Right back at the very beginning of my journey with ethical living was the decision to change the way I would purchase clothes. It’s a simple idea that seems trivial, but one that I felt was important for someone professing such a powerful message. There are many ways to slow fashion down, but I would chose the most cost effective way, the way that would show anyone, with any budget that ethical is possible. I chose not to shop at all, to simply make the most out of my wardrobe for as long as I could. Whimsical as it may seem, I had not anticipated the difficulty of this new lifestyle and the interesting challenges it would pose.
Generally speaking, the first year was easy, the most significant hurdle was overcoming the desire to shop. I have used the word ‘desire’ here but I think toddler-tantrum!
I had expected this after many years of shopping once to twice per month but more unexpected was the impact on my social life. Like any other habit, shopping had become a social outlet for me. It would often feature in time spent with specific people such as my sister, we could guarantee that a weekend staying with family would always feature a trip to the local mall.
Indeed, it was tricky to navigate, how do you change a habit without hurting those you share this habit with? Appearing high and mighty was definitely my concern. And yes, the first time I mentioned the idea I felt like a toddler falling over my feet, stumbling with my words and felt somewhat embarrassed by the end of the awkward exchange. A philosopher once said “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say” for this I am truly relieved!
I have known it to be true in my short life that every good thing starts small, like the all-too-Kiwi garage invention I had to remind myself that, as humble as it may be, I had to start somewhere. And rather unexpectedly, my sister is now my best secondhand shopping buddy and life does indeed go on!
Year two was pitted with the challenges that you would anticipate aging fast fashion to provide. I can say with all honesty that there is a reason why the clothes are $30! By the end of the first year I had sewed multiple unshapely, faded (discoloured!), threadbare items back together and had developed a new sense of empathy for the hardworking seamstresses who have lost their jobs worldwide to see fast fashion take their place. It was in fact, quite miraculous that the items survived the the foot of my 20 year old sewing machine. As I hand-stitched small patches of fabric onto the back of Cam’s blue shorts for the 3rd time -the effort far outweighing the time it took to make this pair of shorts- I become aware of the personal cost of choosing ‘slow fashion’. And there, one year later the challenge began, could I really keep to it? Could I give up my precious time to keep this going?
The bigger question lingered overhead; had the message really sunk in?
You will know that I had sewn those shorts back together a total of 8 times only to see them obliterated by a misstep while getting dressed one morning. I stared at the foot-long tear that ran straight up the left cheek, intersected by a tear to the right side seam. I toyed with the idea of sewing the head-sized gap back together and concluded that it would not do slow fashion any good to see the poor product I would produce. Cam agreed and before I had finished the sentence they were at growing mould in the rubbish bin. 8 times was more than enough I’d say, especially with my sewing skills! Clearly Cam agreed!
So here we are, two years later; our wardrobes are two years older, my sewing skills are a lot better and I have found the finest second-hand stores around. Through sheer will and determination fast fashion is a thing of the past in our home and oh! I haven’t told you the best part… I calculated a saving of $3000- that’s what I would have spent on clothes in the past three years. Not bad huh? Now there’s plenty in the kite for purchasing ethically, as it happens I’m fairly happy with what I own so... maybe next month.