By Morwenna Kearns
Is planned obsolescence a way of life in the 21st century? Is Ikea really killing the antiques trade? Should we just expect, and accept, that nothing lasts forever? Online shop BuyMeOnce says no, and has a wide variety of products from brands that feel the same way.
As the name suggests, BuyMeOnce isn't here to provide disposable fashion or this season's must-have homewares. Its CEO Tara Button explains why.
"We can all save time, stress, money and the environment if we buy things that are built to last," she says. "BuyMeOnce therefore independently finds the longest lasting, highest quality and sustainable products on earth. We want to change the way people shop forever, we want everyone to buy once and buy well. This way we can throw away our throwaway culture."
It's basic logic: the most sustainable products around are the ones we already have. "People don't realise that the easiest thing you can do for the environment is to get stuff that lasts longer," says Button. "For example, if you make a T-shirt last two years instead of just one, you save 24 per cent of the CO2. Imagine the effect it would have if we made everything last."
It could be said that this throwaway culture is pretty firmly embedded in British culture, but Button says the tide is turning, gradually, as more people are rejecting disposability.
"I think that it is beginning to get on the radar of the mainstream, but it will take time, bravery and most importantly people who run businesses to take responsibility for the waste that their products produce. We believe that if we show people have an appetite for long-lasting, sustainable products then more companies will start to move into this arena. We are already seeing more sustainable products and zero-waste products coming up through innovators on Kickstarter, so I have high hopes that this is the way people are going."
Button says 'a wonderful mix of people' shop on the website. "Some are just sick of shoddy products that break, others are looking for the best value and quality and others are really passionate about the idea of saving the environment by buying once and buying well."
The idea for BuyMeOnce arrived in the form of a Le Creuset cooking pot, a 30th birthday present received by Tara Button. If all her possessions were built to last, like the French brand's cast iron cookware, she would never have to replace anything, she thought. They'd be items that she could rely on and that wouldn't end up in landfill. The BuyMeOnce brand, and team, has grown and now has ambitions to take the concept global with an internationally recognised longevity stamp similar to Fairtrade, and a challenge to manufacturers to make products that last. Bricks and mortar shops are planned for the future, but in the meantime Button is looking to double the number of products on the website.
"We aim to become the Amazon of long-lasting things, so you can find everything from kids' toys to tools and a growing section of electricals and appliances," she says.
The introduction of a wedding list service is also on the cards, which seems entirely appropriate. But how can shoppers count on products being as long-lasting as their marriage? "At BuyMeOnce we do all the research so people don't have to," explains Button. And if you're out shopping on the high street and want items with staying power, she has some advice.
"Look at the materials, is it made out of the best materials for the job? Is it constructed in the best way? If in doubt, ask an expert. For example, if you're buying shoes, consider getting advice from your cobbler. Always check stitching and the unseen areas of bags and accessories to make sure they are finished off well.
"Look at old reviews if you can, or go on forums such as Mumsnet or Which? to see what other shoppers have said about the product you're considering. Look into the warranty of the product as that will give you an indication of the confidence a company has in their product. If in doubt call up the company and run them through a couple of likely scenarios. For instance, if I drop it, is it covered? If you can see the product in person that is always great, feel the sturdiness of it and look for design flaws."
This sounds like wise advice when choosing big-ticket products, but Tara Button says the best-sellers on BuyMeOnce are not the solidly built appliances or jewellery designed as family heirlooms, but everyday items.
"Our best selling products are, bizarrely, our socks which are by a brand called Darn Tough. They are the best socks you'll ever come across and they are guaranteed for life. We also do really well with our new cookware brand Solidteknics which have the longest warranty – a multi-century warranty – so you'll be passing them down to your grandchildren's grandchildren. Their frying pans are insanely beautiful."
Tara Button is dedicated to spreading the word about what she calls 'the BuyMeOnce lifestyle' and has secured a book deal with HarperCollins. It 'can help us to be happier, healthier and wealthier', she says, which is a guarantee everyone is looking for.