results. Their sales are gold.

What do I mean by that?

The loot on offer is typically:

(10%) Mens - clothes, shoes, ties, scarves, some belts etc
(85%) Womens - clothes, all accessories (bags, jewellery, hats, shoes, scarves, belts)
(5%) Childres - all ages

The accessories are displayed on large well organised tables, so bags are separate to jewellery, separate to shoes etc.

The clothes are on wheeled racks, with jacket racks separate to suit racks, separate to top racks, separate to skirt racks, separate to pant racks, separate to evening wear racks, separate to "young & funky stuff"...hahaha...that's my terminology....etc etc.

All the knitwear & jeans are folded on (large) tables.

All the categories are clearly marked & the space is open & easy to navigate. You can even peer through the glass door before they open the doors to get a feel for the layout & plan your assault, oops, I meant strategy.

My strategy: Grab scarves as I walk in, then walk very fast (read: run) to suits, then to jackets, then to skirts, then to tops....then everything else.

This year, the racks were provided by Noni B, Lowes & Saba & thank yous were posted on the doors.

The thing that also impresses me is that there are so many ladies volunteering for this sale that their process of getting discards back on their correct racks is lightning fast. Any sale nut worth her salt knows this is the tricky (& tedious) part, but honestly, the faster you get it back out in the correct place, the faster someone else will find it & adopt it and love it. These girls have this tricky part down pat.

Have you ever "done" a warehouse sale? I am not talking about a (supposedly civilised) store sale...but an offsite sale.....You do a lap (& collect stuff), then (before you try on), you do another lap (& collect more)...then you stalk the sorting area for discards (remember another woman's trash can be your treasure)......THEN you dare try on.......

Some of you may be squinting right now & thinking "That sounds like the most arduous process in the world and I would rather stick pins in my eyes". The others are nodding enthusiastically as they totally "get it". The former hate shopping, the latter love it. Vive la difference!

What I am really saying is the girls who volunteer for these sales, make it easy to shop - not that it will "convert" shopping haters to shopping lovers, but if anyone can set it up so its possible, then these girls do.

Little details

Also there are no change rooms - yes, I know some of you are horrified, but seriously, I dont care about your body, your underwear and your lumps & bumps - the only thing I care about is trying on my goodies & figuring out what is going to follow me home.....see? follow me home...makes it sounds like I am not responsible for my shopping and its kinda out of my control....I am innocent, I swear...it followed me home....and if you saw the amount of garment swapping going on by semi naked women - TRUST ME, no one is interested in your bosy - but the eyes around you are interested in your discards....

The committee has placed a gazillion chairs all around the room (its a huge room) & each person grabs a chair & places a plastic bag on the chair to signify its theirs....as they collect, they fill up their chair & trust me, these ladies dont steal from another's chair - there are ethics amongst shoppers. Obviously you keep your handbag on your person as you scout the room....

Oh - & in the interests of recycled - the committee collects bags from the donors which are used to place the garments purchased into...you can walk out with a fresh Giorgio Armani, Hermes or Yves Saint Laurent or Cosmopolitan Shoes bag & your recycled goodies inside...typically you grab one of these upfront & use it to mark your chair for as long as you are there....

me? I dont waste time finding a chair - I zoom straight in for the kill, oops, the loot...chair, no chair, I dont care..the floor is polished wood & clean & if I pick a corner, I am happy to place my loot on the floor (neatly).

Now the good stuff.....


Think Eastern suburbs society ladies who lunch and play tennis
Typically, think Giorgio Armani (mainly the prestige black label, some of the white label (a la DJs) not that yucky Emporio Armani), Valentino, YSL, Basler, Escada, Mondi, Akris, Dior, Fendi, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Ferragamo, St John, Max Mara, Blumarine, Cerruti, Sazha, Steilman, DKNY. The bead & butter is refined, but like any recycled sale, you can find things that are totally out there too - edgy, directional, and varied.

Shoe brands can include Ferragamo, Bruno Magli, Prada, YSL, Pancaldi 1881, the odd Chanel, Tods, YSL, Bally etc

Bags are varied...super high profile designer like LV, Gucci or Longchamp to straw totes from Moschino. In the LV camp, you are more likely to see a grafitti bag (real) than a classic monogram or epi leather...

