The One Question I Now Ask Myself Before I Shop
One of the most significant reasons I am drawn to fashion is simply this: I love beautiful things. My entry point into sustainable fashion was a desire to reconcile my love for those beautiful things with my social and environmental values. Along the way, I have come to realize that I'm motivated by another equally important goal: the need to contribute to a world in which beautiful things continue to be made and appreciated and worn and enjoyed. The more I've thought about it, one of the existential issues with the scale and speed of modern consumption (that includes fast fashion, but extends to most everything) is that the things all around us are no longer special, a painful fact considering that our civilization is (at least in absolute terms) the wealthiest, healthiest, and most knowledgeable to tread not-so-lightly on the earth. Very often, I look at stalls of plastic souvenirs or bins of 2 for $5 t-shirts and I genuinely ask: is this the best we can do?
In general, quantity precludes specialness. That's just human psychology. And quality impacts specialness as well. It's harder for something to be special that's not made with care. I used to have a pair of Zara jeans I loved. I wore them all the time. But were they special? Definitely not. As I've honed my relationship with fashion over the past few years, I've come to see specialness as an important criterion for what I include in my wardrobe and my life. It's one thing to have a closet full of organic cotton t-shirts. But if those t-shirts aren't special to me, I don't see them, even if they're a more sustainable option, as ultimately fulfilling my needs.
So when I'm buying something, or planning an experience, or thinking about taking a picture, or generally consuming anything, I've found it helpful to ask the question: is this special? If it's not, I don't buy it because it won't ultimately enrich my life. I'm far from there, but I'm working towards the day that I can open my closet and meaningfully articulate how each one of the pieces inside is really special to me.