There comes a time in everyone’s 20-something’s life where you’re standing in Forever 21, looking at racks and racks of graphic tees and sweaters with holes in random places, thinking to yourself, “what TF am I doing here?” That was where my conscious fashion consumption journey started.
I looked around, almost not realizing how I’d gotten there, with a printed romper, thin elastic shorts, and a denim jacket in my arms, and knew that there was more to fashion than this. That moment showed me that I had been on autopilot for a good chunk of my life. I was buying things that Instagram ads told me that I needed and buying outfits for each occasion that I had coming up, instead of using discovering what my personal style was. It was a blur that I can only explain by saying that one day the windshield was dirty and the next day I had found the wipers and everything was clear.
Odds are that if you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably had that thought once or twice as well. Or maybe you’re feeling that way right now. Conscious fashion consumption begins when you wake up and become aware of the clothing that you own and the process of buying more. Maybe it was sparked by seeing a post from a fashion advocate or you woke up on your own. Either way, you’re starting to become more, well, conscious.
The word conscious quite literally means “awake” or “aware of or responding to one’s environment.”
Of course, I am by no means the first person to ever use the term “conscious consumption.” According to the New York Times, conscious consumption is the umbrella term that typically includes phrases like “sustainability” and “social responsibility”. When applied to fashion around this little corner of the internet, it means all the different ways that you can shop consciously. Or, in my own words, the shopping habit(s) that work for you to become mindful of what you’re buying and why.
No two people have the same conscious fashion consumption journey, but almost everyone on that journey has the same goal — to be mindful of what they’re buying. The hope of this little corner of the Internet is to fill that consciously fashion consumption umbrella with real, implementable ways to shop purposefully. That means thinking about yourself, others, and the environment.
The word “conscious” quit literally means “awake” or “aware of or responding to one’s environment. That means that you’re an active participant of what you’re buying and wearing. It means that you’re going off of autopilot and waking up to your actions and how they affect the people and world around you. There are simple ways to raise your awareness when it comes to conscious fashion consumption that you can do right now.
Ask Yourself “Why”
Think of the last five items that you bought. Why did you buy them? Really, what is the item’s purpose? Maybe you bought it for a specific event, but won’t necessarily wear it again. Or maybe it was a splurge item that you’ve been saving up for. There are no right and wrong reasons here. The point is just to become aware of why you are buying the items you are. If you haven’t already caught on, awareness is key.
If you want to take this a step further, actually go get a piece of paper and do some real, in-depth reflection. The more you can sit and get real with your shopping habits, the easier your conscious fashion consumption will be.
Research Brands You Buy From
People tend to forget that these brands work for us. The consumer decides how they spend their money and what they’re going to buy. So you have every right to ask the brand about their practices before you buy. Hence, the “conscious” in the conscious fashion consumption.
My favorite way to do this is to explore the brands entire website — not just the product pages. Keep an eye out for where the clothing is made, signs that the brand pays their makers fairly, and that creators are getting credit for their designs. Get to know the brand that you’re giving money to. You wouldn’t go on a date with someone that you didn’t get to know before, right? Well, spending your money is the same way.
Unsubscribe From Brand Emails
Marketing is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it can get in the way. As nice as it is to be alerted every time there’s a new item or sale, the truth is that you could probably go without. You’re probably already thinking about the items you’d love to add to your wardrobe, so you don’t need extra messages coming through to convince you to buy.
I like to set time limits before I buy an item. If I’m still thinking about the item a week later, then I buy it. If the item doesn’t stay on my brain, then it’s probably not for me. It’s not about punishing myself, but becoming aware and feeling confident about my purchases.
There are no “rules” when it comes to conscious fashion consumption. There’s no wrong or right way to do it. It’s all about listening to yourself, staying true to you, and becoming aware of your habits. At the end of the day, fashion should be fun, but it doesn’t have to cost you, the planet, or the people on this planet with you.