In my late teens and early 20s I used to indulge in self-prescribed retail therapy. Big time. Feeling blue? Buy a cute top! Get an HD on an assignment? Time to celebrate at Myer! Going on a date? Reason enough to buy a new dress! I justified this spending behaviour to myself: I’d earned it, I can afford it, I deserve it, I (apparently) need it.
I often shopped by myself and as an introvert I called it ‘me time’, which is strange when I think about it: walking through busy malls, loud music, interacting with shop assistants, it’s no wonder I’d often leave a couple of shops feeling burnt out, my self esteem and energy levels dipping. I think that’s why a compliment from a friendly assistant in the next shop gave me such a boost and I‘d be more inclined to purchase something.
This type of compulsive shopping behaviour seemed normal and looking back on it I can see that it is largely enforced by the culture I was entrenched in. I just assumed that shopping was what young women did. I also shopped because I was insecure, I wanted to be loved and accepted by others and loved and accepted by myself. I believed that by wearing new, fashionable clothes I would become the person that others wanted me to be, that I wanted to be. And so shopping became a deranged, self-help manual that I kept studying fastidiously but never really got me where I wanted to be.
When I was 23 I started questioning this cycle but the habit was hard to break. I was now living in a country town which definitely limited my options, but almost every night I'd still be trawling the internet for clothes and editing my ASOS wish list. Then the Rana Plaza collapsed and my world view changed. This was the tragic catalyst that forced me to ask where my clothes came from.
I wish I could say that I figured this all out on my own, but it took an international disaster for me to make the connection: that the industry is incredibly flawed. That fashion is a human rights issue, an environmental issue, a feminist issue, a political issue. When the reality of the situation sunk in, I think I went through the seven stages of grieving before emerging from my closet, resolved to educate myself, to change my habits and make better decisions.
After that, I went cold turkey. I stopped shopping in the mall and whenever I was tempted to look at clothes online I would use that as an opportunity to research the fashion industry. Not to say that it was easy to change my habits, it was hard. Sometimes I caved and made an impulse purchase here and there, but it was so much easier to stick to my resolution when I realised the consequences of my decisions.
Want to know more about the global impact of our fashion decisions? A great resource and a great place to start is Fashion Revolution.