How to Break out of Mindless Habits and Embrace Sustainability in Fashion
Let us talk about the habits that drive our everyday actions.
Some are helpful like exercise, meditation, and eating vegetables, but we cannot deny that there are some habits like mindless consumption of fashion that need to be changed or let go entirely.
At few weeks into a new year, lots of us are still thinking about how we can make our New Year's resolutions a reality and specifically how to dress more sustainably. I believe the secret to making changes in our routines lies in examining and building good habits.
Since starting to live a more sustainable fashion lifestyle, I have been thinking about why I love clothing and look forward to new fashion trends. Of course, I have my reasons some of which is that fashion is beautiful, fun, even sometimes enchanting, but I think we can all agree that fashion is a way to be creative and show our individualism.
So, the other day I asked myself, why do I have the desire to go shopping or want to replenish a closet already full? Why do I naturally have an impulse to buy and consume clothing?
Well, I think I must admit I have a bad habit and the curious side of me wants to figure out what it is, how I got it, and what steps I can take to adopt a new more sustainable lifestyle. Where should I start?
By definition, a habit is a practice that is done repetitively. It is individually accepted and routinely done.
When it comes to fashion, we have an underlying habit that fuels our desire to always replenish our closets. This habit is due to our need to clothe ourselves but also to satisfy our fashion desires. It is almost as if it is part of our DNA.
However, the fashion industry has a huge influence on supporting our habit to consume. Current fashion trends such as “fast fashion” have led us into believing it is acceptable to continuously replace our clothing, even when our current wardrobe is perfectly fine.
Our acceptance of this habit and our willing repetition of it exploits our natural environment and has led to mixed perceptions of the industry. The upside is that we can combat this perception and turn around old habits to create a new path towards sustainability.
After learning more about the importance of sustainable fashion, I can clearly see something must be done and if that means altering how I consume to support better practices, I believe it must be done.
While shopping for clothing is essential and indulging in the lovely gift of “retail therapy” is something I love to do, I now realize that I should have been more mindful of what I was saying “yes” to when I bought that new shirt or pair of pants.
I was saying yes to fast fashion and turning a blind eye to companies that practice unethical working conditions and contribute to environmental injustices.
Now, I feel obligated to right my wrongs and change the way I support fashion through my actions and knowledge.
I love fashion way too much to just let it become the villain.
As I change my perspectives and habits of how I retain and buy clothing, I have thought about some steps to get me motivated to achieve my sustainability goals. I hope they will encourage you as well!
First, let me be honest with you and share some habits I am guilty of doing…multiple, multiple times…
- Wear, toss, replace
- See it, want it, buy it
- Buying because it is on sale (my Achilles heel!)
- Seeing only the price tag rather than quality
- Purchasing more than needed…oops!
- Frequent “Retail Therapy”
- Feeling the need to keep up with trends
The big question is then how can I focus on adopting a sustainable mindset while mindfully moving away from my current habit of gorging consumerism? Step into my office.
1. Shift Your Mindset On The Importance of Consuming Fashion Responsibility
Many of us are unaware of the entire picture of this beautiful yet harmful industry. From an early age, we learn about clothing and are introduced to its unique, eye-catching appeal. I remember playing with dolls, dressing them up, or dressing myself in costumes to identify with my favorite characters or role models. However, we continue to grow up with the mentality that there is a plethora of clothes and obtaining them is without consequence.
We accept the notion that clothing is abundant and will always be there for us. Fashion is too immensely adored to be viewed as a potential, harmful issue. This mindset has led to a habit of unconscious consumption that is reinforced by the fashion industry; we buy, discard, and buy again! We recklessly accept what is offered (ahem my habit).
Instead, we can begin to question this mindset and break these old habits, unlearn what has been engrained in our minds, and develop new habits that encourage choosing sustainability in our clothing selections.
It is the ultimate challenge and a journey that will require energy, repetition, and building a new perspective. I know this may sound like a lot to do, but the key word here is “journey” and like the song says, “don’t stop believing.” (corny motivational joke, check! But really, it is your journey, take it in strides.)
2. Build an awareness of how the fashion industry priorities profits over the planet
We need to understand the details of the fashion industry to grasp the motives behind sustainable fashion. Awareness starts with knowing the basics of fashion and clothing. This means learning about what a garment is made from and how it is made (i.e. human labor vs. machinery).
Cotton, wool, polyester, rayon are all familiar materials we notice clothes are made from, but who really knows how materials are produced and constructed? Tags typically only show the percentages of materials and the location of where it is made, hiding the fact that a blouse was made with plastic materials, harsh dyes, and assembled in a factory with poor working conditions. This is possible because fashion retailers are creating their own rules which favor cheap supplies, overproduction, and lack of transparency.
I found that with an awareness and newfound interest in sustainability, our current mindset can shift, persuading us to consciously adapt to sustainable practices.
It brings up the need to think twice about what brands we support. Our job is to shop with purpose and a knowledge base that allows us to see past the façade of the industry today. Let your curiosity uncover an industry influence gone out of control. We, the consumer, have the power to incite change where needed and encourage fashion brands to practice sustainability. Fashion is a wonderful, exciting industry, but a thorough understanding of it is a habit worth building.
3. Combine Sustainable Practices With Your Personal Values
Connecting newly developed perspectives of sustainability with personal values will ignite optimistic environmental and social change. This is how I got interested in sustainable fashion!
Think of it this way, sustainability gives us the permission to continue to love and appreciate clothing because they have more personal value to us. So, remain curious, build upon your values and remember that there is no one right way to embrace sustainability. Sustainability is a practice and an invitation to grow your understating of yourself and the world we live in.
I have been watching documentaries, reading articles, following sustainable minded advocates to see what they do, and expressing with others my reasons for choosing sustainability practices.
You can do this too! Continue to challenge yourself and don’t forget rewards along the way! Shop from businesses where sustainability is at the forefront and continue to learn about how to help others become aware of their own fashion habits.
I have made a commitment to try all these things to build upon my values and I encourage you to do the same. At the end of the day, a good habit opens the door to impactful outcomes and a positive mindset that encourages a better future. Believe you can make a difference.
When I started my own journey, I made a promise to myself to find ways to make fashion, something I adore, more meaningful to me and I think I am on the right track.
Sustainable fashion does not limit the joy and the feel-good chills or insight judgment that comes with buying that new item, but rather it encourages accepting a new habit that focuses on mindfulness, awareness, and connecting personal values. So, together we can build a new path or strengthen our existing one that moves us towards more sustainable fashion practices. Who said we can’t respect mama earth while still looking great?!