I lived in Florence, Italy my sophomore year of college. It was a dream year. I lived with a bunch of Italians, about 7 total, over the nine and a half months in a large apartment right in the center of the city. My roommates were so different, not only for the obvious reasons, but for their sense of value and respect for their purchases. I will never forget when one of the girls spent the equal to 100 US dollars on a pair of Levi's (this was back in the mid 90's- that was a lot!). My mother was coming the next month, and I asked why she didn't wait, she could have had them for $40! She didn't care. She said that she would have that one pair for the next five years anyway, so it didn't matter. After I graduated from college I went back to Florence and visited the friends I had made three years earlier. My roommate still had her jeans, and they still looked great.
In contrast to the Italian aesthetic, according to encyclopedia.com, the average American own 8.3 pairs of jeans. Treehugger states it takes 1800 gallons of water, just to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans! This is over 10,000 gallons of water, just for the jeans we have in our closet. This is more water than is needed to fill up an average pool. I'm not standing on a soap box as I write this. I'm sitting at a desk, a few feet away my closet door which holds four pairs of jeans that I wear regularly (all but one pair are more than 3 years old). I have four more pair that I don't wear too often for various reasons. It is now time to give them away.
As an American it's hard to think of what to wear if we didn't wear blue denim at least 3 days a week: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For many it has become a daily item. Designers too, with the various cuts and washes available today, one can look dressed up or down. And denim blue goes with everything. Today's jeans are not your grandfather's.
The price of denim is high and has skyrocketed over the past decade with the onset of designer jeans. A lot of the cost goes into the finishing of the denim for various color and texture washes. The images below are from The distressed denim factory. Here we see an inside look into the finishing process. Seeing the factory images below, having worked in the rag trade myself for a few years and having read recent articles in the New York Times about the clothing waste I'm going guess that for every garment that is in our closet, there is another garment lost in the world to a slash, or sample stamp. It is hard not to think about these things when the weather is cold and I walk around I feel like I could hardly survive on hour waiting in line to see Kandinsky, such a luxury really, when some have no inside to wait for. There are so many discarded clothes that can be used as extra layers in this cold- if only they could get them.
My challenge to myself and others is to choose wisely. Have an absolute love affair with every purchase, love freely, like a child, and be colorful, but have discerning taste. By second-hand or vintage when possible. In the end, give it away to someone in need.