#Month 12: Quitting fast fashion - a 12 month challenge
On this day 12 months ago, I stopped buying new clothes. It felt like a journey into the unknown at the time. The only reason I took the self-imposed challenge on was because I literally couldn't imagine what it might be like to just live with what I had, re-use and recycle. Had I known how hard it would be, how liberating and how transformative it would become, I would have put a lot more thought into it - and I would still do it! The absence of something in my life has, conversely, felt like the addition of something great.
Here is a condensed list of all the learnings:
1. Other people's reactions were so varied.
When I told people about this challenge or when they read about it, I was met with so many different reactions it made me realise how we all have our own unique relationship with consumerism. It ranged from utter incomprehension to total admiration. For some, it was hard to imagine even a month without buying new clothes, let alone 12! They admitted that they wouldn't be able to do it and admired me for trying (they probably thought I would fail too). Then there were those who also admitted they couldn't do it but they saw the challenge as a total waste of time and did not understand why anyone would even think about it, let alone enforce a self-imposed ban! Others reacted with surprise and curiosity as to why I was making such a big deal about shopping because they themselves hadn't actually bought any new clothes for months or even years. They were just like "welcome to my world" (and probably thought I must have been extremely materialistic before).
2. It took on different meanings
Not just for myself but, as mentioned above, for other people too. Some months it was all about finding and creating clothes swaps and sometimes it was about clearing out and downsizing. Sometimes it meant something far greater than my challenge alone and I saw how it fitted into a wider movement to be a more conscious and responsible consumer. It chimed with people in different ways and it has been one of the greatest joys to discuss it with friends and strangers and hopefully inspire others to think about it. This challenge would be so much more powerful if more people did it!
3. I treasure what I already have
Today, I wore a dress I bought about 6 years ago. It's still perfectly wearable and the only reason it lay in storage for years is that I was distracted by shiny new clothes that weren't even nicer. Rewind to the 6th July last year (my birthday and also the last day of buying new clothes) and I bought whole outfits as a "treat" and so that I would have something exciting and new to wear for my birthday evening. I now know that I do not need a new outfit for an occasion to feel special. I have so many lovely things and I learnt to treasure each of them in the past year.
4. Friends rally to help
If I ever needed something specific that I didn't already have, I simply asked around. Almost every time there was someone who had it and willingly lent it to me. It's been a way of connecting, sharing joys and it feels good to help and be helped. Thank you to the many who helped me!
5. Experiences are better than things.
Re-allocating funds from buying things to creating memories through shared experiences has been the richest and most valuable lesson. Walking down a high street lined with shops and being able to focus on the person/people I am with instead of peering anxiously into every shop and being inundated with thousands of random pieces of visual stimulation that distract from everything else. Buying a friend a birthday experience instead of just things they probably don't need has been so much more rewarding and lasting.
It's been a journey and one that I don't believe ends today. I will continue own this path and won't be returning to how I was before. I will shop selectively and with a conscience. I will ask around before I buy and this will extend to everything, not just clothes.