It's a perfect storm really. Millions of us stuck at home, with nothing to do but look at screens. Those screens, filled with very clever algorithms that have shown us we might not be going anywhere, but my word do we need new things. The burning question – how to shop sustainably and fulfil the urge to splurge at the same time?
Prior to the pandemic, I was consulting for an occasion-brand. Their best selling items were dresses for formals, weddings, holidays in Capri - and within weeks none of these occasions existed. Within this same time frame, according to the Business of Fashion, activewear sales were up 40% in the U.S. and 97% in the U.K. Fast forward another month, and an uncountable number of new brands arose, their sole offering being reusable masks. Supply and demand.
As someone who tries to shop sustainably, this has been both a disaster and an opportunity to look at the psychology of needing new things. For me, I am an enthusiastic op-shopper. Turns out in a pandemic, second-hand stores do not have the means or resources to ensure health standards, and many remain closed, yet Kmart’s shelves are empty, Bunnings is a constant buzz of home-improvement hopefuls and the loungewear sections of department stores are seeing activity like never before.
So, how do we shop sustainably when retail therapy is a proven endorphin hit and we all need a bit of a pick-me-up? Firstly, there is no such thing as the perfect purchase or person. I’m far from it, I’ve brought a matching cream tracksuit from sustainable brand Pangaia and am finding it hard not to buy another in green, but here's some actions to consider before making your next purchase.
Do you need it
Mindlessly purchasing, without knowing our intention is the trap we are looking to avoid. Will it last? Is it quality? Is the brand doing the right thing by the environment and the people making it? Can it be re-homed or reused once we are done with it?
Don’t impulse buy
Pandemic aside, will it still be relevant? Don’t buy on the spot. Close the tab, and if you still want it in a week revisit it.
Don’t make assumptions
None of us know what's going to happen, if this is the new normal, if we will go back to our old normal, if there will be international holidays anytime soon, or if we will ever do that online fitness class we signed up to. I can’t assume I will soon be doing enough face-to-face meetings to warrant a new power suit, and buying another would make the others gathering dust even more sad.
Give yourself a wardrobe facelift
Put away (upcycle or donate) items you are sick of, aren’t right for the season, or you know you aren’t wearing. Rearrange what's left, for example I colour coordinate, so my wardrobe feels like a retail store. Refreshed and exciting to look at. It makes it easier to be happy with what you have.