The graduation certificate graciously received, I am a proud Master in fashion and sustainability. Better informed of the enormous and complex challenges faced by this landscape, I want to move forth and belong to the solution brigade. As a customer, the vicinity of fast fashion stores is no longer preferred and I will whole-heartedly support eco-fashion and buy less buy better.
But hang on, I’ve only recently been washed up ashore of sustainability. I’m indeed the reformed addict with a past, laden with fabric galore. While I seem to have found my true calling in fashion, the T-shirt on my back still carries vibes of a sweatshop.
Am I a hypocrite who has joined fashion’s revolution movement? How do I deal with the past, lived in the haze of consumption high?
Truth be told, I have wardrobe(s) stuffed with clothes, bought with dosh, earned for shoving more clothes down people’s throats. In other words, I worked for a few years in mainstream fashion marketing before being in the grips of an existential angst. The documentary that highlights the dark side of the fashion industry, ‘True Cost’, responsible for many a reformed minds, also came to my rescue.
In this moment, I rewind back to the beginning.
What started out as a celebration of my financial independence ie. first paying job, at some point, let the purse strings spiral out of control. My office was fancy, but not so much my salary. To keep up with the fashion-forward Joneses, I would settle for trendy and easy-on-pocket fast-fashion buys. Currently, I hold enough polyester in my wardrobe to rustle up a microfibre storm or start a mega bonfire.
To be seen in the same ensemble was a cardinal sin in my diary (secretly wishing that outfit repeater, Kate Middleton, in her pristine McQueen had arrived early). Because many a precious hours of mine were wasted undertaking combinations to ensure that the eyeballs varied for each wear of an outfit. Social conditioning and social media could very well be blamed for this behavioural trait but as I ruminate in hindsight, it all boils down to issues of self-worth. Because why should I give a damn about what the world thinks when they see(judge) me in my favourite green dress on occasions more than one.
Like several others, I am a seduced-come-efficient cog in the well-oiled fashion marketing machinery, powered by trends and fantasy. Spending on clothes for occasions that existed in an imaginary future and outfits that stamped me as trendy, was my favourite indulgence. The act of strutting out of a mall with multiple shopping bags, perched on my wrist, gave me a high that could put several substances to shame. I was not only consuming fashion, but also consuming shopping in equal measure.
This one takes the cake though: I had devised a formula in my head to calculate number of wears per purchase, convincing me to see value in the cheap-yet-trendy fashion. Clothes could be used and thrown like tampons, ensuring newness in the wardrobe. Let the planet and people be damned in the process, who cares or who knew. But when I did dip my toes in the sea of sustainable fashion, I cried tears of guilt. Though, the floodgates really opened when in ‘True Cost’, Bangladeshi worker, Shima Akhter, says sobbingly, “I believe these clothes are produced with our blood.”
I am a compulsive hoarder whether its my inbox or the closet, a problem acknowledged and consciously being worked upon to achieve a clutter-free living. When it comes to fashion, having box beds and extra storage proved to be more of a menace than help as the impulse-led buys, they just kept coming in. I can’t blame this streak on some stress or past trauma, but possibly the love for possessions. I relish the company of tagged items, waiting to be worn on special days, that often don’t come. A friend nicknamed me ‘mother hen’ for nestling over my shopping hauls, loving them too much to be taken out.
My clothing catharsis ends here.
May my sins at the mall be washed away. Perhaps I should wear and repair what I already own and donate a few. I’ve pledged to refuse a new purchase for at least a year and not add more insult to the injury.
Cue open wardrobe. I have shitloads to wear.