Parting with our cash to indulge our shopping habits is considered an acceptable legal high but all too often we’re left with feelings of guilt, regret and disappointment – not to mention empty pockets.
When we consider the euphoric highs and ever-increasing lows associated with addiction, is intoxicating ourselves with fashion really as harmless as we think?
Shopping for clothes is more a form of entertainment than it is a necessity in our lives these days. It’s a form of escapism, of relaxation and of pleasure. That’s why the term ‘retail therapy’ has become everyday language.
Let’s be honest, most of us have enough clothes in our wardrobe. In fact, most of us probably have more clothes than we need. So, when we go shopping, it’s largely for fun.
What feels better than coming out of the shopping centre with bags full of our new on trend purchases? I remember I would lay out my new items on my bedroom floor and stare at them in awe as soon as I got home.
But after a few days of owning the new items the high would fade away. More often than not I would realise that my new items didn’t fit me in the way I’d have liked them to, or that the colour of my new t-shirt didn’t really suit my skin tone.
It was almost as if I was in a frenzy when I bought the items. I wasn’t thinking through my purchases.
Fast fashion brands have engineered us to think this way. They don’t want us to make informed purchases. They don’t want us to take time to think, does this fit me right? Does this colour really suit me? Will I actually wear this?
These brands thrive off of our addiction to the high of shopping.
Through advertising, through the use of celebrities, through promotion by Instagram influencers – shopping is seen as something aspirational.
Shopping itself is an idea that has been sold to us. We want to be like those celebrities and influencers. They are often portrayed as symbols of a perfect life.
But most of them are never seen wearing the same outfit twice. Celebrities are photographed with their hands full of shopping bags, influencers post their £600 haul videos on YouTube.
They don’t talk about sustainability. They don’t talk about how the fashion industry exploits women across the globe. They don’t talk about how many litres of water it takes to make one t-shirt.
But this is who we look up too. I know from my own personal experience how aspirational influencers on Instagram and YouTube can be. Young girls are brought up looking to these women for advice on how to live a happy life.
Shopping is all too often presented as the answer to that.
So, we make our way to the shopping centre because the idea that shopping will make us happy has been sold to us and we have gladly bought it.
When we’re shopping we get lost in the moment. It’s not about how we truly feel about the garments. It’s about if it looks like what we saw our favourite Instagram influencer wearing yesterday.
It’s only after we’ve come down from the shopping high a few days later that the regrets start to come through. When we realise it doesn’t suit us because we didn’t buy it with us in mind, we bought it with the influencer or the celebrity in mind.
So we’ve been sold this idea of happiness. But it’s not actually resulting in happiness. Temporary happiness, yes. But that happiness soon turns to disappointment as we realise our wardrobe has become even more crammed and we’re now out of pocket.
Just like a drug addiction, we’re addicted to shopping and spend our time chasing a high that never seems to last.
But what’s worse is that it’s not just us this is affecting. It’s not just us who are left disappointed thanks to fast fashion.
Garment workers are left disappointed when they don’t get paid for their overtime. They are left disappointed when they don’t make enough money to feed themselves and their family that month. They are left disappointed when they do not get the workers rights they so passionately have been campaigning for.
Garment workers are even more of a victim to fast fashion than we are.
We need change. It’s not fair to put ourselves through the highs and lows of fast fashion addiction. It’s even worse to continually put garment workers through it.
What can we do on an individual level? Buy less, cultivate a mindset that does not see shopping as entertainment, find role models that do not promote mindless consumerism and share them with others.
We don’t have to be fashion victims.