It started off as a little personal “challenge”, but divorcing fast fashion has proven life changing
Strange as this sounds, it took the end of something to spark something new, a resuscitated relationship with a lifelong experience: buying clothes.
In 2017 I was an audience member of a live interview with Christina Dean (founder of Redress a Hong Kong based environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry) where she shared her experience of spending a year wearing only what she found in piles of unwanted clothing.
Intrigued, seeing this effortlessly elegant woman making such an admission in public, in a germophobic city (SARS primed Hong Kong well before Covid-19 came along) where people like to dress up, felt like permission to experiment: I’m going to go one year without buying a single piece of new clothing, I found myself proudly typing on my Facebook page later that evening.
The comments came in thick and fast. A friend in the US commented, that’s not such a big deal. I agreed. However, unlike in the UK (my all-time favourite place on earth to shop secondhand) or the USA, going secondhand in Hong Kong was a different ballgame. Significantly less choice. Another friend asked what I was going to do about knickers. Oh dear, this was already bringing up more personal revelations than I had bargained for.
But I was committed, and the first thing that struck me was breaking the habit of popping into Zara on route to an appointment. It seems I was hardwired to go inside whenever I walked past, a knee-jerk reaction that explains a lot about why my wardrobe was home to eight long black dresses and my drawers had more striped shirts than Where’s Wally? could sport in a season.
Running errands around town became a lot more efficient. I also found I had more time in general as I had cut off a major source of distraction – making space for new clothing requires a lot of Tetris style reshuffling in a city with some of the highest rental prices on earth. Packing things away under the bed and squeezing things into spaces they don’t belong is something I have become very good at. However, with so much less coming in – I could relax that unexpected skillset.
Flowers For Every Occasion
I also became more creative with what I had. That proved to be a slippery slope as mixing in Burning Man outfits with my everyday Hong Kong clothes became commonplace. Fast. Red, pink and orange from head to toe? Sure! Mixing more floral prints than the Chelsea Flower Show? What is the worst that can happen? officially became my Outfit Of The Day mantra.
I completely tapped out of trends/seasons/must have! items. My new style was dictated by what fit me in the local charity shop. It felt like the clothing now picked me, instead of the other way around.
And I absolutely loved it. Many interesting conversations were struck when someone complimented me on what I was wearing. Within minutes the subject went from clothing to personal thoughts on self-confidence, environmentalism and beyond.
I felt free, curious, confident and inspired. And still do. Three years on and that spirit prevails.