Did anyone say scarves? I am a scarf nut...the scarf report is usually comprised of a Hermes or two, Gucci, Ferragamo, Bally, Chanel, Fendi etc Big names.

They also have local designer labels - think Carla Zampatti, Lisa Ho, Blooms, John Cavill, Mela Purdie, Ignazia, Anna Middleton (linens), Charlie Brown etc

Not the "young" labels like Camilla & Mark, Dion Lee, Zimmerman or those brands on Oxford Street etc...& I am using "young" very loosely girls, because, we all know its about the attitude not the age...more the refined Aussie designer labels you'd find in David Jones.

The third category of ladies wear is high street Australian - Sussan, Howard Showers, Katies, Noni B, Sportsgirl, Portmans etc. This third group is likely to comprise about 15% of the womens wear - by far the bulk is the serious designer loot. This caters for less affluent ladies who aren't there for the labels, but for functional clothing and to help a charity.


Op shop prices. Seriously. Everything is priced to sell. Dont forget, on the last day, everything is reduced by a further 50%.

A black label Arnani suit will typically be around $140 - $170 (depending on age & condition), a black label GA jacket around $50, a Dior or Valentino suit (typically vintage 80s - after all, if you had one from the last 5 years, would you give it away?) around $70-$90, a St John skirt for $40, a Basler jacket for $50, Tods shoes $40-$80, Ferragamo shoes $20-$80 (depending on condition) and it goes on.

& the Hermes scarves? I have bought 3 Hermes scarves from previous Peter Pan sales. Each were $20 each & no, I havent dropped off a zero on that number.

New Hermes scarves retail at AU$550 at the boutiques in the capital cities, US$375 plus 15% tax in the US. Recycled, they generally go for AU$250-$350. On US ebay, depending on condition, you'll find them for anything from $100 to $1,000 depending on the demand (from collectors) of the particular print.

One was a plisse silk with slightly relaxed pleats - I still wear it & love it. The other two were 90 cm flat twills, pristine, mint condition, looked never worn. I subsequently sold one of them as it was a wrong colour for me, but I couldnt pass up the quality. Frankly, now that I have become more serious about my Hermes collection, I wish I had kept it. The other is a Chinese good luck print in (of course) red. It too was pristine & it remains so even though I have worn it (& continue to wear it) alot. I will post photos of these gems when I do the scarf tying blog post.

Hypothetical purchases

So lets say, hypothetically, that I went to the winter Peter Pan sale..... Hypothetically of course....what would I have bought?

An 100% fine cotton Gucci scarf with a white background and a bright aqua border - nautical overtones.
Price: $20 (RRP about $320)

Wow bits: Hand rolled edges -perfect even stitches - Hermes quality.

I'm sorry - but these edges are so perfect, I have to post another photo....

Bad bits: 2 yellow spots, each half the size of my small fingernail on the white bits, wouldnt come out with solvent or soapy stuff, otherwise pristine

Domestic goddess moment: I put bleach on a cotton bud & rested it on the spots for 10 seconds, hanging the scarf so if the bleach was to blead it would do so on more white areas & no colours...
Rinse, wash, spots gone...

Perfect scarf. I love it. It loves me.

Need some ideas on how to tie a scarf? Stay tuned for a future blog post!

A MarcCain stretch skirt in a floral/geometric combo in soft base tones of green and taupes with many small colours overlaying.
Price: $24 (RRP: $450 Myer)

Wow bits: Looks new & unworn, no issues, perfect. A sometimes funky German brand however not kept by Myer any more.
I actually already have this (same size, identical skirt)...I paid RRP - it was about 5 years ago.
Every time i wear it it gives me a Pippa bum, no joke....the tule inserts at the hem create a fluted effect which is feminine and girly but slightly see through & sexy.

I dont plan to keep it - the other one I have is still perfect.
As soon as I find a friend with a shape that fits this, it'll go to its new home.

A Charlie Brown black base lipstick wrap stretch frill top
Price: $40 (RRP approx $180)

Wow bits: Perfect condition, double ruffles on neck & sleeves

80% poly & 20% lycra, but breathes & falls beautifully.
It also has a long wrap tie (which I have tied at the back for these photos) which slides through one side seam and stays in place around the waist, preventing peek -a boo.

