A personal insight into the struggle between being a conscious consumer (AKA buying only what we truly need), supporting ethical fashion brands and curating our own personal sense of style.
As a woman in her early twenties who is on an ever-changing path of self-improvement, ethics vs personal style goals is a really big issue. Since breaking from my awkward emo phase almost a decade ago, I have slowly but surely developed my personal style. Or at least, I think I have. The truth is, when most of your clothing comprises of hand-me-downs, you find yourself inheriting the style of the donors. In my case, it would be from my mother and cousin, and a few family friends. Luckily for me, they all have good taste, but getting the styles to work together flawlessly can be a struggle, and not all of them are quite me. While I have never been a shopaholic, before discovering the truth about fast fashion I would default to the cheapest, most accessible option, like dime a dozen department and chain stores.
As someone with limited disposable income (thank you, student life), the past few years have been a steep learning curve. I have become a more conscious consumer in all aspects of my life. Since going vegan almost four years ago, I realised that ethics doesn’t stop on your plate. Between cleaning products, makeup, clothing and even superannuation, doing an ethical overhaul can be daunting and time-consuming. But don’t let that stop you – the rewards greatly outweigh the effort. It is well worth it when you can wake up each morning knowing that you are doing your best to tread lightly on the earth and treat all of its inhabitants with compassion.
At this point in my life, contrary to stereotypes of twenty-something-year-old women, I am shopping less than ever. Since starting as a writer here at Good On You, I haven’t purchased any new clothing. This is mainly because I obsessively check the rating of each store I walk into. I’ve found that more often than not I’m walking right back out again, empty-handed.
It’s overwhelming to realise that majority of your clothes could have contributed to environmental distress, animal cruelty, and worker exploitation. I have to remind myself that there is no point in dwelling on that fact. However they got to you, you have these clothes now, and you should do your best to make the most of them, even as you consider updating your wardrobe to match your newfangled ethical outlook on fashion.
Style is a strange thing. As the saying goes, “fashion fades, style is eternal” (Yves Saint Laurent). While the media throws trends in our faces every single day that society expects us to keep up with, it can be difficult to take a step back and ask yourself if you really need to wear what’s hot on the runway in your day-to-day life. If the answer is no, which it probably is, then maybe think about investing in pieces that are classic and timeless, that can be dressed up or dressed down, that you won’t be sick of after just seven wears, and that will bring you joy because you can wear them knowing that they didn’t cause any unnecessary harm.
If you do decide that your wardrobe needs an overhaul, consider trying the KonMari method to sort out the still-loves from the let-goes. Be sure to follow the tips in our KonMari article about what to do with your discard pile!
To build up your wardrobe with clothes that you really love and identify with, consider delving into the world of op shopping. I have recently been scouting op shops, having a quick browse and comparing quality and price points. If something catches my eye, I set aside a few hours on a day off to do some thorough exploring. Just remember not to fall into the trap of buying things you don’t need just because they are cheap!
While I haven’t explored it myself, clothes swapping is increasing in popularity at the moment. What better way to ensure your old clothes are going to a loving new home and not to landfill! Why not host your own with your friends or neighbours? To top it all off, consider condensing – capsule wardrobes are all the rage right now, and what better way to build one than by incorporating ethical brands that have quality pieces worth investing in, and secondhand goodies you can breathe new life into?
I don’t have all the answers. I am just one person working their way through life, trying to do their best. The fact that you are reading this article is such a positive sign. You are hopefully considering similar things on your path to conscious consumerism. It’s so easy to fall into the traps laid down by the fashion industry and countless others.
Good luck out there, and remember that everything you do can change the world for the better!
The idea that everything is purposeful really changes the way you live. To think that everything that you do has a ripple effect, that every word that you speak, every action that you make affects other people and the planetVictoria Moran