I heard that the 2007 word of the year was “subprime.” Certainly some of us were spared from the financial lending crisis, but I think the subprime scandal holds a lesson worthy for us all: unregulated spending and lending can result in crisis. Right now, I feel that the crisis is that of consumption, which threatens our planet, economy, and the well-being of many. In light of this, my fashion word for ’08 is conscientious. In 2008, I am looking toward my own consumption as it relates to fashion and trying to figure out how to be a more conscientious consumer.
Don’t Buy Into It
For the first three months of 2008 (starting January 15), my coworker and I are challenging ourselves to not buy anything except food, drink, and items related to health and safety. The idea stems from a movement known as “the compact.” which was started by a group of individuals in the Bay Area who vowed to buy nothing new for an entire year. Their ethos is “to go beyond recycling and try to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local business, farms, etc.” Even for two women who aren’t massive shoppers, it’s going to be pretty hard.
After I’ve inevitably fallen off the no consumption wagon, my second resolution is to not buy sweatshop-made clothes. After seeing China Blue, a documentary detailing the high social cost of cheap clothes, and writing an article about young women working in terrible conditions for pennies a day, I feel it is imperative to try to reduce the demand that fosters these situations. This means not buying cheaply made clothes from places that do not ensure their workers are earning a fair wage. It also means saying goodbye to places like Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and the list goes on …
Quality Not Quantity
It’s easy to fall into the allure of getting a great deal by buying something cute for next to nothing, but sometimes those things don’t last more than a season. Not buying sweatshop-made clothes inevitably means buying items that cost more, but will, presumably, last longer. I usually spend a lot on my running shoes because I need them to last and want a pair that’s well made; I’m not sure why I don’t do this with my clothes. This year, in order to avoid unnecessary waste, I am going to look for well-made items that will be fashionable and functioning well past ’08.
Old is New: Vintage
I love buying items at vintage shops. The clothes and jewelry are second hand, so you are not contributing to new consumption. Around where I live, there are some great vintage stores run by young women, so I can support local, independent business owners. Many of the clothes are refurbished or handmade, so I know I am getting a unique piece of clothing that no one else is likely to have. Score!
My final resolution, and one I think will be the hardest, is to be more creative with what I wear and how I wear it. This means everything from trying to refurbish my old clothes into something cooler, like I’ve seen done so well on etsy labs, figuring out new ways to wear old things, or spicing them up with the accessories I already have. I suck at sewing, so being creative also means figuring out how to turn old into new and cute without a needle and thread. Hmmm … perhaps my new fashion word for ’08 should be “stapler.”
Related Article: If I Didn’t Have to Save the World, I’d Buy This