Have you ever learned something that so turned your world upside down that you have a hard time remembering what life was like before? As if this huge paradigm shifted right before your eyes?
That has been my life for the past nine months as I have thrown myself into learning about fair fashion.
And since I made a personal promise to do my best to shop ethically and sustainably, I have bought precisely one article of clothing (handmade by an amazing gal from Florida that I met at Porter Flea in Nashville).
Taking this break from I want/I need/I deserve/”Oh it’s only $5!” has helped me to reset.
It has given me time to read and absorb and evaluate and learn.
Learn about fibers and brands whose names I’d never seen in a fashion magazine and how textiles are made and the ridiculous rate at which the Western world (and me) consumes clothing.
This is not to say that I am an expert by any means. Or perfect, for that matter. But as the epiphanies are coming fresh and everything is a revelation, I want to share it with you. Because you are smart and you are badass and you can make your own decisions.
And if you’re like me, you’ve thought before that if you were to know the truth about fast fashion and all that goes with it you’d have to make a choice. You’d have to feel responsible for how you spend your money.
I do feel responsible now. But that’s good. Clothing is at the heart of the fight for social justice, so I’ve read, and what a wonderful opportunity it is to be able to join that fight by doing something we all have to do—shop.
But first I had to learn not to shop, and here’s what that taught me.
Let me say that I didn’t start this shopping diet with any sort of goal or expectation. I didn’t tell myself I couldn’t shop for nine months. It started with one thought, The way our clothes are made is really messed up. Inexplicably messed up in ways I never could have imagined. I have this new conviction—but what do I do with it? I have to figure out what it is I believe before I spend one more penny on this industry and that was all the motivation I needed.
Being forced to shop in your own closet really opens your eyes to what you already have. I didn’t have a single event this entire year that I needed to buy new clothes for. Did I want something new? Yes. Was I sick of my falling apart Old Navy sandals? Yes. But I had bigger fish to fry and I needed to see this through. When all I wore was what I already owned, I quickly became very grateful for the fullness of my closet.
Need versus want
Ah, the word “need.” How often we (read: I) misuse this word (as in, “I NEED tacos RIGHTNOW.”). If you have the faculties, capacity and leisure time to read this blog post, there is probably very little that you truly need. I’ve literally seen trends come and go in just the nine months I’ve gone without shopping, and believe me when I tell you I didn’t need a single one.
The main question I’ve gotten from friends regarding fair fashion is where I would even buy my clothes. Do those clothes exist outside of stores that also sell hemp necklaces and incense? It turns out (to my great surprise and delight) that there are many, many ethical and sustainable clothing brands creating phenomenal goods. It has been ridiculously refreshing discovering brands that were just out of arm’s reach not only creating stunning clothing but doing so with huge hearts. (I even made a list of them for ya. Just use the form below.)
None of this happened by accident. While I may not have set a time limit on my shopping diet, I knew that even taking on such a thing would take lots of intentionality (and, dare I say, patience—my favorite thing.) I have basically been biding my time and studiously keeping a wish list, waiting for the time to feel right to start supporting these new brands.
Where my values lie
During this time I’ve also been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. First, God bless Stephen Covey. Second, if you’re as late to the party on reading this book as I am, LITERALLY WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Third, this book has helped me finally create a written mission statement. YASS. I’m not going to share my whole mission statement just yet, but a couple things became very obvious as it relates to fair fashion. The first is that I put a high value on defending the least (the majority of garment workers meet this description). Second, I must remember to stay grateful always (see point 2).
You vote with your dollars
Several people have been given credit for this quote, but its power is undeniable, “Every dollar you spend is a vote you cast for the kind of world you want.” I also adore this quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” Chills, guys. This gives me chills. I’m one of those people who tries to eat organic and recycle. I feel like I’m doing my part if I drive less one week and therefore save maybe a quarter tank of gas *pats myself on the back*. But what about the effect my wardrobe stuffed with plastic (in the form of polyester, rayon and other manmade fibers) has? What about those living below the poverty line who are sewing my latest crop top? Cringe. Double cringe.
The value of human stories
I love stories. I love hearing others’ stories and I super love when, as a full-time copywriter, I have the privilege of sharing another’s story. One of the coolest things about shopping with more intention is finding that so many brands have beautiful stories and are, in turn, telling the stories of the garment workers who are making your clothes. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we shopped for clothes the way we do at the farmers market? You love getting to know your hairdresser—but what about the young mom sewing the straight seams of your T-shirt?
Just start—it’s okay if you’re not an expert
This is a big one for me because I am desperate, and I mean aching, to share this with you guys. But here’s the thing. I’m not an expert. Not even close. And I have almost let the keep me from sharing all of this with you.
Can you be real for a second? Like really really real? There’s a big part of me that feels like I should keep all this to myself or risk looking like an extremist or radical. Like your vegan friend who gives you judgey eyes when you order a cheeseburger (not hating on vegans come on guys this is purely for the illustration just go with me PLEASE).
But here’s what is my truth: I can’t unknow what I know. And I would be doing a huge disservice to myself and to all of you who do care about our planet and the humans on it by not sharing this with you and, hopefully, encouraging you on your own journey. Guess what? I’m still going to encourage you on whatever journey you have because you are freaking worth it. YEAH. You are worth feeling confident and worthy. And whether you shop at H&M or Everlane or Goodwill I want you to feel like a boss babe, because you are. I will never stop telling you that and showing you why you’re worthy of confidence and beauty and all things good.
Let’s do it.