“Buy less, choose well, make it last.” ~ Vivienne Westwood
My passion for fashion began when, as a teenager fresh out of the Soviet Union, I dove headfirst into the welcoming bath of American consumerism.
I couldn’t resist the glossy images of free, happy, beautiful people seducing me from magazine covers, and omnipresent billboards offering a plethora of choices to help me keep identifying the never-ending needs.
As consumers, we are under constant bombardment—at the rate of 5,000 ads per day—from a huge, manipulative marketing machine pressing just the right emotional buttons to get us to behave in predictable patterns.
I did not even notice how I got onto the head-spinning merry-go-round of frequently changing seasons, which fed my sense of inadequacy when I did not have the latest shape of heel, bag or coat.
Unfortunately, I am not alone.
We are destroying our planet, producing and consuming things we do not need at a greater and greater rate.
The fashion industry went from producing new lines two to four times per year, to creating what feels like a new look every week, due to the rise of fast fashion. The faster the fashion, the quicker our planet is becoming polluted.
By putting aside barely-worn clothing when we impulsively buy new outfits weekly, we fuel a toxic supply chain and stuff landfills.
However, we have a choice.
We can reclaim our personal power by changing the way we look at fashion and re-defining our role in it.
Every single morning, we get dressed and make a decision. Whatever we put on our body makes a statement. In fact, it is part of a holistic approach to mindful living. When we are careful about what we put into our bodies, about the thoughts we cultivate, and how we spend our days, being mindful of what we wear becomes part of our overall relationship with the world we inhabit and how we live our lives.
As I wake up from the haze of thoughtless consumerism, the most disruptive thing I can do is think for myself. I have a choice: to buy with conscious awareness or to buy mindlessly.
The clothes we choose to wear define the person we are. Our clothes become the language that tells our story.
So what will our story be?
I’d like to become a trendsetter, to switch from being a passive consumer to becoming a co-creator of our future.
I am becoming more creative with the choices I make. I buy less, but I enjoy it more. And I’ve learned that how we vote with our dollars and our actions can turn consumerism into a force for good.
Here is how to start:
1. Buy less.
We need to learn how to buy fewer things. Once we start paying attention to our actions, it becomes quite easy. When I moved houses a few years ago I had to pick a small number of things to wear for a few months. I automatically picked my favorite clothing items. It was eye-opening how I really did not miss having more choices and how much more fun I had mixing and matching the few pieces that I did have access to.
2. Choose well.
Consider quality over quantity
When we speak of quality, most people claim they simply do not have the budget. But if we reduce the frequency of going shopping from weekly to monthly, or even once a season, we’ll have a different budget to play with.
We need to become more discerning with our choices. Look into the way your favorite brands produce their clothes; consider brands that produce clothes ethically. Vote with your dollars.
We value our clothes more when we don’t view them as disposable. When we buy second-hand items, we extend the life of already produced clothing. It is great to breathe a new life into a quality-made old item.
Don’t accumulate useless things
We are drowning in things, yet we often do not even know why we bought them.
“Avoid cheap impulse buys. Only buy things you really love. And then love them!” ~ Lily Cole
3. Make it last.
We should make a point to wear our clothing multiple times. Livia Firth encourages people to wear every item of clothing they buy at least 30 times.
“Love your clothes. Nothing beats a trusted old something, restyled to look fresh. Style is the ability to be effortlessly comfortable in your own beautiful skin.” ~ Orsola de Castro
Repair, not replace.
The most responsible thing we can do environmentally, is to extend the life of existing products. Reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, and reimagine.
“Let’s behave like owners, not consumers, and repair rather than inflict something new on the planet if we don’t truly need it.” ~ Rose Marcario
What we consume is a political act and a soulful one. Being more mindful of how I vote with my dollars will be my quiet act of dissent. The anti-fast fashion conspiracy will be my radical act, while connecting me to something larger.
I choose to break out of this herd mentality. And when I do this, getting dressed every morning becomes an act of defiance for me.
“Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.” ~ Anna Lappé
Author: Galina Singer
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Nicole Cameron