How long has it been since your last high street shopping trip?
After impulse buying a pinafore at the end of last year that I didn't need and wasn't sure even fit me properly, I started to really think about the impact my clothes were having. I realised that the cheaply made, mass produced, fast-fashion I was buying was promoting unethical working conditions, environmental destruction and costing me a fortune. I decided that something drastic needed to change and set myself a personal challenge - to simply stop buying for a year.
My rules were simple; I wasn't allowed to buy any newly made, mass produced clothing for 12 months. Clothes could be bought second hand from charity or vintage shops, be gifts from friends, handmade by independent local designers or found at my local clothing exchange. No new high street items were to enter my wardrobe until 2017.
Nine months in to my experiment, I've found I'm not only more aware of the clothes I wear and how they're made, but I've re-evaluated the way I shop, and even how I view myself!
So what have I learnt?
Firstly, that the size on the label is always open to interpretation! By shopping second hand, I've been forced to be much more creative in the things I try on - if there's only one, you can't worry about the size on the label! I've tried on a few disasters (and had to be helped out of things I tried to squeeze into - much to the amusement of the charity shop staff!) but have also found some real gems which I may never have even tried on if I'd been looking at the label.
Secondly, moving out of your comfort zone is not as scary as it seems. Avoiding fast-fashion forces you to think outside the box to get your fashion fix. I've rummaged through vintage markets and borrowed clothes from friends. I've commissioned a local designer to make a dress from sustainable materials after seeing her work at a craft fair and even volunteered to help sell merchandise for a band in exchange for one of their t-shirts. Clothing exchanges have also been revolutionary in this process, and have been my main source of clothing since beginning the challenge. Avoiding the high street has sometimes made it more difficult to find the perfect outfit, but means that the clothes I own have a much more interesting story. As a result, my style has become much more eclectic, and I now frequently sport 90s vintage, bright colours and garish patterns I would never have considered when shopping more conventionally.
The other major change is in the way I approach clothes shopping. I now focus much more on what I need, rather than just buying clothes because I like them. Over the summer I booked a last minute beach break and realised that I was lacking a beach cover-up, sunhat or sunglasses! After a couple of days of panic and thinking I'd be forced to buy new, I calmed down and simply followed the rules. A kaftan and sun hat were found in a local charity shop for less than £2 and I sent off an old pair of frames to be reglazed. Nothing new was needed and holiday essentials sorted!
Not being able to buy new also made me look more closely at the clothes I already own. Rather than looking for new clothes, I turned to my existing wardrobe. I've added patches from indie designers to unworn denim shirts, shortened dress to make them more wearable and found forgotten pieces to be given a new lease of life. Anything no longer my style has been returned to the clothing exchange and swapped for something new - the fashion circle of life!
And finally, I've saved a fortune!
But it's not all been easy. I've stared longingly into the rails of clothes as friends filled up baskets in Primark and have filed my ASOS emails firmly in the junk mail folder to avoid temptation. But every time I've almost fallen off the wagon I've thought about how far I've come and its kept me going. This fast-fashion addict has gone cold turkey!
As I approach the end of the challenge, I'm feeling much more confident in my fashion choices, and much happier about the footprint left by my clothing collection. I appreciate the clothes I have more, and am a much more thoughtful and ethical consumer, with a much healthier bank balance!
So embrace the challenge! Find a local clothes exchange, set up a swishing party with your friends or trawl your local charity shops. You'll be surprised at what you can find and it might even change the way you live!
This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable, for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org