Learning the hard way.


Standing in the middle of Zara's flagship store, on Via del Corso, attempting not to cry, after my & Other Stories sandal decided to publicly fall apart, for the second time, despite a recent trip to the repair shop & becoming wearier still, as the sound of heavy rain began to fall outside, it dawned on me the concept of 'living your truths.'  Namely, don't invest in 'false economies' & 'buy quality, last a lifetime'.

Only a few months prior, when I was living comfortably in the Dordogne, had I started to search for the perfect pair of sandals, to replace the now extinct tan pair I had from Kurt Geiger, which were much loved & had seen me through several summers, until their demise in Sicily, just before Christmas.

Having gone through the lesson of owning less & loving more, I took the matter of restocking my wardrobe perhaps a little too seriously.  I admit I suffer from OCD when it comes to, well, everything really & being able to start from scratch on the wardrobe front, meant I wanted to get it right first time, not waste any money.  Plus, without a secure income, I'm even more conscious of how I spend what I do have.

Shopping has a tendency to bring me both elevation & chronic stress.  I have a magpie outlook, anything shiny, gold, overly patterned & colourful & I'm rubbing it gleefully against my cheeks.  However, I hate staring into my closet, bogeyed & overwhelmed by choices, because everything is so mismatched & nothing seems to actually pair together.  The classic tale of a wardrobe full of clothes & nothing to wear.

Hence, I find it far easier to keep to a more compact, capsule wardrobe, which sticks to a strict colour code, namely white, black, grey, nude & of course, my favourite, gold.  Okay, it sounds clinical & maybe even a little drab, but honestly, nothing brings me more joy than a bit of uniform & when everything can be put together, in seemingly endless combinations, it saves both time & tears.

So, back to my search.  There I am in France, spending far too much time perusing the options online & I find myself pinning all my hopes on the tan Ikaria winged leather sandals from Ancient Greek Sandals.  I've wanted a pair for a few years now & yet, have never quite found myself committing to the purchase.

At €150, they're an investment in something handmade & of good quality.  Something I would wear for many years & that would go with everything in my new stripped back capsule wardrobe.  Yet, with the money nestled in my bank account & my finger hovering over the purchase button, I somehow convinced myself that the delivery time was too long & that I would possibly be in Germany by the time they arrived in France.

I left it.  Eventually arriving in Berlin with solely my beaten up black DMs to see me through.  Then the weather got hot & there was no escaping the need to purchase a pair of sandals.  Feeling a little forced & stressed, I searched through all of my favourite stores in Mitte & eventually, after a week or two, decided on the black leather pair in & Other Stories.  At €55, they were less than half the price of the Ancient Greek pair.

I loved them & wore them every day, until of course, they unceremoniously fell apart one evening, when I was alone at Markthalle Nuen, having just bought myself a glass of wine.  Walking around with a floppy sandal, on your lonesome, in a packed out food market is not fun, let me tell you.  I drowned my sorrows, ate a vegan burger, scoffed a scoop of chocolate sorbet & cycled home in the dark, a little wobbly & very annoyed.

I took them back to & Other Stories, only to be told they'd sold out & therefore couldn't replace them.  I'd have refunded them if it weren't for the love I'd by this time invested in them.  So I got a €20 part-refund instead.  Cue one trip to the repair store in Prenzlauer Berg, €7 & several days sweating it out back in my DMs, waiting on them to be ready, followed by a few weeks of wear before the Zara incident occurred.  Lesson learnt: Don't be fooled into false economies.  Buy the shoes!

In the end, I left Zara with a sassy pair of gold block heeled sandals, which I'd been secretly coveting for a little while.  Having been wearing a combination of flat sandals & DMs for over a year, I felt a little wonky at first, but then, getting into the stride of things, I waltzed out of the store, into the rain, feeling pretty damn good & mentally flipping the bird to the world.

Some things don't need a lot of money spent on them of course, but I think, if you're going to choose to have less possessions, it's probably worth spending a little more & really investing in things that are going to last the test of time & not leave you barefoot & teary eyed.  This is a rule that I think applies to everything, whether it be sartorial, dietary or in the home.

Better to spend a little more on organic & fair-trade, than to ingest the rampant pesticides & chemicals of the cheaper non-organic, have your money contribute to the destruction of our environment or indeed to the hardship of people in other parts of the world.  Equally so, better to 'spend out' on a decent set of top quality knives once, that last you your adult life, than to keep shelling out on cheaper ones that fall apart cutting up your potatoes.

Sometimes it's a painful separation between cash & wallet, but you'll thank yourself in a few years time, when you're sitting comfortably on your beaten up Chesterfield, wondering why you ever even contemplated looking in Ikea.  'Buy quality, last a lifetime.'

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