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“If one million women bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead of new, we would save 6 million kg of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere.” ~ 1millionwomen
I highly recommend watching The True Cost—a documentary about the impact of the fashion industry on our planet.
I watched this a while ago and again when I came back from India in 2017.
We were travelling through the villages looking for silk and scarfs, and we stopped at a small shop displaying colourful, vibrant and unique pieces of fabric. A small line of women were sitting on the ground, weaving and creating the pieces by hand. The slow movement, the intricate details, the time—a heavy contrast to the beast of production and consumerism that exists in our world.
When we’re buying, we don’t often think about where our clothes come from and the conditions they are made in. Seeing the process of how our clothing is made can deepen the appreciation for what we wear. They are creations, labour, and a whole back story—and a hard reality, often heartbreaking, when corporations take advantage of people in need.
I remembered The True Cost, and I felt deeply saddened that we have lost the touch of quality in the hunt for quantity. Factories where both adults and children are slaving, some as young as five, barely making ends meet, mass producing while companies get richer, and we as consumers, can pick, choose, impulse buy, and mindlessly consume.
Clothing is over-produced—period. Under inhumane conditions.
We walk into a store and buy a bunch of clothing—cheap. The companies aren’t doing us a favour. The True Cost isn’t on them.
It’s on the people making the clothing, the people we don’t see.
It’s also on our planet. It’s on future generations to come—the children of today, of tomorrow. They’ll be living at the cost of our hands, our greediness.
It also affects us—our happiness, our joy, our peace.
A young mum travels hours on end, barely sees her child, to be overworked in a factory that cares very little about her wellbeing. We wake up, have our coffee, stroll around in the safety of a building with the temperature set to just right—and we buy something we might not even wear twice.
We shouldn’t feel bad about privilege, where we live, and our position in life.
We shouldn’t feel guilty because of where we were born, or we live.
I don’t. I don’t feel guilty. For that.
But I do feel responsible for how I consume, and for doing my part.
I’d feel guilty if I continued moving forward without making changes.
We cannot ignore what is happening in our world, and how we contribute to the problem—just because we don’t see what is happening, or because our reality only shows us the glistening end product—not the treacherous journey it took to hang on a rack.
“Demand quality, not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.” ~ Orsola de Castro
On my personal journey, I have gone from a mindless, overspending machine to an obsessive minimalistic freak, afraid to spend a dollar. Both spectrums are not helpful, and they are unnecessary. Both are born out of fear, boredom, and a lack of consciousness. One is selfish, the other is self-righteous.
I find myself in the middle now—aware and consciously choosing to be mindful about what I consume, how much I consume, and why I consume. But not living without, and what makes my life joyful.
I think the problem with change, and especially with fashion, is the fear of forfeiting something we love—style. Or things we enjoy.
This isn’t an anti-fashion protest—I love clothing. Bringing awareness to eco-friendly consumption is about taking care of humanity, animals, and our earth, and generations to come—by thinking beyond ourselves. This is important in a time where social media is prevalent and the underlying message is, “more, more, more—me, me, me.”
My love for style and clothing is one habit I refuse to kick. Being minimalistic, and a conscious buyer, doesn’t mean we need to forfeit our love for building collections, or being a collector. Books and clothing bring substance to my life. I can now live with or without them but I appreciate the value they add to my environment, and my body.
Our manner in which we collect, and consume, is the issue—and the solution. We can indulge, buy, and appreciate but we can do so in a way that is mindful, and thoughtful. A way that takes care of the ground we walk, the humans we share this world with, and the creatures that need our love and protection.
Growing up, my dad discouraged us from credit cards, and would always say, “take care of what you have.” My parents often suggested lay-by’s if we really wanted something but couldn’t afford it at the time. My first lay-by was a video camera for a trip to America when I was 18. When I made the final payment, I appreciated the process of waiting.
Years later I worked in corporate, and would buy clothing and shoes on a weekly basis. The stack of boxes surrounded my bedroom, and I hardly wore any of them. It was a waste. My journey toward conscious living came about when I moved to Queensland for six months. I couldn’t take everything, so I donated most of my belongings and took what I needed. Living with less and being on a budget, I developed a love for simplicity.
However, living with the bare minimum for some time and being a student—I started to struggle with the opposite of consuming. I developed anxiety about buying, well, anything.
After years of finding my balance with minimalistic living, and endeavouring to be conscious, I stumbled across the book, L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less. Author, Dominique Loreau, describes the principles of living with less. She walks through how to simplify our lives—home, mind, clothing—while encouraging luxury, and timeless purchases. Her message opposed my mindset at the time but I welcomed it with arms wide open.
I understood that with anything—extremism—is never the answer to our problems. It often leaves us feeling unhappy, resentful, and powerless.
The key though—being intentional.
Buying and appreciating things that add value to our lives. And taking care of them. When, and if, we no longer need or want what we have—we donate, we give back, we pass on.
It’s more than about things—it’s about attitude—our choice of steadiness and patience, over wanting everything—now. And of always wanting more, when we already have enough.
One, is about our own needs at the cost of others. The other, is about a collective consideration for all share who this space on earth.
We must do our part to take care it, of one another—together.
Why should this responsibility fall on the arms of just a few?
Ever since my teenage tomboy days (yep, I was that girl), clothes have been my way to self-expression. I’m not excessive these days. That’s the biggest change. When I buy new items, I look for timeless pieces and colours. Opting for neutral tones—black, grey, oatmeal, army greens, beige—the wardrobe never goes out of style. I’ve also learned to appreciate wearing the same clothing over and over, and the lowered stress that comes with not worrying about what to wear.
While occasionally I will buy a new item, with the intention of owning it for as long as possible, my love for pre-worn items precedes new things. To know items get another chance at life, to find value in something someone else no longer wanted—we find ourselves being creative, thinking beyond the big corporations who dress us.
We become masters of style rather than of cheap fashion.
And sure, many items are cheap at secondhand stores—but to give them life and to remember where they came from—that is the power we give to ourselves, and to her—the mother who slaved over that piece.
Finding items that are unique or no longer available, reusing items, and the treasure hunt make the experience a mindful one. We’re making a positive impact on the environment by choosing to re-use.
Rarely, it happens, I’ll impulse buy. And when I find myself wallowing in regret, I’ll donate it. Overtime, I’ve learned it’s easier to put down the impulse buys and stay focused on finding items that last, or simply going without.
To remember the cost, to deny self in place of patience and shared responsibility, to delay gratification—we honour the real people who put clothing on our backs.