Buying clothes consciously: how you can make a difference

Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you live in.

Anna Lappe

Did you know the average person buys 60% more clothes than they did 15 years ago? 

The rise of cheap fashion and the overwhelming choice of garments coming onto the market at dizzying speed, means we have gradually become used to buying more and more.

The fashion industry produces and sells between 80 billion and 150 billion garments a year globally. It’s now one of the biggest culprits of environmental destruction.

  • 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from the fashion industry, which is more than the aviation and maritime shipping industries combined.
  • Nearly ⅗ of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a few years of being made.

As you know I love style. I truly believe it is an amazing tool to get to know ourselves on a deeper level and express our authenticity and creativity. 

However, all this fashion at our fingertips has turned us into mindless consumers, contributing to the damage of our planet. Fast Fashion as well as luxury companies are violating ethical and environmental standards and we, as the consumers, turn a blind eye.

Pause and reflect

And right now, the planet is asking us to stop, pause and reflect.  Change is on the horizon for all of us on many levels. Every buying decision you make has the power to change the world and transform the fashion industry. You MUST be aware of this.

As consumers we need to be thinking about what we buy, and know which values and philosophies we want to support. We need to ask ourselves if we are really going to wear that new piece to the extent that it was worth being made and purchased.

We must understand why we are choosing to purchase something, to be aware when we make choices based on unconscious conditioning.

What does it mean to be a conscious consumer of fashion and where do you start?

A conscious consumer uses their individual actions to create positive global impact. They look beyond the label. They want to know more about the company they are buying from, where the garment comes from, how it was made, what it is made of and how it arrives at the shop.

Demand quality not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.

Orsola de Castro

There are so many ways we can move toward becoming more conscious consumers and do less harm to the environment. Here are some ideas to start.

1. Craft you own values

This is an important step on the journey to becoming a more conscious and sustainable consumer. First, ask yourself what matters to you most?  Start by creating a list of what is important to you and why. Then research brands that are aligned with your values as a consumer and from there you can expand and grow.

We are all at different stages on this journey to living a more sustainable lifestyle and it’s important to honour where you are at and ask yourself questions. 

2. Buy less, choose higher quality

Prioritise investing in quality ‘timeless’ pieces that will last for a long time rather than buying new pieces every season from fast fashion stores that will end up in a landfill after a few wears.

It’s important to be mindful of what clothes you are investing in. Think “cost per wear” when buying an item of clothing. Ask yourself honestly how many times you will wear what you’re about to buy.

High cost per wear means more damage to the environment. A fad item bought for one summer season at €20 will have a much higher cost per wear compared to a more expensive, long lasting style piece.

Also, supporting local designers often means you are also investing in artisan skills, higher quality clothes and a more conscious approach to fashion.

I encourage you to think about what you are investing in, why and what you expect to receive for that purchase.  

3. Know what you have

Did you know we only wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time?  In general most of us end up wearing the same 10 to 15 pieces all season long, anyway, I know I do. 

You would be surprised at how often I work with clients  who have no idea what they have in their wardrobes. They continue to shop and end up with the same 7 white t-shirts because they have no idea what they have. Items with labels still on them, jeans that are too small, and clothes that were given as gifts that they never really liked.

I highly suggest you declutter your wardrobe and downsize. Get clear on what you have and what suits your body type, style personality and lifestyle. 

After your wardrobe detox you can make a plan and shop only for what you need to compliment your authentic style,  rather than buying things you already have or that are not aligned with your style story. See this article for more tips on detoxing your wardrobe.

4. Know your style

How can you be a conscious consumer if you have no idea of your style and how you want to show up in the world?

It is so easy to go shopping for clothes and come back with things that don’t quite work and therefore don’t get worn. Without a plan for how we want our style to be, we buy from an unconscious place and end up not just wasting our own money, but contributing to the planet’s problems.

I have seen this time and time again with my clients. Creating your own style story is fundamental to becoming a more conscious consumer and putting an end to wasteful shopping habits.

When we know our own style and have a plan in place we can curate wardrobes that are authentic to us and better for the environment. Check out this article on how to cultivate your style.

5. Understand your patterns

It wasn’t until I worked on how I felt on the inside that I realised I didn’t need to chase trends, try to be ‘someone else’ or constantly buy things to fill a void.

Asking yourself questions is a way to dig deeper and understand your behaviours and patterns. It helps us to identify why and where these behaviours are coming from.

So, next time before you purchase something take a deep breath and ask yourself how you feel.

Try observing your emotions and practise self-control, understanding that buying new clothes every week is not sustainable for the planet or your wallet. The thought of spending your money on pieces that won’t last shouldn’t sit well with you. 

Change really does come from within and it starts with us. Adopting the idea of becoming a more conscious consumer and shopping more intelligently is one way of helping the planet and living a more sustainable life. When we are aligned with ourselves and our values on all spectrums, our decisions reflect our highest intentions from our most empowered place. 

We are experiencing a major global shift.  I hope we all become more aware and conscious of how our choices affect ourselves, others and our planet. If you need some guidance on how you can be more sustainable and find clarity with your style feel free to join my facebook group or book a coffee chat with me.

Lou Stokes

Lou Stokes

Lou Stokes is a personal stylist from London based in Madrid. With online 1-1 coaching, she helps women cultivate confidence by developing their own, empowering style. Email lou@loustokes.com or visit loustokes.com to find out more or book a power call with Lou right now.

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