Now this is an outright blatant copy & I am normally against these - too noticeable & I wont wear it for long & so I just wont buy it....but i gave in & it looks very flattering on....

Here is the original Prada SS 2000 versions....

Anyone remember the skirt with red lipsticks as worn by Chalotte when she fell in front of Trey's car & they met? Go to episode 7 season 3 (I had to look that up) of your Sex and the City DVDs...

More versions, same collection.....

and the advertising campaign photos....

A white linen Louise Mitchell shirt (Australian designer who does great work with linen)
Price: $30
Est RRP: $200

Wows: 100% pure linen bows at the front hiding the buttons and on the sleeve buttons.
Elegant, ladylike, looks unworn.

Spare button attached - this is a sign that a garment is either lightly worn or not worn.
Once you start wearing a piece of clothing - always remove this - otherwise there is the tendency for the button to be imprinted on the outside of the garment when it is pressed - not a good look.

Place all spare buttons in a shoe box so you know where to find them when you need them. Too easy!

French seamed (this means the raw edges are sewn inside the seams so no overlocking is exposed to the eye), totally gorgeous.

The other thing I love about well made garments is the wide inside plackets - so if they move around as you do, no one can see anything but a smooth surface on the inside.

Bad bits: None, none, none

A Gay Naffine 100% cotton skirt - pale grey with large white polka dots
Est RRP $180 - $220
This label was an Australian designer who did very understated garments minimalist styles and was huge in the 1980s.

Wow bits: Too cute - any polka dot skirt is cute & will work for work with a blazer or for play.

Bad bits: Too long - I have sent it to alterations to take the hem up...I will add a photo when it comes back

Total (hypothetical) spend = $134 (est RRP = over $1K)
Happy Dance!

Does Peter Pan interest you?

If you love sale shopping, it should! Its also a great cause!

Be sure to go & "Like" the Facebook page for Barnados Australia too!

Mailing list

If you would like to be included on the mailing list for future sales, just contact either:

Mrs Amanda Fisher Phone: 9363 3776 Email: fisherra@bigpond.net.au

Mrs Barbara Mortimer Phone: 9328 1394 Email: themortimers@bigpond.com

Please mention that you obtained their details from this blog!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Zara Sydney & fast fashion - one woman's angst

Zara Sydney: I arrived. I bought fast fashion. 2 hours later, I returned fast fashion.
The guilt factor killed me for the whole 2 hours. It was excrutiating. I was in pain. I HAD to return it. Are you like me? OR Do you thrive on fast & short term fashion?

Here is my story.

Item: Prada-esque bold striped top $70, elbow length sleeves, gathered shoulders, bateau/crew neckline, loose, easy, not lined, bold back zip, 100% polyester (looked & felt like silk)

I bought the cobalt & black stripe, leaving the emerald & black stripe on the rack.
I cant find either on the US Zara site, but here it is from elsewhere....

So what happened?

Lovely Zara Sydney has it in now. Come August 2011, EVERYONE on the Sydney high street will have it. It will be EVERYWHERE. This top is probably the SINGLE MOST DEFINING TREND of Spring/Summer 2011. Trust Miuccia Prada to come up with this - no surprises here. In fact, I predict that the Pitt St mall will be a veritable BOLD STRIPE ALL ALONG ITS LENGTH. HAHAHAHA....No other trend will be noticed.

See SS 2011 Prada outfits below....

& more.....(notice the floral lop bottom left - its on the US site...I am waiting for that one - it wasnt as "noticeable" as the stripes...heheheh)

Zara Sydney also had the striped scarves per the photo on bottom right - they were 40 & have all sold out...amazing effort!

more Prada the real deal....

another Zara similarity.....

Notice I am shouting at times? Because this frustrates me. Why?

Not because EVERYONE will have the item. Definitely not for that reason. As long as I LOVE it, I dont care if everyone has it.

What I DO care about is that because the Sydney landscape will be covered with it, I will be sick of it & will not want to wear it more than once, twice?? lucky to be 3 times worn.....No matter how flattering, how cute, how practical & how well made, I will turf it. It will have a very very very very short life with Valerie.

