Here in America, we shop for entertainment.
We shop on vacations, during holidays, and in our precious free time.
We’re are addicted to spending money on things we don’t need. Why?
Since founding my own sustainable clothing company, I’ve been curious about the addiction of shopping. I notice how I feel when I shop. I listen to my friends talk about it. I am border-line obsessed with understanding our psychological need for stuff.
For me, and probably you, too, it comes down to one thing: connection.
During a recent Walk the Talk episode with Waylon, I described how I feel when I shop. There’s an overwhelming sense of promise when I walk into a store and scan the racks, looking for something that will make me feel better, cooler, more interesting. I imagine where I’ll go, what I’ll do, who I’ll impress, and how confident I’ll be.
That’s why they call it retail therapy. For a brief moment, we get to feel the promise of connection in our otherwise stressed-out, busy, sometimes lonely lives.
But strangely, this connection we’re feeling isn’t about the actual clothes. We hardly even notice the fabric, the stitches, the origin, or the story of the things we’re buying.
Even our conversations around our clothes are story-less:
“I love that shirt!”
“OMG, thank you! It was only $4.50!”
(End of conversation.)
Since I’m knee-deep into sustainability and manufacturing, I think a lot about connection and stories and the shopping experience. I think it’s time to change the way we relate to, and talk about, our clothing.
Here are some things I’ve been trying out lately:
- When someone says, “I love that shirt!” instead of reciting how much it cost, I tell a story about where it came from or where it’s been with me.
- If I don’t have a good story, I’ll notice something on about the shirt—the stitching, the fabric—and talk about that instead. The goal is to connect over the garment, not the price (as I have been guilty of so many times).
- Another common question is “Where did you get that?” I usually respond with the store it came from. But now I’m adding, “but it was made in Vietnam (or Pakistan, or the USA). It’s a pretty sure-fire way to change a conversation and just put the story out there, whatever it is.
Since testing out these approaches, I’ve made a few new friends and enjoyed some crazy conversations. But mostly, I feel like I’m re-connecting to the things I wear every day, and gently encouraging others to do the same.
I’d love to know how others are using language and stories to connect with their clothing. Let’s swap!
Leave your thoughts below, and share this post if you’d like to expand the conversation on mindfulness and consumption this holiday season.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Kenyon Manchego on Wikimedia Common
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