Mindful or mindless?

For the last two years Sustainability in Style has focused on Mindfulness for the month of may for the Mindful in May campaign, raising our mental vibrations and some well utilised money for WaterAid, providing clean drinking water and sanitation needs to those in developing countries. Mindful in May is on a brief hiatus for 2016 as the founder Elise has had a baby and taken the year off to be a present mother. So while we aren’t immersed in the fundraising challenge this year, I will still include a sprinkle of mindlessness to this months posts as being a mindful consumer is THE key aspect to shopping ethically, sustainably and having a wardrobe curated to fit your lifestyle. This post has arisen from an article titled ‘Slow fashion’ a poor fit for mainstream consumers’ that I read on the Financial Review website, posted to coincide with the Fashion Revolution. The first bit of the article is the same thing many of us have heard over and over, however the second part makes some unpalatable-to-the-slow-fashion-optimist points. Specifically this statement by Ferrier Hodgson retail adviser James Stewart:

“Australian consumers will say the ethical sourcing of products is really important to them, but when you look at how they actually behave, Australian consumers don’t follow the footsteps of what they say…When it comes to actual behaviour, we’re a disaster.”

Despite being one of these slow/ethical/sustainable fashion optimists I would have to agree with this statement. It can be easy to get sucked into the idea that sustainable fashion is a mainstream trend when you curate your social media to focus specifically on the sustainable and ethical fashion moment. For most part people consume fashion in a mindless fashion.

Vending Machine Suits.

An additional post on the Financial Review written by the Sustainable fashion darling Clare Press (who has a brand new book out that’s on my must-read list), screams the truth at us in one bold headline ‘Why the fashion industry is out of control‘. Which goes on to share the extremes that our love of looking good have come to over the past two decades. Here are some odd and alarming facts from the article:

  • In Tokyo, vending machines spew out tailored suits for businessmen who’ve been out all night (much like the sporting clothes one above).
  • The average Australian woman wears just a third of what’s in her wardrobe.
  • In 2012, the Duchess of Cambridge made headlines wearing a pink £2000 dress to two separate events  “Kate Wears Same Dress Twice in 11 days!”.
  • Australians send $500 million worth of clothing to landfill.
  • At Coles (an Australian Supermarket) prices for Mix brand womenswear start at $8

I can personally remember the few years when fashion officially became ‘fast’ for me. While I was at high school I couldn’t afford to look good the way that teens do now. In rural Victoria I had the option of surf brands (which at $50-150+ per item were well out of my reach) or discount department store clothing. So my mum took my sister and I thrift-shopping (or we call it op-shopping here in Australia). Upon finishing high-school my summer was spent at the new teen orientated chain called Supré that had opened up in a nearby shopping plaza. This was my first ever opportunity to buy somewhat affordable ‘fast’-fashion, that by today’s standards, would actually be considered kind of expensive and quite slow. While studying my RMIT Clothing Production course we were taught about the new movement from four collections a year to the Zara and Top-Shop model of weekly releases. At this time neither store had hit Australian shores and fashion was quite slow. During my time in India I came into a bit of a conundrum. How does one decide between buying a Ralph Lauren shirt or a box of muesli bars? For the very first time in my life fashion, BRANDED FASHION (yes it was likely a knock off but looked identical), was the same price as food. This was equal parts intriguing, heartbreaking, and liberating for the girl from the country who understood scarcity (we grew up on a semi self sufficient farm) and the desire to own lots of pretty things she could never have afforded in the past. Nowadays you can buy food and fashion in the same place for the same price. It’s impossible for us to believe that consumers are consuming fashion mindfully when your cotton sweaters are sold a few meters away from a pile of mangos in the local supermarket.


What does this mean for the passionate ones?

It can be easy to read articles like the ones linked above and feel disheartened. I know I sometimes feel a little crushed about my sustainable writing ventures when I check my analytics and realise that a majority of traffic visit my site for DIY’s not information about sustainability (slightly gut-wrenching when I’m so passionate about sustainability education). However, it’s best not to focus too much on the negativity or you will be sucked into it. When you are passionate about something you should focus on fostering this passion. Here are a few fast tips on how I do this:

  • Commit to a low information diet: A low info diet is like a low calorie diet. You still want to feed yourself (or you will fade away into your own la-la land) but you want to limit the amounts you feed yourself so you don’t end up stuffed. If you try to keep up with all the negative things that are happening in the World you will exhaust yourself because our media streams live to report disasters. While it is important to stay in-the-loop on the big things you will find that you don’t actually have to look for these stories. People will share them with you if you need to know. The rest of the time you can choose what you want to learn about. Love sustainable fashion? Google ‘sustainable fashion news’. You will find out what you need to know from one quick Google a week. Work smart not hard.
  • Choose how you want to participate in social media: Social media is a difficult topic. Wherever we look nowadays we see people walking around their daily lives staring at little metal boxes. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the most prolific issues that many of us experience as a result of spending time on social media and portable devices. If you are on a low information diet try including a social media and/or technology ban. I have opted out of personal social media to cut back on the amount of screen time, but also only check emails, social media, and blog comments once a day. Sometimes if my real life is busy these periods can stretch out over several days. Why? Because as much as I love writing and sustainability education my real life and real-life relationships take priority. I might seem flippant and unprofessional but you know what? I don’t care. I love my life and without these periods of down-time I wouldn’t be able to give back to my friends, family and community. Take care of yourself in order to better take care of others. Want to get ‘back to earth’ fast? Do some gardening. Digging in the dirt is a great way to reconnect with the nature-energy (one of my little potted-plant babies in bloom above).
  • Connect with people who support your beliefs: As I mentioned in this post, your friends and family won’t always share your passions. It’s important to use social media and technology to support and share your passion.  Joining in social media groups, following people who are passionate about what you love, and discussing the trial and tribulations of being a sustainable fashionista are so important for personal growth. By cutting back on the not-so-useful information and social media you can spend time on streams that mean something to you. Selectivity is key.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: Inside each and every one of us there is an annoying little voice. This voice can say things to us that we wouldn’t expect to hear from our worst enemy. They know us well and they know what will hurt us. If we spend time with this ‘inner critic’ we will start feeling pretty bad about ourselves pretty quickly. All those efforts that you put into choosing sustainable options in life can come crashing down the moment you accidentally forget your socks and have to buy a pair from the supermarket (or a vending machine) from a brand you know isn’t the most sustainable option. Suddenly your inner critic is ripping you to shreds over this ‘mindless’ purchase. If we listen to this critic we will soon find ourselves in a downward spiral. Our confidence crashes and we end up with compassion fatigue, a fate far worse than that one little sock-slip-up. Be your own best friend. Cheer for your accomplishments. When things don’t go to plan console yourself the way you would console a loved one. Learn from your mistakes but never scold yourself.

What do you do to foster your passions in a World that sometimes seems bleak? Are you a sustainable consumer who loves the idea but doesn’t necessarily always shop sustainable or ethical? Share your barriers, thoughts, and reflections with us below.


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