December 11, 2013

3 Simple Ways to Inspire Mindful Consumption.

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:

  • 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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Courts Sep 25, 2015 7:39am

A couple of years ago I walked into one of the coolest second hand stores in Vancouver. As I browsed I realised I could quite easily never buy new clothing again. I do buy my underwear new, however, just to clear that up now!! So I started a FB page called Used For A Year Challenge which I rarely update :p. But I obliterated the challenge!! With my then boyfriend I moved back to Australia bought all my corporate clothes second hand as well as that we furnished our entire apartment for about $1000 with awesome furniture.

I am still doing the ‘Used Challenge’ cos it’s fun to go shopping with $50 and getting tonnes of new clothes. Whenever someone comments on my clothing I tell them about Used For A Year. I try to consume little and this is a great way to update and recycle your entire wardrobe as often as you like!! Give us a like <3

Melina May 24, 2015 1:10pm

This helps explain to me what those are thinking who love to shop. I never fully joined the ranks of those with this mindset. I do love to shop for beautiful farmers market veggies or other foods that I consider beautiful, but I never learned to think of shopping or getting glamorous clothes as something that I do to fulfill myself or make myself happy or cooler. Now I see why others might like it so much. I can get into the fun of it some and did do this in high school especially as well, but have never been one who shops just for the fun of it when I don't need anything. I find some clothes I like when I need them and wear them for a very long time (I still have clothes from when I was in high school and am 34) until they are ruined in some way. I also try and choose clothes that are as environmentally sustainable as possible (either from thrift stores or from companies that make some efforts to be more mindful in this area, which is still somewhat hard to find at reasonable prices, but sometimes I still pay for quality stuff since I know I will use it for a long time). Mostly I just don't buy what is unnecessary, keep my collection of stuff pretty minimal and use it till it is falling apart. Yeah, definitely not a material girl here. Thanks for an interesting article.

Alison Jan 6, 2014 3:41am

Great post Kristin. I think it's connection but it's also wrapped up in aspiration & identity – a result of constantly being force-fed media about how great we could be. (Like the "you suck!" part in the excellent Story of Stuff video.) I think it could be traced to when when advertising shifted from selling products, to selling values & dreams. I read The 100 Thing Challenge a few years back and it had a huge impact, but clothing is definitely an area where I could be a more conscious consumer. Thanks!

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Kristin Glenn

Kristin Glenn is the founder of Seamly.co, a women’s clothing company in Denver, CO. She is currently Kickstarting a fully biodegradable jacket that can be worn 4+ ways. You can follow her journey in sustainable fashion here.