Yep, you read that right. I tried the minimalist thing and I didn't buy any new clothes for 365 days, except for one $9 pre-loved outfit from Vinnies for a client's fashion event, some undies and a pair of socks. Did I have a positive environmental impact? Hell yes. Was it hard? Hell yes. Will I do it again? Probably not.
I can hear minimalists the world over letting out a resounding 'tsk-tsk-tsk' and I can imagine all those single eyeball-rolls (because why would a minimalist need two eyeballs when one works perfectly fine), but let's face it, I'm not a minimalist. I'm an ethical and sustainable fashion advocate, which means I want people to buy things, I just want them to buy better things.
I write to inspire my readers, you, to make better fashion choices, not to submit yourself to the all-mighty fashion convent and completely stop buying. I’ve just done that for a whole year and maybe I’m not the kind of person who copes well with abstinence, but it actually made me feel worse about fashion when it was meant to make me feel better. It made me question my entire business and who I was, and for 365 days, I felt like a fraud. I was running an online store and encouraging people to buy things when I myself was buying nothing at all. Deep down, I think I was punishing myself for spending $6500 on fashion two years earlier, but this kind of yo-yo shopping is no different to yo-yo dieting, and it took a year of crazy spending and a year of no spending at all to iron out my relationship with fashion.
For someone who lives, loves and breathes fashion, going 365 days without a single new purchase is one hell of a feat, and for completing what I set out to do, I’m proud of myself, but it was so damn hard.
I had my moments; I was close to breaking point even in February when my birthday rolled around and I felt like I needed 'something new'. Then there was fashion week in March and all the eyes that would be watching. Then there was a wedding and all the people who expect the fashion blogger to always look good. And something else, and another event, and another…
The feeling of desperately needing something new to wear every weekend to impress everyone else eventually wore off around June, and I started looking at my wardrobe with a creative spark in my eye, instead of looking at it like cold gluggy porridge.
When I’d accepted my commitment six months in, it got a lot easier, and there were even moments that I absolutely loved it. There were no more stressful last-minute dashes to the shops; I was forced to find something I had at home and just wear it. There were no more endless hours of scrolling through online sales; I knew I wouldn’t buy anything anyway. There were no more impulse buys or the regret that comes with them; I was forced to appreciate and use what I had. I saved money and stopped buying a monthly ten-pack of coat hangers; there was nothing new to hang on them. I also stopped feeling like I couldn’t afford things that I drooled over in the window; I had no choice, regardless of affordability.
This isn't the first time fashion and I have had a relationship-break though, and there have been many moments of overzealousness and obsession too. The very thing I live for is the second-most polluting industry in the world, so it's a daily confliction and an endless journey of finding my peace in the eye of the storm. Once upon a time, I was a fast fashion fanatic, and when I was living by myself at one stage, my wardrobe spread across one walk-in robe, a custom-built robe (because no store-bought robe could handle the weight of it all), the spare bedroom cupboards, and the third bedroom cupboards too, plus at least five suitcases in my mother’s ceiling storage. Then, when I moved into share-housing in my early twenties, I always had to pay more for the biggest room with the largest wardrobe, just to have the space to put it all.
Ten years ago, I was a ‘collector’ and I had a penchant for quirky things that I thought ‘I’d wear one day’. Clothing is and always has been a treasure to me, so I’ve struggled to throw it away and I'm captivated by pretty things, but as I’ve decluttered over the past few years, changed my personal direction and my career, and learnt about the impact of my choices, I’ve slowed my buying right down. In the instance of last year, I completely stopped buying clothes altogether.
But, when 2019 rolled around, I felt like a crazed shopaholic with an unlimited credit card who’d just been let out of jail. I started scrolling through online sales on Boxing Day, relentlessly filling up shopping carts and waiting for 12:01 am on January 1st to roll around. I immediately started stressing about what to buy and wear on New Year’s Eve, because for some reason the 25kg of clothing I had in the suitcase with me, wasn’t good enough. Then, on January 3rd, I bought something new - three days out of my year of abstinence.
So, what did I learn?
The fashion industry is rife with social justice issues and it’s responsible for millions of tones of pollution, but I can’t just stop buying fashion and I can’t just shut the industry down. Instead, we need to buy better, we need to demand more transparency and better working conditions, and we need to reinvent the industry we’ve ruined with consumerism and greed. We don’t need more meaningless trends, we need more meaningful quality. We don’t need polyester, we’ve lived for thousands of years without it. We need more natural fabrics, more eco-friendly dyes, better standards, more laws around chemical dumping and water waste, and we need to seriously start acting to reverse fashion’s impact on the environment. We can’t just stop making fashion, we just need to start making fashion better.
Buying fashion is perfectly fine, there’s no guilt in that, so long as it ethical, sustainable, and it’s worn over and over again. When something breaks, it needs to be fixed, not just thrown away, and when it’s beyond repair, it needs to be somehow reused or recycled. Endless buying and one-time-wearing is the problem, but buying fashion and loving it, living in it, and cherishing it, is not.
I don’t want to give up fashion and I don't want you to either. I want to inspire you to give up unethical and unsustainable fashion, and instead, buy things that make you feel good, knowing that the people who’ve made it, feel good about it too. Supporting local designers who love what they do, and buying from labels who offer disadvantaged women in third world countries a chance to build a better life through ethical opportunities – that feels incredible, and I’m going to keep doing that.
So, here I am, three lessons wiser, maybe a little richer for not spending any money on clothes, but definitely stronger knowing I can achieve anything I commit to. I’ll be buying clothes this year, and I’m ok with that because I know what I buy will be ethically made, it will be sustainable, and it will positively impact someone else’s life.
My name is Claire Goldsworthy, I’m the Founder and Editor of The Fashion Advocate and I am exactly where I need to be at this point in time on my ever-evolving fashion journey towards better. Every day I advocate for better, and it's all I want to inspire you to do; think ethically, think sustainably, and buy better when it comes to clothing.
In 2016, I spent $6500 on fashion. In 2017, I bought only Australian-made clothes. In 2018, I spent $9 on a pre-loved outfit, but otherwise, bought no new clothes. 2019 is here, and I still love good fashion, so that’s what I’m going embrace, enjoy, promote, sell, live in, love, share, write about, and pursue.
The Fashion Advocate x