This story is part of the Stuff Festival of Fashion, presented by Samsung. See more of the festival here.
The fun side of fashion is about creativity, the thrill of newness, self-expression and craftsmanship – but there is also a dark side. Globally, the fashion industry – primarily fast fashion – has fueled an almost insatiable demand for novelties, with textile waste clogging landfills.
The Business of Fashion reported in 2021 that the global fashion industry is responsible for around 40 million tonnes of textile waste per year, a shocking figure and a reminder of the wider impact of our shopping habits.
With that in mind, we wanted to ask a few stylish locals about the treasured clothes they have in their wardrobes – to prove that new isn’t always better.
Zoe Walker Ahwa, Stuff Style Editor and Ensemble Co-Founder
From a traditional fashion point of view, most of my wardrobe is “old”.
As a fashion editor, I’m very lucky to have and often buy previews of new designer collections before they hit stores, but I also save the things I buy. ; put them away then revisit them and wear them years later. “Shopping your wardrobe” is the best and I wish more people did it.
But probably the oldest item there is a very blue printed mini dress from El Jay, Gus Fisher’s brand that had Christian Dior’s license in New Zealand from 1905 to the 80s. I think that this dress is probably from the 1980s – the print and style are very 80s.
It’s way too short for me to wear now, but it’s a piece of New Zealand fashion history and I’ll keep it forever.
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Allister Tran, stylist and digital designer
A yellow woolen sweater made in Scotland which was part of the Royal West Norfolk golf club uniform. I have no idea what that means, but it’s my favorite piece I’ve saved. Although this is a vintage treasure from the 1960s/1970s, it is still so soft and of the highest quality to date.
I found it at Search & Destroy way back when it was still on Cross Street in Auckland and saving was actually affordable.
An ex-lover actually introduced me to the store and I have since adopted as my own find and taken care of. Just kidding, but it has a long history, I’ve worn it pretty much anything and everything, even featured in a global campaign. A lifetime piece for sure.
Gee Pikinga, New Zealand makeup artist and makeup director for Maybelline NY
One of the oldest things I own is a jacket that was made for me by Nana Mere Te Anau in the year 2000 for my 12th grade school prom. It is made of a beautiful Chinese brocade which I purchased from a fabric store in Pukekohe, David Mills.
I remember their more expensive fabrics, usually from overseas, gracing the shelves at the very back of the store, and I, at 16, was adamant that I was going to wear the dope jacket made only of what I could get. my hands on it.
The padded shoulders still make me feel like a boss, 21 years later.
Kelly Thompson, illustrator and founder of Makers Market
The item in my wardrobe that I kept the longest was inherited from one of my mother’s friends, an Englishwoman named Amanda who came once a year from London.
I first met Amanda when I was in elementary school, she was married to a man named Mike, wore hats and jewelry and I thought she was the most glamorous. One year, she came back without Mike, but with a woman, and she left me her first wedding dress for my fancy dress box. A square neckline silk tank top with spaghetti straps and a matching cascading pouf silk skirt.
Mom was smart enough to pull them out of the costume box, and I now wear the jersey with pants, occasionally trying on the skirt for fun.
Jessica Jay, Founder of Reparation Studio
My grandmother’s debutante dress. It’s the most divine prom dress of the 1950s and it suits me perfectly, but I haven’t had the opportunity to wear a (very formal) white dress yet! Either way, it’s an object that I will cherish forever.
Tyson Beckett, Stuff Life & Style Publishing Coordinator
I’m in shock for my family’s cabinet selection. By far the oldest and most sentimental thing in “our” closets is a T-shirt my mom bought at Disneyland in 1982 during Grad Nite (a night where local high school kids from all over California had the park for themselves).
Four decades after purchase, the t-shirt is badly faded but extremely soft (read, worn). It’s not decent enough for outerwear anymore, but I still put it on at home once in a while when I want to wear something that looks like a hug.
Angela Sloan-Treadaway, Designer/Maker and Founder of Sloan
A denim jacket for children. I’ve had it since I was probably 17, found it in an opshop. It’s the one thing I’ve taken with me to every country/city I’ve lived.
She had the sleeves cut off, the waist tucked in and then removed, patches sewn on and removed. Currently there are small pink flowers on the front and a death metal patch on the back.
Tau Subriztky, stylist and saleswoman
I think one of the oldest pieces in my wardrobe is a hand-painted Ksubi denim vest I bought at Beacon’s Closet when I was living in New York in 2010.
Honestly, I thought about passing it on to someone who would appreciate it, but it reminds me of a really fun time in my life, and I now keep it folded up in a drawer. I don’t know if I will wear it again, but it makes me smile when I look at it.
Rob Tennent, stylist and casting director for The Ensemble Edit
I have a nice blue button-up shirt that I fished out of my dad’s closet when he couldn’t wear all his clothes anymore. I browsed and searched for pieces of him that his father had passed on. I have many beautiful fleece sweaters from my father, who received them from his.
Rebecca Wadey, co-founder of the Ensemble
I’m a terrible hoarder who likes to keep clothes for memories, even if I’ll never wear them again. I have an attic full of clothes from Sister (Kate Sylvester’s brand before she became Kate Sylvester), Streetlife (the first incarnation of Helen Cherry), Zambesi, Karen Walker and World, bought with my student loan in the 90s (paying off that loan in 2020 was a bright spot in a low year).
In 1999 I moved to Melbourne for post-graduate education and took a job as a ‘lifestyle consultant’ (aka shop girl) at a very fancy department store. We earned commission on gift certificates, so I had an enviable wardrobe for an otherwise struggling college student. I still have so many shoes from that era, including a great pair of Tom Ford-era Gucci knee-high, suede, ruched and tasseled boots that I will never part with.
Looking back, I’m very stuck in the 90s, it was a very formative period in fashion for me!
Rosie Carroll, blogger for @itsslowmo, founder of @theniftymarkets, social media coordinator at Trade Aid
My favorite pair of vintage 501 Levi’s. I bought these in Venice Beach in 2018, but they were made in the late 1980s.
I remember thinking that the exchange rate was terrible back then and they were really expensive because of that. But I bought them anyway, and I’m delighted, because I haven’t stopped wearing them since!
Glen Prentice, freelance designer and fashion teacher
It’s not very old to be honest, but a gigantic, fluffy camel duffel coat from the late 1970s with quilted lining from Starstruck Vintage in the West Village – no longer in business.
This coat got me through a few New York winters, but unfortunately it’s too warm for New Zealand, so it’s currently in storage.