It feels impossible to believe (and really quite embarrassing to admit) now, but as recently as a year ago the environmental impact of our collective fast fashion habit hadn’t even crossed my mind. I picked up new things regularly and with little thought; a lunchtime Primark trip here, a ‘pop in’ to H&M on the way to the gym there. I was incapable of passing the brash redness of a sale sign without having a ‘quick look’ and the buzz of buying something new would have me at the tills clutching fistfuls of fabric without a second’s consideration.
Last Autumn, though, I did that thing that hoardes of us did; I watched Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. A fairly predictable awakening, I know, especially given the outrage expressed by well over half of my Instagram feed; but at the time, I didn’t say much about it at all. The internet is the home of performative anger, of course, and I was very aware that loudly declaring the whole situation a travesty because I’d watched a single hour of television without attempting any actual change wasn’t of particular help.
What I’d always thought of as a harmless love of clothes and propensity to shop often turned out to be rather less harmful than I’d imagined, and I resolved then that even if it turned out to be a long and slow journey, I would start making quiet changes.
It’s that first moment of realisation that came to mind when I heard about Slow Fashion Season. The rules are very simple; three months, no new clothes. I signed up.
It started on 21 June, so we’re over a week in. I presumed I would be saying it’s been easy so far (and truthfully I do think it will be), but unfortunately Zara seem to have co ordinated their sale to start simultaneously with the challenge; I had to go in to return something, and I can’t pretend I didn’t feel the familiar itch to browse the rails.
Saying that, however, and despite having until 21 September still to go, I’m certain I won’t fail, thanks to the slightly more thoughtful mindset towards shopping I’ve been trying to cultivate in myself. In the past nine months I’ve tried to carefully cut back on my shopping, and the number of new things I’ve bought between October and now sits at a grand total of 12.
It’s still not a small number of items, particularly for some people, I’m very aware of that – but I’m sure that it’s significantly lower than the volume I would have acquired if I’d continued buying at my previous rate.
This change so far has been made easier, however, by being in the business of posting photos of myself in clothes on the internet, which adds another layer to an already nuanced subject. I’m lucky enough to be offered gifts on a semi-regular basis, and in the time I’ve been trying to shop more carefully I have still been accepting bits and pieces, albeit on an extremely picky basis (I have to not only love it but also think it either fills a gap in my wardrobe OR it’s something that I know I will wear again and again and again – no ‘I love it and it will look great on Instagram’).
Anyway – this has undoubtedly made the process of cutting back on shopping easier, at times providing the thrill of a new wardrobe addition without having to actually buy anything, so because it feels right to me, I’ll also be forgoing any gifting from fashion brands over the next three months.
You have my word; I will not acquire (either through buying or gifting) new clothes, shoes, or accessories during Slow Fashion Season.
(I have one exception, which I hope I won’t be judged for; I’m a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my best friends in August, and we don’t have our outfits sorted for that yet.)
Which means – shock horror – for three months I will have my existing wardrobe alone to play dress up with. So what, you may say. You’d be right; it really isn’t a big deal, or a particularly difficult challenge, and what a privileged position I must be in to shop so often that it’s something I consider giving up.
I’m firmly of that opinion too, but I also know that but generally speaking, many of us have more access to more clothes than ever before, and in 2019 it often feels like no sooner have we snapped an outfit for social media purposes than it’s old news.
This mindset – that I’ve been guilty of succumbing to for as long as my love of dressing has existed – is starting to become boring in itself though, and I find myself becoming increasingly aware and uncomfortable about my own – albeit minor – part in perpetuating the neverending ‘new new new’ cycle. Talking about buying loads of stuff, even in the oh-so-relatable ‘oops, couldn’t resist, spent loads of money today’ way, or consistently posting only new in clothes has started to seem somewhat crass, and consuming content from people or publications where excess is actively encouraged feels jarring.
And that’s not a slight on anyone, it’s just to say that in a world where lots of us are taking baby steps and still making many mistakes, I’m really still trying to figure out my approach to the fast fashion problem in the context of my own life.
This is my way of furthering the cultivation of a more mindful approach to consumption in myself. With this three months purchase-free I’ll hopefully have the headspace and time to unpick my relationship with shopping a bit more, along with learning more about sustainable fashion and revisiting my old love for vintage and secondhand.
I’m not sure that this will be the end for me and buying new forever, or even for longer than the three months (although I did only intend to go vegan for one month at the start of 2017, so you never know!) but I do want to make my purchasing a lot more considered even than it has been so far this year.
And hey, I’d also love to save some money, lest I live in a rented flat forever, so perhaps this will help.
I’ll let you know how I get on – but if anyone has any tips, suggestions, articles, questions or similar, I’d love to hear from you.
What I’m wearing
Trench – Topshop (old) | Jeans – H&M (old) | Bag – vintage | Shoes – New Look