How I put a stop to my unhealthy relationship with fast fashion.
Frenetically buying clothes is something that a lot of girls have experienced. Whether it’s to feel better or because of the low prices or just as a reflex, feeling like you cannot help but buy clothing all the time can be a real burden. Sarah talks about how she put an end to her unhealthy consumption habits.
Not all relationships are meant to be. I found this to be true with my relationship with fast fashion. It was one of highs and lows, constant disappointment and unhappiness, and unfortunately, one that I found incredibly difficult to walk away from. Back in 2012 I was working in an office job making a decent amount of money (for a 20-year-old anyway) and I was busy enjoying a full social life but not really focussed on any particular direction with my life. My routine was simple; payday arrives – I buy clothes. Like clockwork every month. It was a cycle of spending, a habit I had been committed to for the past two years.
I’ve always been obsessed with fashion, designing outfits since I could hold a pencil and trying out new (often weird) styles. When I started working and was able to buy my own clothes whenever I wanted, I discovered a new side of fashion that I hadn’t really been a part of before: shopping. The freedom I felt when I could buy what I wanted when I wanted was a great feeling, and I started to associate buying clothes with my personal independence. I feel this was my first mistake.
My ability to buy new clothes, pretty much at my whim, was my new source of happiness and when I left it too long between purchases I felt restless and irritated. This was the closest thing I have felt to an addiction and I am sure that if I felt this way about clothes, others must have too. I would feel excited scrolling through the pages of clothes on offer, picking out which ones I was going to buy and often trying to spend a certain amount to reach a minimum spend to get free delivery. When the clothes arrived there was the rush of anticipation and the joy of trying on new outfits, but this always subsided quickly and I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. My reliance on constant wardrobe updates to make me happy was doing the exact opposite. These are the emotional effects of fast fashion that people don’t talk about enough.
The urge to constantly buy new clothes was not one I developed purely on my own, I believe that society helped form this idea in my head that I needed to shop in order to be happy. I think that there is a really unhealthy narrative forced on women that we are not complete until we buy the latest “It” bag or shoes. The idea of ‘retail therapy’ is one that was a particular crutch to my addiction, the concept that when life gets you down all you need to do is buy something new and you’ll improve your situation, or at least make yourself feel better. The freedom I once felt by being able to buy my own clothes was gradually replaced with a feeling of being trapped inside a cycle of buying clothes that weren’t bringing me any joy and I slowly felt less of a woman by not enjoying the shopping process.
During my Fashion Design course at university, I was able to learn more about the process of making clothes, the science behind the fabrics and the realities of the modelling industry. All this helped me get a better view of the fashion industry and perspective on my relationship with fast fashion. I was actually forced to slow-down my spending as I was a student and was broke 90% of the time. I would have to really think about my purchases and weigh-up the pros and cons of each piece and this started a buying process that I have stuck with ever since. I became an avid thrifter and loved visiting vintage and charity shops and spending time riffling through the racks of old clothes. Sometimes you’d have to search for a long time just to find one decent piece, but the effort was worth it when you walk out with something unique and hand-picked by your personal style choices, not something forced on you by fast fashion advertising. I found that if I focussed on using what clothes I already had to create new looks, it kept me distracted from thinking about buying new clothes, the challenge of styling my existing wardrobe kept me busy. It was hard at first to resist the allure of spending money and getting new clothes regularly, but the longer that I was out of the cycle of fast fashion, the more I could see it for what it really was, and that in time made it even easier to resist.
After I graduated, I launched my blog (Grandermarnier) and continued to research the fashion industry and the social and environmental impacts of my choices. Where I am now is a much better place, fashion-wise. I have taught myself that I don’t need to buy clothes unless it’s something that I need and to view any purchases outside of this as a luxury rather than a necessity. Last year I only bought seven items of clothing and five were from a charity shop. I’m not saying that you have to do what I’ve done, I think everyone needs to find their own path and have their own reasons for making a change, but I would encourage you to start thinking more about your choices when it comes to buying clothes. As Vivienne says; “Buy less, choose well, make it last”. I would also recommend reading “To die for: is fast fashion wearing out the world” by Lucy Siegle, it’s a fantastic eye opener to the dark side of fashion and contains so much information about how to detach yourself from unhealthy spending habits.
by Sarah King for SLAE.