Thursday, July 5, 2012

Buy Nothing...

Today's outfit: #marimekko striped cardigan & bag... Colour rules!
Grab your bag and get ready to shop?

I have been thinking about consumption for quite sometime, heck, I even spoke about it in my Masters thesis back in the day but a recent article in The Age about Buy Nothing New Month and it's founder Tamara DiMattina made me want to share some thoughts about buying stuff.

In the article Conscientious Consumption, Tamara spoke about the Buy Nothing New Month concept:

''It's taking the month of October to reassess how much we buy, what we buy and why. It's saying every time you're going to buy something, think to yourself 'Do I really need it?' If you do - bingo, proceed to the cash register. It's really trying to get people to think: 'Do I need it? Are there alternatives? Can I reuse something at home? Can I get it second hand? Can I borrow it or can I swap something for it? How can we really maximise the stuff that we already have instead of constantly acquiring new stuff?' ''

It's a great idea really but something that I think that needs to be continued throughout the year.  Don't get me wrong, I adore shopping. I love window shopping even.  I even enjoy going to the airport early to peruse the duty free shops.  However over the last few years I have become much more selective in my purchases and it all started when I thought about how much landfill cheap and poorly manufactured clothing was contributing to.

As a home sewer and knitter, I get so much enjoyment out of spending time to create something special and 'well made'.  It is the thought of achieving something at the end but also having an item that fits me perfectly, is original and will last that keeps me making. 

ikea dress 002
In one of my favourite creations!

A few years ago, I went on a super spree of making my own clothes.  As a New Year's resolution, I committed to not buy the expensive dresses I had been (albeit of high quality) and instead to sew dresses that met my needs - what can I say, I love pockets in my dresses!  So I sewed and sewed and only purchased items I needed like underwear and shoes for work.  I got so many comments on my hand made dresses and I realized that they were being worn over and over and not falling apart! I started to add up in my head the 'real cost' of 'affordable' t-shirts and tops and decided that I had to stop.

I have to admit that my 'sewing a wardrobe' comes in spurts.  I'm ok with that  and really you need to work when you have the inspiration.  The same with my knitting, and I have recently discovered the joys of hand made socks and also making socks out of the left over bits of yarn from other projects!  How's that for using up stuff!

So I have a bit of a mantra now about my consumption.  It works for me, it may not work for everyone but I know that I sleep better at night and also I feel that my life isn't so crazy either!  So here are some of my changes in the attempt to be a conscientious consumer.

The Bargain Bin (image courtesy of here.)

  • I've stopped being persuaded by sales.  Yes, I still buy items on sale but only if they are from good quality and reputable designers.  You won't find me at the bargain bins of Sportsgirl, Forever 21 etc.
  • I only buy clothing that fits me and that I find comfortable.  I figure that if I love it and it's super comfortable then it's going to get worn alot! It's like shoes, I prefer to support artisans who can hand make me some super shoes that will last me for many years.  Spending a few hundred dollars on shoes that I wear several times a week over 5 to 6 years is better than spending $80 only to throw them out after 6 months.
  • I don't frequent op-shops as much.  I know this sounds crazy but the amount of times I've bought items that didn't fit well or I didn't love 100% because they were $5 only to return them to the op shop in a years time.
  • I check the fabric and look at how it is made.  If it looks like it isn't going to last for more than a year, I don't buy it.  My winter coat is something I bought in 2009 and I'm still wearing it around well!  Having a good knowledge of how fabrics react means that you can make more informed decisions on quality and wash and wear.  I rarely send items to the dry-cleaner as they are harsh on fabrics, instead I gently wash items and hang them.
  • I polish my leather shoes regularly and have them re-soled by a cobbler.  Having a father who was a bootmaker, it was drilled into me about looking after your good quality shoes.
  • I shop from designers who I admire, have great quality and styles that suit my body type.  If you have something that looks great on, you are going to wear it and look after it, therefore it lasts longer.  I don't necessarily buy timeless pieces but I buy pieces that fit 'my look' and wardrobe. I don't need the latest trends.
  • I don't shop as leisure time.  I do shop when I'm on vacation but still follow my mantra!  Instead my leisure time is knitting or sewing with friends, gardening, reading etc.
I understand that it is hard to make changes and these are just changes that I'm making.  There are people out there who can't afford to buy 'high quality' clothes and I have the luxury of doing this but if everyone thinks about what they are buying and if they really need something, we will all be making a change for the better.

On a side note, the items that I have bought this year have been worn heaps!  I'm not afraid to wear my dresses more than once and I have dresses that I wear all year around, with a sweater and tights.  Last year I cleared out loads of clothing items that didn't fit me well or I didn't like that much.  They went to good homes, sold on eBay or at at Take 2 Market or to charity.  My wardrobe is much more organized and I'm wearing things that I bought 4 years ago and I still love them!  Keeping a list of our consumption really makes you think about what you need.  We don't have to be saints but it's a great conversation to keep having.

* This post has mostly focused on shopping for fashion or clothing otherwise it would of been too long and crazy but I will post about conscientious shopping for other things in the future.


Michelle said...

Great post, and I love your handmade dress!

I must confess, I definitely believe in buying quality purchases that get worn to death over a long period ... the only time I 'stock up' is when my key pieces are on sale.

A lot of my clothing is handmade from sellers on Etsy (since I can't sew!). I also shop indie for mineral makeup and natural cosmetics/perfume. I prefer to support artisans rather than big business ;)

For groceries, the Ethical Consumer Guide is an excellent reference :)

miss mardi nowak said...

Thanks Michelle! I didn't want to come off preachy or anything but I do want to express about quality items and how they can impact the world.

I guess I'm a combo of indie/handmade stuff and big business (I love my Marimekko!) but I also try to support these big businesses that have been around for ages and who utilise old fashioned techniques. My Cartier purse is handmade by artisans as are my clogs which I adore!

I just want people to think about this kind of things...

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