About a year ago, I stood in front of my wardrobe and realised it was suffering from a serious malfunction. It wasn’t only over 20 pairs of non-matching socks, a few overly-tight pants and last year’s sneakers (how dreadful indeed)–no.
It was filled with fast fashion.
Working in the fashion industry is no picnic — I had known as much for a long time. It had been an accumulation of alarming and at times horrific stories about the fashion industry (such as the Rana Plaza disaster) that made the gravity of it truly hit me. While I just “scored” a shirt for €15,99, other people were paying the actual price. Plus, I realised the very concept of clothing as consumable goods is simply wrong and crooked.
I also learnt I was a shopaholic. I had never really identified with ‘those kind of girls’. Those mindless consumers, they were the others. But upon close inspection I found I was in the habit of buying something new a few times a month. It always made me very happy. Naturally, that happiness would run out quickly — and off I went to the shop for more new clothes.
I had become aware, but turning awareness into action proved to be the trickiest part of it all. After I decided to change my consumption patterns, the withdrawal symptoms soon kicked in.
First of all, I had to say goodbye to my favourite brands. Knowing more about the garments on the rack, I now looked at them with new eyes.
It felt a bit like finding out a group of cool friends are not as cool as you thought they were. One of them is mean to neighbourhood cats, others have dark pasts, possibly involving soviet espionage… That can be difficult to process, especially when they are still texting you that they love and miss you, and whether you want to hang out at that cool new bar.
So yes, I caught myself wandering into one of my old favourite shops every so often. Sometimes I gave in to the temptation and relapsed, like a kid in a candy store. That dopamine rush felt good. But then later, of course, it didn’t.
There was much more to my ‘detox’ experience besides ditching my old loves. I had to lower my shopping frequency. Not only because of the higher price tags, but also because I realised I simply don’t need that many new things.
Moreover, the very act of shopping became rather complicated. So far I would judge a piece of clothing based on looks, quality and price. Now my brain would have to add questions such as ‘where was this produced?’ and ‘under which conditions?’. These can be hard to answer, even more so when you’ve already told yourself you’d really like to have that amazing dress. Wanting something and then telling myself I couldn’t have it required more discipline than I thought.
The lessons learned
Over half a year into my venture, after lots of trial and error, I am proud to say I am ‘clean’ for three months.
The very thing I missed during my journey was a coach–somebody to guide and support me. This is why, in collaboration with Jonne, I founded Go Frank: an online platform helping you towards a clean wardrobe. If you want to do the same thing–the right thing–check out our platform and subscribe to our newsletter!
Here are a few things I found particularly helpful that I’d like to share with you:
1) Stop exposing yourself
I remember a colleague who’d been trying to quit smoking. She’d been on a pack a day for over 10 years. The only way she was able to break the habit was by shutting herself off from any social events where there would be smoking friends for over a month.
I am definitely not comparing my withdrawal symptoms to a quitting smoker. However, I did take away a valuable lesson: don’t strain yourself and avoid shops and shopping streets altogether. At least for a little while. If you really need something, go to shops that only sell the good stuff. We’ve created a map that shows where you can find these.
2) Educate yourself
Although it might sound simple to the point of silliness, I found this to be very effective: when I couldn’t avoid being in a shop, I zoned out and imagined the place from which those clothes came from, and the people who made them. Worked like a charm. Watch The True Cost on Netflix if you haven’t already.
3) Inspect what is already there
Simple yet effective: dig out your closet, and chances are you find some things you had no idea you still had. Do this with friends’ closets too (maybe ask for their permission first) and/or shop second hand.
4) Enjoy it
Fair and sustainable fashion comes with a great advantage: the quality is generally excellent. And as it tends to be more costly, you are less likely to buy things on a whim, or things you only sort of like. This makes for much happier purchases.
5) Appreciate it
I borrowed a sewing machine from an aunt, bought some fabrics, and starting working. I thought I knew, but holy shit —getting it exactly right requires so much awesome craftsmanship, practice and time. Clothes became more special to me.
6) Don’t be too hard on yourself
The most important lesson: don’t be too hard on yourself when you put your new principles aside once, twice, or maybe even a few times. Changing patterns of behaviour is difficult; breaking habits is hard. Relapse is part of the game (at least, it was for me). Just carry on, it will get easier. Good luck!