And I have a gene that says I need to buy classic clothes that will last forever (Ok - read: a very long time) and which cant be identified by specific season. (In case you're wondering, NO, I dont look boring - hahahah....I add "zing", "style", "pizazz" with accessories!)

I dont care that this top only costs $70. If I wear it 3 times, that's still a huge, unjustifiable cost per wear (CPW) of close to $25. TOO EXPENSIVE. TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT. I KID YOU NOT.

In fact, I wondered around town for the 2 hours, knowing I couldnt go home because something wasnt right. I was a zombie looking at windows & my head was definitely not in the right place. Who would believe it, eh?

I would rather pay a bomb & absolutely love something FOREVER that will love ME forever & I will be happy to pull out for years & years rather than a one season wonder. That's just me.

Actually I'd rather get an absolute bargain on something I absolutely love something FOREVER that will love ME forever & I will be happy to pull out for years & years rather than a one season wonder. Hahahaha

a note on the environment....

As an aside, the environmentalists would tell me that the top shouldn't be bought on the basis that its 100% poly and will remain in landfill for a few trillion years. But thats not even my beef. Sorry guys!

a note on quality....

Those of you who know me, would be surprised I dont reject the top on the basis of quality...but I couldnt - it was fabulously made....the stripes matched at the seams, the zip stitches were sewn prefectly, it fell flat against my decolletage and the gathers/hem were even & well done. The poly looked & felt like silk - in fact, as it was poly, it would last through WWIII and look great (personally I HATE it when silk threads start to move apart from handling and wear - it looks unsightly - but there was no risk of this with this Zara top).

a note on matching pieces....

And...and...and....nor did this top create the "sneak right up behind you & you didnt see it coming" fashion problem, that in order to make the item work you need to spend another $2,941 to buy complementary clothes & accessories....so in fact the $70 top costs you $3,011. That has to be one of the most classic (& by stealth) sartorial mistakes on planet earth......In fact, I am proud to say that I had everything else I needed already.......a black pleated skirt (knee length), platform chunky heel black shoes, black hose (not tights) & a Dries Van Noten (yes, real, very real & very adored) chunky antique-y gold necklace with diamantes & pearls. It would have been a great look....for all of one week....


So thats my story - in case you are wondering, my breathing & heart rate are back to normal, my brain isnt spinning from the guilt any more & I feel like everything in the world is back in its right place. Agghh, happy.

& you know what? It all comes down to "Know thyself." When I was acting contrary to Know Thyself (for that whole 2 hours) I couldnt handle it.


Michelle O in the UK

Quick post

Check out two outfits worn by Michelle O on her UK visit...

The thing that caught me by surprise was the similarity in colour and/or print to the Queen's outfit.

Shouldnt she check with the Queen's press people to avoid this? very strange....

Maybe the Queen's people should send a memo...hehehehe

In Tom Ford....

In Barbara Tfank (no, I havent heard of her either!)

and if you want a Kate update - here is her latest look - high street label Reiss "Shola" bandage look dress....I thought it was a 10/10. Apparently it was around 175 pounds.

She also wore the same brand dress in her engagement photos early in the year...that was a 159 pound dress.

Photos courtesy of Red Carpet Fashion Awards

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Zara Sydney - NEWSFLASH

Recent chat with a Zara inside spy reveals the following:


The Sydney store is now receiving deliveries EVERY week day.

You may recall from my earlier blog post that they were receiving stock on Tuesday & Thursday each week - that stock being placed on the floor for customers to buy by Wednesday & Friday morning. These drops are still done but they now mainly comprise the NEW items.

The additional deliveries on every other day will comprise a combination of repeats of successful sellers and some NEW items.


Zara is using different carriers for alot of these drops so the items will not always be on the floor first thing in the morning. For example, last night a delivery arrived at 11 pm, other times at 5 pm. Customs hold ups also cause some delays so there isnt a consistency of timing of the drops.

As far as merchandising the stock onto the floor, they prioritise hanging stock first, folded stock second. That makes sense because the hanging stock, is already hanging so its easier to place on the floor and it takes up more room than folded stock - so its best to sell it first.


