It’s too hard to shop consciously!
A common catch cry from all corners of the globe. This statement is one of two very obvious barriers to shopping mindfully. The second?
It’s too expensive.
Sometimes these are valid excuses and the validity of them is very much a geographical issue. Why not socio-economic? Good question! Let’s explore this a little deeper as we start to bust these common conscious shopping myths open.
Location not cost.
When we think of cost and availability as the two barriers to shopping mindfully you might think that cost would be the more difficult one. It’s actually not for most folks. Recycling clothing is one of the most cost effective and accessible ways to shop. A love of pre-loved fashion is a global phenomena and it’s these fast-fashion cast offs that make it really easy for most people to willingly- or situationally shop in a sustainable way.
The second-hand global fashion market has been inundated with discarded textiles seeing fashion-forward trends scattered to the furtherest reaches of the planet. In Asia and Africa second-hand clothing has become so accessible that it’s caused issues with local governments and fashion manufacturers. Each country has it’s own hurdles for the second-hand clothing trade, but this clip gives you a short overview of Nigeria’s illegal secondhand clothing trade.
Unfortunately for some, the option of shopping secondhand first isn’t always easy. There might not be thrift stores, secondhand clothing markets, or other swap/vintage shops or events in your area. Some folks might also live in an area where secondhand clothing stores have become so trendy that they are now priced higher than fast fashion alternatives. A trend that has surfaced in many Australian ‘Op-Shops’ as they are converted to full-scale retail businesses supporting media, advertising, managers, and other full-time employed staff members.
While this is good for increasing peoples awareness of being responsible consumers of secondhand clothing, it means that many people on budgets will shop at fast fashion instead because it’s cheaper than supporting the charity thrift store.
For those who live in places like the UAE where secondhand clothing markets aren’t really commonplace. It can seem a little bit painful to have to actively source items second-hand or through other online conscious shopping measures.
Using the buyerarchy to combat excuses.
If you are grappling with the idea of purchasing something it’s good to have a look at the buyrarchy of needs. Never seen it? Well you have now. Basically it looks at how we can shop mindfully, and is sort of a pyramid of cost too! When you start at the bottom you will see that the first three options are actually the least expensive. Using what you have, borrowing from a friend, or swapping with someone doesn’t have to cost a cent and are usually way more convenient than having to head out to the shops thus busting open those excuses about being too poor or it being too hard to be a mindful consumer.
When you get to shopping thrift you will be limited by the options in your area. However it can sometimes be easier, and more effective to look for your second-hand items online through places like eBay and Etsy. You can search by brand, fabric, era, colour and by selecting pre-loved/used condition you know you are buying secondhand. Often this type of shopping is easier than heading into a fast fashion store where fabrics, colours, and styles are dictated by trends, and you might spend hours searching for an item you will never find simply because it’s not ‘trendy’ this season.
Making your own clothing can be loads of fun. Rather than making your new stuff from new stuff, why not try to revamp something you have, or purchase secondhand or vintage fabric. For many of us, time for making items is not readily available. So shopping fast on a lunch break has to suffice. This kind of ‘quick’ shopping can mean fast-fashion because it’s the easiest way to be able to try before you buy. If you happen to find yourself out shopping in a hurry run through this check list.
- Have you checked the kudos of your item on a fashion directory like Good On You, Shop Ethical or Just?
- Is it good quality?
- Do you really need it?
- Does it fit well?
- Have you worn it for a walk around the store or done some gymnastic moves in it to see if it’s comfy?
- What is it made from?
- Can you be bothered following the washing instructions?
- Do you already have something like it?
- Does it match anything else in your closet?
- Can you see yourself wearing it a year from now? How about five years from now?
- Do you need it right now?
- Can you afford the time and/or money to find a more ethical or sustainable option?
If you decide to shop in a more slow and mindful way for a suitable contender you might like to consider your budget first. How much can you really afford to spend on something new? Consider it an investment. What if you forgo something? Perhaps BYO coffee for a month. Or choose to walk instead of catch the bus- what do these extra dollars and a little more time mean for your shopping budget? It might seem like a huge leap from a $10 chain store tee to a $49 ethically and eco made organic cotton one, but it can really be as simple as setting yourself a savings goal for a short period of time.
How do you approach fashion? I personally find most things I need secondhand and invest from time to time in sustainable/ethical items and the occasional quality no-eco-kudos item if I can’t find the right thing. Share your shopping approach below.