editorial |  The radical act of curbing consumption

editorial | The radical act of curbing consumption

Fashion has an overconsumption problem and we all know it. It’s not just the terrifying images of clothes clogging Ghana’s beaches and Chile’s Atacama Desert that tell us we’re buying too much; these are the parcels that fall into the mailbox every week, the hyperactive Paypal accounts and the unworn pieces forgotten in the back of our cupboards. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we buy too many clothes, that so many pieces we own are not worn as much as they deserve.

This volume is the origin of the terrible impact of fashion on the planet. For all the noise the industry makes about circularity, carbon neutrality and the rest, the uncomfortable truth is that we are simply buying too much stuff. Fashion’s sustainability initiatives are so far unable to offset the industry’s current environmental footprint, let alone one that is expected to grow as consumers buy even more clothes in the decades to come. The problem isn’t that we don’t buy enough organic cotton or recycled polyester, it’s that we treat clothes as if they were disposable novelties, something to enjoy for a moment before moving on to the next. trendy must-have or it-piece.

Buying less is the easiest way for consumers to reduce their impact on the planet because it avoids all the headaches and contradictions that come with buying sustainably. For example, recycling sounds great, but it still has its trade-offs – from the emissions generated by raw material processing to the microfibers released by recycled polyester. Rather than stocking up on so-called durable products – as if such a thing existed – it’s much more liberating to just buy nice pieces, but do so less often.

I’m not the only one exhausted by all the endemic hype in fashion these days. There is a growing movement of shoppers who know the market is cluttered with poorly made and fashionable novelties, and they are thinking more critically about their consumption habits. This explains the growing appetite for brands like Bode, Noah and Story MFG, which lean towards a slower approach to fashion with pieces designed to be lifetime investments. The same goes for Our Legacy, GmbH and Eckhaus Latta, who quietly advocate for clothes that are both relevant and interesting. There’s no hype here, just great pieces for people with great taste. That’s part of why vintage is so appealing right now too – it’s a much less impactful way to shop, sure, but it’s also an easy way to retreat from the relentless bustle of the big audience.

But buying less is difficult. We live in consumerist societies, where fashion hijacks our psychology to make us believe that spending money nonstop is an essential part of modern life. It’s not really about selling clothes, it’s about selling dreams, status, belonging and novelty. When we see such essential elements of the human experience in shopping, it’s no wonder we do so much.

If we want to shop more intentionally, we need to understand what fashion can do for us and what it can’t do for us. We have to accept the fact that once the initial high wears off, non-stop shopping doesn’t add anything meaningful to our lives – what it does is eat up our time, money, energy and soul. planet we live off.

A healthier way to look at fashion is this: it’s about collecting, wearing, and caring for beautiful, well-made clothes that make us feel good every time we take them out of the closet. It’s not about following the news online, it’s about buying things you love and wearing them to death. All the best dressed people in the world have already understood this, just ask Nick Cave, Michèle Lamy or Fran Lebowitz if they are tempted by a flash sale.

Buying less is also a political act – greenwashing is about making shopping less harmful than it actually is, so Big Fashion can keep the numbers and investors happy. Cultivating more conscious buying habits is better for our own lives, but it also sends a mighty middle finger to a greedy, polluting industry, an industry that trashes the planet, takes our money, destroys our self-esteem and gives us little more than a few brief hits of dopamine in return.

Alec Leach is an author and strategist. His first book, The World Is On Fire But We’re Still Buying Shoes, is now available via alecleach.com.

The opinions expressed in opinion pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The business of fashion.

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