They also have 6 floors of storerooms at the Sydney store, so if a sales assistant checks on an item for you, make sure they have checked every store room.


Dont forget also, that some sales assistants are "dedicated stock people", while others are simply floor sales people. Obviously the former have the detailed knowledge on the stock on the storerooms (all 6 of them!) - make sure one of those checks for you. This means that if you have had a conversation with a floor sales assistant, ask them to check with a dedicated stock room person.

If you float around in the store, you'll be able to tell the difference between these two type of assistants - the dedicated stock people move in and out of the stock rooms & the floor pretty fast - you wont see them casually fixing up fixtures and the like.

The dedicated stock room people also dont seem to wear the uniform most of the time. In contrast, the floor sales people always wear the uniform. Currently the uniform is a black base (pants, tee top with long sleeves) with a hip length black sleeveless vest (think: jacket without sleeves)....the sleeveless jacket (or any variation of) is not on sale ATM.


As I also mentioned in a a previous posting, stock is also held at a warehouse in Alexandria. However I dont believe its possible to check style numbers back to that warehouse. Its a intermediate depot from which we get lovely surprises which comprise the shop drops!

Have fun - its a great store & cant wait for Melbourne to open too!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Camel & Charcoal - high end not high street

A friend of mine has based her corporate wardrobe around black & grey (tick).
Last week she sheepishly admitted that there was a camel suit lurking in the depth of her wardrobe which she has had for a while (read: a long time) & hardly worn.

Why? Camel doesnt suit her complexion

My interpretation? Camel is a hospital colour for her (as it is for me).

My advice? Exorcise the jacket - shed a tear (or whatever, eye roll) & donate, sell, just get it out of the wardrobe - otherwise too much clutter & it makes getting dressed in the morning confusing & s-l-o-w. I mean - whats the point of keeping something you dont wear (& there was no sentimentality attached to the acquisition anyway!)

Bye bye jacket! Shed that single tear? Then get over it.

More advice? Wear the pants back with black, charcoal grey, navy, red...the possibilities are endless.

She looked at me funny - Camel with charcoal grey? seriously?

Yes - absolutely!

Witness the below....

The Burberry classic nova check is based on this combo.

Look at the classic leopard print - its a muted black/grey print on camel - if its good enough for nature, then its good enough for our wardrobes!

A Zara cape/pants combo in camel/grey

More options...

Warning, warning, danger Will Robinson - be careful with hose in colours though - they can add pounds & pounds - same goes for contrasting your hose with your shoes - the break in the line can add pounds too!

Back to the look.....

this is Michael Kors AW2010 - New York Fashion Week...classy & refined...

When you think about it - if camel can work with black & anthracite (a shade away from black), then how can it possibly NOT work with grey?

Have you noticed how camel has been partnered with red this winter? everywhere you look - camel & red. red & camel. & more of the same. Well - that combo pops, thats for sure - thats why the hi street has latched onto it.

In comparison, grey & camel is more understated - more serene & less "flashy". Think eurochic.
Thats precisely the reason the high street doesnt "get" camel & grey as well as high end "gets" it.

But its a beautiful refined combination - isnt that what we want?

I even found a piccie of all 3 mentioned colours - camel, grey & red!
See how the red takes over? It command attention & the look isnt subtle any more....no more Euro chic....waaaahhhh....

Back to the more serene look.....

and I love the camel heel/platform with the dark grey uppers in the shoes here...

& another classic look

How to wear hospital colours?

The key to wearing a hospital colour is to wear it anywhere except for near your face.

So NO to: jackets, scarves, necklaces in the hospital colour
So YES to: pants, skirts, shoes, handbag/other accessories not near the face in the hospital colour

This means that my friend's camel pants may give her more options than she thought she had previously - isnt that what we want in our wardrobe?

Camel is a great neutral, its hot right now. Sounds good to me!


Camel works well with black - but you knew that.

Camel also works well with denim & chambray

These "PS" photos were lovely - couldnt resist throwing them into the mix even though they are slightly off topic!

And if you have gotten this far - great - may I ask that your recommend this blag to a couple of your fashion interested girlfriends (or boyfriends)?