Fashion + The Global Crisis

My Lockdown Transformation: Shopaholic to Conscious Consumer

My shopaholic realisation:

Forty-three days ago, when all of this madness began, I, like most girls my age, was a self-confessed shopaholic. My daily hobbies consisted of scrolling through online shops for hours at a time and eagerly waiting for those glorious parcels to arrive at my door. So, as you can imagine, when news of lockdown broke out, I was delighted to have all the time in the world to be doing my favourite pastime completely guilt-free. Before long, I had overloading baskets sprawled across different sites ready for me to buy.

“But what was I actually buying these clothes for?” I thought to myself.

I had ‘going out out’ outfits with nowhere to go and a planned summer wardrobe that wouldn’t see the light of day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear these clothes, yet I still had a burning desire to indulge in buying.

This was when I had my realisation…

I realised I had bought into the addiction, that is, fast fashion. It had become such a convenience for me to get a quick endorphin rush or what I’d like to call ‘a shoppers high’ from these constant purchases and an easy distraction from the world around me. Still, enough was enough, and I needed to cut out this bad habit.

So rather than shopping, I began researching. To my surprise, I came across a multitude of articles discussing the implications of shopping online. Many psychotherapists claimed that addiction to online shopping is a mental health condition and there was such a thing called ‘buying-shopping disorder’. I was utterly astonished, and as I started to delve deeper into the topic, I began understanding why it is I personally shopped so much. Along with the effects it could have on my mental health.

Although lockdown seemed like the worst time to uncover the negatives of online shopping, I chose to flip the situation. I looked at this time, instead, as the perfect opportunity to change my buying habits and learn more about the online fashion industry.

Research, research and a little more research

Initially, I didn’t know where to begin. I remember a friend told me to watch Stacey Dooley’s ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ so I thought I’d start there. The documentary was incredibly eye-opening to the harmful impacts the fashion industry was having on not only our planet but the people in it. It was the first time I really ever took a step back and thought about the bigger picture surrounding my ‘quick fix’ of buying. For many people my age, I could relate to how the bombardment of the latest fashions distracted them from the reality behind the garments. I knew that as much as I could educate those around me and talk about the harmful consequences of mass fashion companies, it wasn’t enough. My most impactful influence was my personal choice to not buy into this world anymore.

But what kind of changes would I need to make to begin my journey as a conscious consumer?

First step: Declutter

While researching, I was shocked to find out that only 20 per cent of the clothes in the average person’s closet are worn regularly. As it had been years since I’d had a proper clear out of my wardrobe, I decided now, if ever, was the best time to have a big ol spring clean of all my belongings.

To get started, I took everything out of my wardrobes, drawers and rails to see what I was working with. I was amazed at how many items still had their tags on and how much clothing I had simply forgotten about.  I then separated my clothing into separate piles such as jeans, jackets, occasional outfits, casual dresses etc.

Before long, I had mountains of garments piling around my room. As I looked around, I was utterly astonished that I’d ever let the words “I have nothing to wear” leave my mouth. An overwhelming sense of guilt came over me, but I was happy I was finally doing something about it.

To help determine what clothes were necessary, I asked myself whether I had worn it in the past 6 months and really how much wear I get out of it. Don’t get me wrong there was a lot of telling myself ‘I’ll wear that one day…’ but I had to be realistic with myself and ask whether somebody else would benefit more from it.

After three, yes three, full days of deliberation and decluttering I finally had my favourite and necessary items ready to go back in my new, empty wardrobe. It felt so refreshing to be able to move my clothes along the rails and see clearly what I could mix and match for different outfits.

But what was I to do with the bags of clothes that didn’t make the cut?

Sell, sell, sell!

As I had a lot of brand new and unworn items, I thought it may be an opportunity for me to sell my things at a lower price than I had initially bought them for. The reason for this is that I would be encouraging others to buy second hand rather than from large retail companies. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it also turns my negative overconsumption into something profitable and productive.

After reading up online, I discovered that the best app for selling my clothes was Depop. To my delight, it was empowering to see so many entrepreneurial people my age that was making a living for themselves from upholstering, recycling and selling vintage items. To me, Depop represented second-hand clothing in a refreshing and trendy way that encourages young people to express themselves but in a way that helps the environment.

To begin with, I picked clothes that I thought might sell well. I then snapped some pics with bright lighting and non-distracting backgrounds. At first, I was a little apprehensive about the task of taking so many pictures. However, I quickly got into the stride of things and actually enjoyed taking the time to be creative and productive.

Once my pics were up, I was shocked by the level of interaction I received. During the lockdown, my social interactions have significantly dropped, so engaging with a variety of friendly people helped lift my spirits.

Another benefit I found of selling on Depop was it opened my mind to upholstering old pieces of clothing. I began looking at my “ruined” garments as an opportunity to put my creative flare to work. Bringing my clothes back to life has surprisingly been the therapy I need in lockdown and a skill I will take with me through life.

Finally, Depop has opened my eyes to buying from the app itself. Selling online allowed me to see the ocean of local and handmade boutiques that benefit significantly from individual custom. It also helped to eliminate the stigma I had of second-hand buying, and I am now more than open to the idea of recycling our clothes in the community.

A final promise to myself

Although lockdown seems it will last an eternity, I am realistic to the fact that soon it will all be a distant memory and life as we know it will be back to normal. As happy as I am on my conscious journey, I can’t be naïve that I might slip back into old habits once I get back to normality.

To hopefully prevent this, I have made a promise to myself to ensure I keep up the hard work. When purchasing something, I promise to ask myself these three things:

1.    Is it essential?

Do I really need this item? Or am I just buying it because I’m bored or feel pressure to buy into fast fashion trends? I need to be honest with myself and ask whether it’s necessary.

2.    Where did the item come from?

On the surface, this may seem pretty basic, but it’s important to actually find out where our clothes come from. It’s so easy to forget that someone has made our clothing when they’re so accessible. Reading about the fashion industry opened my eyes to the gruelling reality happening globally. Slave labour is not worth the cost of our cheap and fast outfits.

And finally,

3.    Can I buy better?

This final question refers to where I’m sourcing my clothes. I want to ask myself if there is a local or family-run business that may sell the item I’m looking for that would benefit more from the likes of high street shops. If not, is there someone selling the item on Depop or eBay that I could buy from to help to recycle in the local community.

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