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I styled this vest from Melbourne label Phoebe’s Angels six ways and now I never want to take it off

WORDS BY RUBY STALEY

Proving small batch and ethically-made is well worth the price tag.

Although the upsides of purchasing from independent, sustainable fashion labels that produce clothing in small-batches have been repeated time and time again, I’ve found lots of people are still reluctant to splash out on a pricey piece.

While the high quality and one-off nature are appealing to some of us, as is supporting companies that provide actual living wages and are doing less harm to the planet, the barrier of price is still one of the main reasons why some consumers walk away.

Although it’s easy to discuss cost per wear and argue that purchasing quality means purchasing less overall, I’m not immune to uttering, or at the very least thinking, that ethical and sustainable fashion is out of my reach.

After all, this line of thinking doesn’t even necessarily belong to us. It’s been drilled into us through clever fast fashion marketing tactics, retouched influencer ads and trusted testimonials. And it’s this very advertising, both overt and covert, that tricks us into believing the cheaper product – the bargain – is the one to go for, and the more we buy the better.

While this kind of marketing can be deafening, it’s important to take a step back now and then, and actively choose not to purchase fast fashion in an attempt to keep up with fleeting micro trends.

And for every company that will do just about anything for a buck, there’s a slew of independent designers and producers going above and beyond in terms of product, innovation and service. The price point may be higher, but when you break it down, it ends up being more than worth it.

Pushing against this consumerist mentality, I recently bit the bullet and bought an item I had been eyeing off for months. Before dropping $180 on one of Melbourne designer Phoebe’s Angels wool blend lilac vests, I was concerned about the price.

Because the sweater vest style is heavily trending right now (thanks TikTok), there is an endless amount of cheap versions out there that I could have spent considerably less money on. On top of this, not being able to try it on before purchasing made me fearful I might hate it when it arrived in the mail.

But since receiving the vest, I haven’t regretted it or felt any of the guilt I associate with impulsive, thoughtless fast fashion purchases. Also, Benee performed in the green and black version, so it was a done deal at that point.

I’ve followed Phoebe Pendergast Jones, the design brains behind the brand, since she was studying at RMIT Design School, and there’s nothing more exciting to me than watching my dollars go towards the development of a wonderfully brilliant fashion designer.

Although obviously naturally gifted, Phoebe tells me her “design process has always been emotionally-fuelled and inspired by personal experiences.”

“I think I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of trying to translate something intangible such as a feeling or a memory into a tactile garment which can be felt and worn on the body. The warped design [on the vest] is based on the process of remembering a past experience in retrospect,” she reveals.

While each of her signature pieces is designed herself, the vests are produced at Interknit, a family-owned knitting mill just an hour outside of Melbourne. Operating in regional Victoria since the 1930s, Interknit has consistently prioritised Australian merino wool in its garments and products.

Ensuring the garment production process aligns with her design ethos is of the utmost importance to Phoebe. “The company values Australian and ethical resources, including the creation of local jobs and inspiring a new generation to embrace local manufacturing and Merino wool knitwear,” she explains.

“It’s so important to me that my supply chain is local so as to reduce the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process and to support local business within Australia.”

In addition, the mill pays well above minimum wage and ensures safe working conditions alongside state of the art equipment for its staff and technicians. I was lucky enough to visit the site myself recently and can confirm – it’s great.

If you’re not already impressed by Phoebe, the environmental ethics of her label, and the beauty of this vest, I’ll help you out by showing you a few jazzy ways to wear it.

Although I won’t go as far as physically dressing you, below are a few easy ways I like to style the vest – here’s hoping I make it look even a fraction as cool as Benee does.

Light academia

This look screams, “I shamelessly drift around book stores all day growing my collection of classic novels I will never read”, but I’m kind of into it. The oversized shirt I thrifted from the men’s section acts as a cute collared dress and the cowboy boots add a bit of yeehaw to a look that was borderline dangerously close to being office-approved. The vest goes super well with this light blue tone and fits loosely over the top to leave some room in the belly area – perfect if you decide to go all out at brunch.

Matchy match

Luckily enough, I had a matching pair of lilac knit pants that I just knew would go perfectly with the vest, but this pairing could work just as well with any kind of knit bottom. It’s the matching textures that count. Here I paired the combo with some furry platform slides that I definitely don’t get enough wear out of and my favourite mini Poppy Lissiman bag.

Dad denim

This look would work with pretty much any pair of jeans you already own, so no need to go out and buy anything new. By simply tucking the vest into the waistband, it gives the overall silhouette a bit more waist shape while the denim keeps the overall look super casual. Topped off with some dad style New Balances, this look is perfect for telling terrible jokes or fixing things around the house in.

Pleats please

Mini pleated skirts are well and truly making a comeback this sunny season, and although my ugly knees aren’t too keen, I couldn’t go without. Although I love the way the vest pairs with a shorter skirt style, I couldn’t help but notice I slightly resemble one of the many tiny hat skater dudes I try to avoid. Slip-on Vans and high rise white socks for skating functionality and a cute bag and white cap to bring it back down to reality (we all know I don’t skate).

Black leather over top and black tight flares

All thanks to this wonderful double leather pairing contrasting against the lilac woollen vest, this is probably the coolest I’ve ever felt in an outfit. I call this my ’90s light goth take on the sweater vest. This one’s perfect for the cooler months, or for us Melburnians, who apparently don’t have normal seasons anymore.

Grandma up top, yoga down bottom

Here I am proving you truly can’t go wrong with a classic coordinated turtleneck and vest combo topped off with some comfy flared stretchy pants. By folding the vest over and tucking it into the turtleneck, I spiced up the silhouette of the piece for the last look, giving it more of a cropped appeal. Also, I added the pearls in for good measure.

@phoebes_angels

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