Happy New Year!
Chances are by now, the tree is down, the deccies are in the loft, you're back to work and potentially already reneged on your one coffee a day resolution...
I, for one have never been that in to making resolutions in January, rather keep that possibility open for the whole 12 months and when the moment takes me, make a choice to change something; eat better, exercise, earlier nights, read more books, read a book, spend less time on my phone, call my friends, do charity work...Although, I totally get it, the month of January does provide almost that permission to try out a 'NEW YEAR, NEW YOU', make some positive changes, mix things up. All good things.
A couple of years ago, I met a new friend. We both had sons the same age and we bonded over our love of vintage clothes and op shopping. In the first couple of months of meeting, I learnt a lot about something I had wanted to do for a while, a recurring resolution I'd had, that had been left dormant. I now understand it as, leading a more sustainable life, back then though, at the start, it felt more like I needed to be 'good'. I knew that I wanted to make changes to my life to be more environmentally friendly, to recycle better, to educate myself on kinder products and do more than buy a 'bag for life'. My friend never lectured or judged me for not having a 'keep cup' or for not having a 'food scraps' container on the bench, however simply showed me in her everyday actions that it was the small changes that made big differences.
It was now January 2020 and I had just flown back from the UK after a Christmas visiting family, and my bags were bursting.
I had been so excited to go shopping on the UK high street again and rummage in the abundance of charity shops that half my finds were being sent over separately by my ever patient and kind mother.
“You better wear them.”
Hmmmm…of course I’ll wear them…I just don’t know where I will hang them…
I was buying new clothes on a monthly basis, wearing them for a bit whilst they felt exciting and then they would disappear into the depths of my wardrobe. I would enjoy a quick trip into town, check out the sales, click on ASOS & Zara notifications and see what tickled my fancy. I have always enjoyed mixing high street, designer and vintage in my wardrobe and from an early age found it thrilling sifting through rails in op shops, waiting for that gem to pop out…like the time I found some genuine black cowboy boots with silver metalwork, in my size (very Sienna and Kate at Glastonbury) or the brown leather jacket & cashmere camel coat, all impeccable and not more than five whole British pounds (NZ$10).
So I felt that my shopping habits seemed quite balanced, all pretty harmless on the surface, a mix of 'high street new' and pre-loved but after a chance conversation with pre mentioned friend about fast fashion & the everyday effects it has on the planet (the fashion industry is the second largest polluter (after oil) in the world) my eyes started to open & I couldn’t really unsee…would it really make a difference to the planet if I, one person, stopped buying new clothes??
And this is where my exclusively #NOTNEW journey began and where a small but mighty change has made a huge difference.
“You better wear them” is a fair point. Looking through my wardrobe, I realised a lot of the clothes hadn’t been worn in at least a year. I could put this down to baby weight gain, nowhere to wear them…but really, I just had too much stuff.
So I decided to challenge myself, for the whole of 2020, I would only buy secondhand clothes (excluding underwear, some people can do it, I can not, that’s my line).
Off I went on my big NOT NEW / NEW TO ME adventure. I scoured op shops, went online, found heaps of pre-loved and vintage sellers on Instagram, dabbled on TradeMe and filled.my.wardrobe.
“You better wear them”.
So it turns out, a wardrobe filled with second hand clothes, is still a wardrobe filled with unworn clothes. I had to try harder. I needed to figure it out.
I needed to stop idly consuming.
Ah-ha lightbulb moment! The thrill for me about buying secondhand clothes had always been about getting a bargain, having a fab outfit for under a tenner, finding treasures. And it is still all those things however, the bigger picture is, sustainability. Recycling, reducing and reusing clothes as a first go-to is what makes the difference.
You may be reading this and think that it was pretty obvious, however, even with all my good intentions and already a love of pre-loved goodies, I was still falling into the trap of over consuming and again, not thinking through my purchases. So I stopped shopping and I went back to my wardrobe. Again.
That was two years ago. Since then, I have only been buying second hand, pre-loved, vintage clothes, homewares and toys for myself, family and friends. And for me, the biggest challenge was to slow my purchasing pace right down.
Full disclosure, there have been three exceptions:
- Investment black boots that I wear all the time and will have fixed for as long as they are able to be…YEARS of wear
- A pair of black jeans…I couldn’t fit in to anything and find it really hard to buy bottoms, so when a pair fit, I make the investment and I wear them all the time. And I only have one pair.
- Underwear…as I said, I have a line, and it’s a knicker one
A few things that I have learnt along the way…and still learning…
- The first shop to visit should be your WARDROBE. Every couple of months.
- Make piles! I made a pile for selling, a pile for op shop, a pile for friends, a pile of ‘I don’t know yet’
- Selling or consigning clothes…there are plenty of options out there…TradeMe / Depop / Designer Wardrobe / Arc & Artemis / Recycle Boutique / Lots of local stores that will take clothes for a % commission
- When out shopping, if you see something you like, think, what will it go with? Where will I wear it? Will it bring me JOY?! Don’t get sucked in to the ‘ahh it’s only $3!’ trap.
- Challenge your friends and family to buy second hand for the year or six months or a month…every little helps, it really does.
- And don’t worry if you buy something new. Being a conscious consumer is about considering pieces before purchasing. Not buying pieces that are necessarily on trend in the moment but taking a beat and thinking will I really wear it? Do I need it? Do I love it? Could I buy it second hand?
- It’s liberating. Honestly, this Christmas was a joy. For the first time, I really considered purchases. It was quality over quantity.
- It’s a practise. It’s not an overnight thing.
- A small change can make a big difference. Back in June 2021, I left my beloved job in venue management and events to join Arc & Artemis. Another chance conversation with a friend at the beginning of last year led to an opportunity to take my passion for NOT NEW fashion and together create a community where people can celebrate fashion & invest in pieces that bring them joy - feeling confident that these pieces are sourced in a sustainable and creative way.
Every Little Helps…so I challenge you to try to buy NOT NEW (NEW TO YOU) this year, or month, or weekend and to take that beat before you buy.
And in case you were wondering, I do now have a keep cup which I do sometimes forget. But that's ok, tomorrow's resolution can be to remember it.
And for other great examples and ideas of how you can minimise your environmental impact and live a more sustainable life, check out The Good On You Team's 2022 'Sustainable Resolutions'.
Thank you for reading and if you'd like to, please pass it on.