MADELEINE HEATH - Designer and Textile Artist
A blog dedicated to initiating a more inclusive conversation around sustainability
March 1st, 2021
Practicing mindfulness isn't just a sustainable solution for your mind, but also your wardrobe
The need for change when it comes to the sheer volume of textile waste produced both by industry and consumers is imminent. I remember working with the London Sustainability Exchange back in 2017 and learning that as an individual we produce 3.1kg of textile waste - translating into 21 t-shirts - on average, each year! And with each year since I have witnessed industry make new nonsense promises and focus has diverted to slow fashion being the way forward; and while slow fashion is critical it is a longterm solution and the need for a considered industry is urgent. As consumers we can be that faster solution by practicing mindfulness through thoughtful shopping and slow consumerism.
We have already acknowledged that transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle isn't as simple in reality as it is to say - or read - but transitioning to mindful shopping is one of the simplest things we can all practice. It doesn’t mean transitioning to solely mindful outlets - such as sustainable brands or second hand shops - it means stopping and questioning your intentions. If we all stopped and questioned the longevity of a garment within our personal wardrobe and evaluated the durability in relation to personal need, our individual level of textile waste accrued each year would be drastically diminished.
We can all remember being a teenager and our major influencers were our friends and we would intentionally acquire the same clothing as them, only to find we never wore them because, lo and behold, garments didn't fit us the same or their style didn't really fit in with our developing sense of self. My sister and I growing up were the definition of opposites and yet we aspired to be one another - the cover photo being an exaggerated example of this. I wanted her effortlessly sleek, monochrome aesthetic and she desired to intersperse her wardrobe with colour and not hesitate to leave the house in a floral dress in the middle of October. We’d go shopping together and acquire something more in keeping with the other’s wardrobe and eventually the item would naturally work its way into the other’s wardrobe - where it most probably belonged all along.
With age our influence has diverted away from our friends to the pressures of society. We no longer hesitate in complimenting our friends fashion choices while simultaneously recognising it wouldn't look the same on us - due to naturally different body shapes as well as personal ‘style’ - so we no longer actively seek to follow our peers. However what we haven't come to recognise is that this conformity to influence has just been redirected and we instead follow trends. We see what is ‘in’ on someone totally different to ourselves on social media or through the glossy sheen of a magazine, but the recognition of self is no longer relevant. So in summer we fill our wardrobes with floral motifs and the latest shades of pink, when in reality you might gravitate towards black; hence the common dilemma, nothing goes or even if it does, now in the backdrop of our natural environment it looks absurd. My sister and I still dress very differently - with the occasional item overlapping, which is great as its like doing ‘rent your wardrobe’ without the fee. We still appreciate the other’s wardrobe but have a sense of pride when it comes to the differences that form our personal style. But how do we attain this personal pride when we come face to face with trends pushed by society?
This is when the notion of mindfulness comes into play. Mindfulness has been brought to the awareness of us all, especially in the current climate we find ourselves in, where sustaining our mental well-being has become all the more important. The varying steps or pillars to mindfulness can be manipulated to become relevant to implement mindful consumerism.
1. Begin by stopping what your doing - I tend to go for lunch during this point of a shopping trip, a different and distracting environment to reflect
2. This might involve putting down your phone or
laptop, particularly during our current situation
3. Focus on your own being. This may be physically (you know your body, evaluate whether this particular item will look the way you desire - I am 4ft11 and I have learnt with time to walk away from anything with maxi in the name, no matter how it looks on the shop floor). It could be focusing on your mental being (are you emotionally shopping? We all do it and there is
no shame in doing it but be aware of it) or it may
be in terms of identity (as said earlier if you don't
wear colour don't take this as the time to
reinvent yourself, embrace your style - you’ll
find your own style far more exciting this way
than trying to deny it)
4. Bring your thoughts back to centre - away from
desires, pressures or even impulses
5. Evaluate the item before you with this awareness
6. Make a commitment - make what is now a
considered purchase or listen to this awareness
and commit to not purchasing
Now I’m aware that by translating mindful shopping literally into steps like practicing mindfulness can make this article a little preachy but if you trust in the intention, you’ll witness spontaneous purchases become considered ones. Something which your wallet, wardrobe and planet will be grateful for. To reiterate, becoming a mindful consumer (as with anything in sustainability) isn’t as easy as 6 steps - I keep struggling at step 3 as I’m on occasion an emotional shopper - but implementing mindfulness when it comes to shopping is something we can all do, and something we all must do. As long as we are consistently shopping with the same mindset it doesn't matter how much organic cotton or second hand items you buy, you’ll be producing waste at the same rate. Resulting in that beautifully grown organic cotton garment simply replacing a thrifted item and your second hand item being potentially redirected to landfill. Next time we find ourselves tempted by a garment we can simply Stop. Focus, evaluate and commit.