Do you ever have the sense there might be too much in your wardrobe? That it feels cluttered, full of stuff you don’t wear anymore, yet when it comes to getting dressed, you haven’t got a THING to wear?
Don’t worry, I’m with you. All of us have decades of fashion incarnations crammed into our wardrobes – bosses, mothers, WFH Zoom junkies, dog walkers, gym bunnies, hot dates, wedding guests, office parties, anniversary parties, going to the races, going to the football, night out at the theatre, size 10, size 14, size 16, the size Im going to be once I’ve been on this diet… us Queenagers have been through quite a few outfit changes before we reach our blossoming.
All that can add up to a lot of stuff. For me, the guilt of excess is doubled – trebled, even – because I have spent most of my career working in fashion. As an editor and lately as a shopkeeper, I have been exhorting women to Buy! Buy! Buy! for longer than I care to remember. The Best Cropped trousers For Now. 15 spring shoe styles you don’t want to miss. The seven trends you need to buy into. And now, as the ominous ticking of the climate clock gets louder and faster (last month’s IPCC report could not have been clearer: “humanity is on thin ice”), I have realised, all too late, it’s time for a reckoning.
Why we have to stop
Nothing painted that reckoning more clearly to me than a report that came out from the Hot or Cool Institute late last year. A public interest think tank, the Institute crunched the numbers and worked out that if we wanted to stay below the 1.5C target everybody tells us is the CEILING of what we can afford, then we need to just – stop consuming. All the biomaterials, rental, recycling, resale, charity shopping, regenerative agriculture in the world is not going to get us there – slowing down our buying habits will. And for those of us that live in the UK or the US, that amounted to limiting ourselves to just 5 new purchases a year.
Five. Not much is it? But wait. After you’ve got over the initial shock, it’s actually quite a nice thought. If you’ve really only got 5 purchases for the year (and yes that’s all we have) – what would you buy? If it’s only going to be five, I would make them count. They would be good quality, long lasting, work hard in my wardrobe. They would be mendable, resilient, beautiful. I would cherish them, care for them, love them. Suddenly they become rather valuable.
Making a public commitment
The more I thought about it, the more I realised I had to do it. So on January 1st this year I announced my intention on social media. (By doing it publicly I had to commit, I reasoned). I asked if people would like to join, and many have. The Financial Times, Telegraph, Times, Grazia and more have all covered the campaign, and many have joined. I think the reason behind this is that we are all slowly beginning to realise that if we want to do something about the climate (or at least our kids do), it’s on us. Government, business and finance can do the dance, (and some progress is being made), but if everyone in the world stopped consuming quite so much the difference would be enormous. It starts with us.
The Rule of Five
So I established some basic rules. I broke the year down into 5 parts, and am allowing myself one purchase for each part. Socks, tights and underwear don’t count, (I mean, basic hygiene). Gifting does count – if you are given something that is one of your five. Renting is allowed, as is swapping and borrowing. Shopping second hand, I’m afraid, is sticky ground. “Second hand shops are a good idea but they are not the main avenue to address the magnitude and urgency of the problem we now have,” says Dr Lewis Akenji, of the Hot or Cool Institute. “There’s room for second hand and donation but this does not tackle the need to reduce consumption and production.” My fellow campaigner Lauren Indvik, fashion editor of the Financial Times, said she was allowing herself 5 new and 4 preloved items. Which sounds about right.
An interesting discovery
The most interesting discovery I have made in my first few months is that I am enjoying fashion more than ever. I am shopping my wardrobe – I had a Prada dress I never wore made into a top I can wear all the time. I rented a couple of coats for the cold spell in February and then, joyously, returned them at the end of the month so they don’t clog up my wardrobe for the rest of the year. I rented a Bottega pouch for a work event and felt quite the fashion queen. Next week I’m holding a swapping party. And the one item I have allowed myself to purchase so far this year? A white shirt. I put so much thought and research into it, that it is now THE perfect white shirt and goes with everything. I think I’ve worn it twenty times already. I love it.
So, if you’re worried about climate, sick of your overcrowded non functioning wardrobe, or just feel like your shopping habits might need a reset, come and join me for the special Noon Earth Day event on April 26th at 1830 at the Rosewood Hotel in London. I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about shopping, and how I have learned a whole new way to be happy – without breaking the bank.
Get your ticket for that HERE and I look forward to seeing you there.
It’s Not Sustainable: a newsletter by Tiffanie Darke.