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Crochet on the high street - It's neither fast or luxurious

by Laura Eccleston

26 Jul 2023


Crochet on the high street - It's neither fast or luxurious
I think many of us have heard the argument that fast fashion in particular is pretty bad. To buy something one week only to throw it out the next week just because it's not on trend anymore or it is deemed awful if you dared to wear it more than once. To me that is a completely ridiculous notion, super bad for the environment and especially bad when it comes to crochet, which in 2023 is still very much in fashion.

This is because, if you're anything like me, an avid crocheter, you know how much time and effort goes into making a crocheted item. It takes HOURS. You add into the equation that your crocheting a garment or bag, then it's probably even longer, maybe days, weeks, months, years even! And anything crocheted always has to be done by hand. There are no short cuts when it comes to working with a hook.

This is because a machine to fast forward the process just doesn't exist. It's not like in knitting where you can upgrade to a knitting machine to save time in the factory, or a sewing machine to fast forward those stitches. Even embroidery can be done on a machine, but crochet? If you see something crocheted it will always have been made by hand, no matter where you see it or who is selling it. So of course, paying £12.99 for a crochet bag from a high street store for example is pretty awful because you can highly expect that the person who made it got paid next to nothing, and that bag probably took a considerable amount of time to make by hand. On top of that they're making hundreds of the same design, day in and day out (can you imagine the hand cramp?). Considering the mark-up the high street store is making, paying all the middle men too, by the time you get back to the poor crocheter in the factory they probably got paid barely enough to buy a loaf of bread!

So yes, fast fashion sucks, especially when it comes to crochet and it appalls me every time I see it on the high street, but what about luxury fashion? Is that any better?

I recently posted on Instagram about my shocking discovery that designers like Stella McCartney are selling crocheted bags for ridiculous amounts of money under the ethos that it is sustainable luxury fashion.

Now, I don't understand fashion. I've never had any interest in it at all. I just wear what I like and feel comfortable in, and that doesn't break the bank. I don't feel clothes or shoes are something we should be paying more than we should be for, but nor do I buy cheap rubbish that will fall apart the next month. I prefer quality materials that will last at a good price. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but this is what my mother taught me and I'm really glad that my own daughter feels the same. I also don't understand how a crochet bag is anymore sustainable through her than a fast fashion company. Is it sustainable because the average person can only just about save up for one, rather than buy five every week? Is it the materials used? I'm not sure, but what she does say is she wishes people “would save up and buy one thing at Stella McCartney instead of the 20 things they buy from a fast-fashion label” *

But even if we could afford it or even dream of saving up for it, do we need to be spending €1000+ on a bag??... no, we need to be spending €1000+ on housing and living costs, especially at the moment. When is a bag ever worth €1000+ ? , it is not. There is no design in the world, no type of bag in the world that is worth that price unless it is literally made of gold or precious stones and these bags are made of cotton. I'll leave my opinion of the design up to you but as a crocheter myself I can see these are not the best quality or the best design. You can see the mistakes, but let's put my ego crochet design mind aside.

So what is luxury fashion?
Is it paying a high price? I don't think that's a luxury many of us can afford even if we wanted to. The materials? It's just cotton and last I heard that was pretty inexpensive compared to gold. It's also pretty bad for the environment as it uses a ridiculous amount of water to be produced so that's also a little ironic on the sustainable argument. Bamboo is much better. So is it the brand name then? I don't associate Stella McCartney or others like her with crochet. Maybe they can crochet, I don't know, but I highly doubt she's making the bags herself. So what is the luxury here? What am I paying for? Maybe I'm missing something.

I'd also like to just dump the word fashion. I don't think anyone really knows what fashion is. There are just people who think they do because someone else told them it was, who were once told they knew what it was. Emperors new clothes and all that. So if we just focus on the word luxury, to me, a luxury bag would be something I've made for myself or has been given to me by someone who has made something with love. Luxury is being able to make something, having a skill that you can share with others. Luxury is being able to afford the basics materials. Luxury is knowing the person who made it and the story behind it. To me these are the things that describe luxury. I just don't see these things in a high street store, luxury or otherwise.

I certainly don't wish to hate on Stella McCartney in particular. She does more than most to talk about sustainability and avoiding fast fashion, and I respect that, but she is missing something because of where she is, how famous she is and I don't think she can avoid that. It's the simplicity of being a nobody, of being unassuming, sharing products that truly tell a story and have meaning in people's lives that help us to truly see what luxury is. I really want to say goodbye to fast fashion AND luxury branded fashion, and start to see more people working with smaller, independent designers who make things by hand themselves. The real heroes here when it comes to fashion. This is the message I want to be heard and not because of what I do. I don't sell what I crochet, but I know so many of you do and you need to be respected for the sheer amount of time and effort you put into making your own clothes and bags. You can see the quality in what you do because the love is there. Every stitch has been hand crocheted with love and attention because you care about the end product and the end user. You just don't see that in these luxury branded bags, it screams out to you, at least it does to me. I want to know who made Stella's bags, what's their story? how much were they paid? They should be getting the recognition, but they're always hidden away and forgotten. I can't imagine how sad it must be to see your work being sold at such high prices and not getting a share of any of that money or kudos. That's a painful story.

So, the next time you see something crocheted, research the story behind it. Who made it? Do you know who they are? What is the story behind the design? Of course what materials did they use and why? Where is it coming from? If you see it in a high street store, luxury or otherwise, be wary of the nameless crocheter behind it. Someone spent hours making that and no-one probably cares. If anything, just start to ask questions.

Best of all, why not learn to design and crochet your own bags by following my tips here: as always, it's completely free!
How to design your own crochet bag.

Happy crocheting!

* The Guardian Newspaper (Stella McCartney: ‘Only 1% of clothing is recycled. What are we doing?’)

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