8 Months into More Conscious Consumerism!
At the beginning of 2018 I set out to achieve the goal of changing up my lifestyle in a big way. I wanted to start with the way I thought about being a consumer. Cutting destructive fast fashion retail out of my life was one of the hardest and easiest decisions to make. I experienced a lot of self-discovery in 2017 and I needed things to change. At the start of that year I was returning home after travelling through South-East Asia and saw all these changes happening naturally. At this point I had done a fair amount of travelling in my life but those trips had always felt more like vacations. Although I did go to Asia to enjoy myself, the trip was more about exploring and learning. Cambodia was the country that ultimately opened my eyes past the point of no return. We would spend 10 days in Cambodia, and in that small time we would be exposed to living/working conditions of the local people that still shocks me. In the main streets of Siem Reap you are comforted by quaint local shops and other tourists bustling through the streets from smoothie stands to souvenir stalls. Only steps away from the main clusters of tourist hotspots, you are confronted by a level of poverty and despair that many of us will never begin to know. Being in one of the main countries that is exploited for the clothing on your back, truly puts things into perspective. In 2015 Approximately 5.7-billion-dollars worth of clothing/shoes were exported from Cambodia, making up 95 percent of their exports. This makes the garment industry one of the leading industries for their people, yet 90 percent of the owners and 80 percent of the managers are not Cambodian people. In fact, the Cambodian people will never see even a small fraction of those profits as they are making under their livable wage, at around $80 to $120 USD a month as garment workers. In this current state of the garment industry wearing a tag reading “made in Cambodia” casted a dark shadow over me, that I could not shake. That is why this was such a no brainer for me! At first when I started to embark on this journey of more thoughtful consumerism I did not foresee how much of my life would be altered for the better.
So, what has changed for me? I have come up with a list of the 4 biggest changes that I have noticed in my 8 months of zero fast fashion.
1. Shopping less! Although I still adore going out and shopping, I no longer seek happiness just from the act of purchasing things. Now that I have limited myself to more what I need, I don’t experience the same apathy and restlessness between shopping like I used to. I think the biggest fear that I had about being a conscious consumer, was that my closet was going to suffer. I was for sure worried about not having as many options and in turn my style would not shine as brightly. As it turns out, the exact opposite happened. Through the last couple of months, I have started to look at my closet more clearly. I see everything it already has to offer and can pick up the same amazing pieces and rock them in more unique ways. Focusing more on what I already have lets me make better choices on what I should add to my closet. More attuned with my current collection of clothing, when I head out to shop I already have ideas on how to enhance the items I own vs. adding things that do not work for me. Shopping less has also given me the opportunity to invest in more “pricey” items that are of a higher quality and will last longer in my closet. Another bonus is that when you shop less you save money that you can spend on other more important pursuits in your life that bring you joy.
2. From the fashionista side of things, by far the best part of cutting out fast fashion is finding more unique pieces. Since the start of 2018 I have felt my sense of style and what I admire in clothing is truly coming into form. I love how much I have flourished in curating a closet of stand out pieces that I am obsessed with. When the mall was my go-to shop spot, I found that individuality was exceedingly lacking. Season after season I was finding myself more bored with the options and scarcity of something inspiring. Don’t get me wrong I have been in a mall since and have been tempted by pretty window displays. When I ventured into the stores though it was a reminder about how much they try to pump out as much clothing as they can, and a lot of the items start to look the same. Pushing myself to find these more distinct pieces and more fun ways to wear them has helped me express my personality. This has helped me figure out who I want to be and there is nothing I would trade for that confidence.
3. Since starting down this road of zero fast fashion the biggest and most likely my favourite part is my new sense of community. I never thought that I would have such a “community” feeling around clothing and shopping. When shopping at the mall before this year, the activity did not connect me to anyone. I did not know anything about the people involved in the brands that I was shopping, so it felt like something that only affected me. Although you can get a friendly retail person sporadically, they usually are not informed about much past the sales floor, so getting information can be difficult. There is also a lot more staff and a lot more turnover in these shops, so you will rarely ever see a familiar face. Shopping at local shops weather it be a boutique or thrift/consignment store it is easier to get to know the people running the shop. I am lucky enough to live in a city with a good collection of local thrift/consignment stores, that are all run by amazing people. I feel so welcomed when I come in to shop and always confident that I’ll find exactly what I need. Every second-hand and locally owned shop you enter has its own personality with something different to offer. Openly sharing what you are truly passionate about brings so many fantastic people into your path. In only 8 months I have been able to connect with so many imaginative and compassionate people. Being surrounded by like minded people that share your interests really helps to blossom your own creativity.
4. Speaking about my local community, I can’t forget the global community that is affected by my consumer choices. My closet is no longer just about style but has gained so much meaning behind it. Getting dressed in the morning, I am making a choice and in these little actions I decide what kind of world that I want to support. A huge portion of our fast fashion garments are made overseas in countries that a lot of us may never even see, but us making this choice affects so many different people’s lives. Since this year, I did not think of all the hands that touch a piece of clothing before it reaches my hands. Understanding the supply chain and what that means for the planet and its people is a huge change of perspective. Not only do I think about this when it comes to fashion but beyond that now. It has made me think more about a lot of different systems that I take part of everyday, and how all the people involved are critical parts of the big picture. Seeing all these little parts and not just the big picture has made me more empathetic to all human beings and how important their roles are in my life. This new level of empathy has made me more confident in not only my consumer interactions, but also my ability to make connections with people on so many levels. Having a more global view is so important in this current day, and it makes me even more excited to travel and meet more people of all walks of life. This ultimately has enriched me as a person, and I could not be more grateful.