After watching The True Cost movie, I decided to stop shopping for clothes for a while. It lasted three months, and since then I only shop vintage, second hand and from sustainable brands. Those three months were incredibly freeing but also very difficult. Ultimately, I managed because I kept seeing the face of the girl crying in the documentary saying that she didn’t want people to wear clothes created from the blood of her people. It was heart-breaking. As I walked past store fronts, her face seemed to have replaced the ones of models on posters and I couldn’t shake her suffering from my mind. I personally felt utter discuss for my previously favorite fast fashion brands and I refused to participate in the exploitation of people and the planet just to be fashionable. These convictions pushed me forward, and the journey freed me because I learnt these 5 important lessons:
1. I rediscovered my closet
Yes, it’s true, I have enough clothes to clothe an entire village. It seemed my fast fashion loving days had prepared me for this challenge. Lodged in the crevasses of my excessive wardrobe were clothes I had forgotten, worn once, thrown aside or simply replaced with new, sadly similar clothes (you know that black shirt you have in ten colours but you still buy a new one). These clothes, I realised, were beyond great and I could wear them again and again and again. A concept frowned upon in our consumer society today, but really what is a washing machine for? It was like magic, I could wear so many clothes over and over again by combining them with many other items and never look the same twice. Not shopping helped me get creative with what I already had and I realised I had more than enough.
2. I saved some serious cash
I become a millionaire. OK maybe not but deciding to stop purchasing fast fashion clothes for that period saved me so much money! I realised that a lot of the time, I was under the illusion that I was richer because I could purchase more in cheap fast fashion stores. The truth is we end up throwing more money away as we buy clothes that will wear out shortly instead of higher quality clothes at a higher price that will last longer. I would buy from fast fashion stores weekly. According to my calculations, the money I spent in a month at a fast fashion store, could get me a quality item or three from a sustainable brand and they are more likely to last a lifetime. It was completely worth it.
3. Sustainable clothes are a worthwhile investment
OK, I will admit that seeing the price tags on sustainable brands stopped my heart a little bit but when looking at where they are made, the care poured into them, the fact that they lasted longer, it is clear that they are worthwhile investments. The truth is clothes should not be so easily disposable, they are items that can be made to last and can be cherished, past on for years if kept correctly. The current fashion system tells a different story: that fashion is easy to buy, easy to throw away, easy to replace so why take care of your clothes or invest in quality ones. This way of thinking comes at the cost of people and the planet.
4. Second hand is everywhere and cheaper
I didn’t shop second hand during those three month however I committed to looking for sustainable brands and second hand, vintage stores everywhere I could. It led to the discovery of lots of local shops in my city as well as the creation of a serious excel sheet of sustainable brands worth buying from (you can find these brands here). When I did start buying I went for second hand because it was like a goldmine: it was quality items for cheaper if you choose correctly, I found unique pieces and loved the idea giving clothes a new life.
5. Consumers have the real power, not companies
What companies don’t tell us is that they rely completely and entirely on our addiction of buying more and more. The truth is if one day we all decided that we didn’t want to purchase a single item from fast fashion stores, they would go bankrupt. In fact, they would try to understand why we have stopped buying and how to entice us to buy again. Imagine a world where each consumer refused to buy an item that wasn’t made sustainably. All companies would devote their time and money to producing sustainable and ethical items. Why? Because we the all-important consumers want it and without us they make no money. In these three months, I realised the power I had as a shopper. The more I spoke about my new conviction, the more I realise people listened, people considered buying differently. Slowly and surely, we can get to a place where every shopper demands better from these companies and if we exercise our purchasing power correctly we can flip the industry on its head…for the better.