lifestyle

The questions you need to ask before handing over your credit card.

Ethical shopping
Ethical shopping.

By ANGELA D’ALTON

Australians collectively spend over $6 million a year on fashion items that end in landfill.

During a recent trip to New York I purchased a pair of boots from a Brooklyn store that have a lifetime warranty. If I ever have a problem with my boots, the store will provide me with a replacement pair.

That’s not only exceptional customer service, but that’s a belief in the product and an effort to not contribute further to an ever increasing landfill problem created by thoughtless consumption.

Conscious consumption is rare in our consumer driven society, especially when the mass produced fashion industry survives on the fickle marketing of trends, begging consumers to engage in a cycle of buying and discarding.  Conscious consumption is about consciously expressing your individuality and not buying into trends created by marketing.

Second-hand treasures at Bondi Markets.

Using vintage or pre-loved pieces, mixed with handmade items you can find from the makers at markets, or online through market places such as Etsy, supports a new economy that isn’t based on disposability.

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Plus, as a consumer, you are re-affirming traditional commercial connections within the community that have been lost since the industrial revolution and post-war consumerism took full effect.

I was born in the early part of 1973 and brought up by, at the time, young semi-bougie, pseudo-hippy Baby Boomer parents – the ultimate consumers. My father worked for fashion brand Levi, then for Amco and Wrangler (when jeans were made in both Sydney and Adelaide) and at one time we even had our own jeans shop. I was the first kid in Australia to own a pair of toddler sized Levi jeans, thereby cementing my interest in fashion.

After school, I bought into the corporate world, even though I had dreamed of a far more creative inner-west bohemian life. After leaving home I needed luxuries such as food and shelter, so I silenced my creative side and earned money during the technology boom. I spent all my newly earned money on fashion, including expensive investment pieces and cheaper disposable fashion, but I eventually hit a wall of depression and anxiety, dissatisfied with life that no amount of clothing could fix.

Shopping regret.

During that period the dialogue about climate change was increasing and I was exposed to the many ways in which clothing manufacturing was contributing to environmental and cultural degradation. I sadly realised that I was part of the cycle.

I therefore set out to change my ways by starting my own business, Leeloo, combining my interest in fashion, design and market shopping, with my new found respect for the planet.

The business supported young Australian artists and designers and shone a light on the manufacturing process, giving each product a quality lineage, plus it provided a sense of community by providing dialogue between the buyer and maker. It promoted conscious consumption.

Today when I purchase, I ask the hard questions;  is it something I really want or need, something that I’ve thought about, something that has value?  When I need something new for myself or my household, I think about whether or not there’s a hand-me-down from family or friends,  a bargain that I can pick up from Reverse Garbage, explore the kerb, a garage sale, buy from the local charity store or indeed locate a suitable handmade alternative.

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Be a conscious consumer.

If we examine purchasing habits and decide whether things are a need or a want, we make purchasing decisions from a different point of view.  Instead of buying to replace with the latest shinier version, take a moment to think about the life span of that purchase, as most purchases will outlive the human race.

There’s also a lot to be said for avoiding the trappings of greed associated with the rampant consumerism we are conditioned to by advertising and marketing – allow your conscious consumption to outlast any piece of clothing and let’s make that the new trend.

angela

Angela D’Alton is the Communications Manager for Garage Sale Trail, the former community manager for Etsy and advocate for conscious consumption. This is an excerpt from a speech delivered at The Sydney Jewish Museum, as part of the More Dash, Less Trash Dressing Sydney program of events. The next debate Does The Media Fashion Fashion? is on June 26. To book call 02 9360 7999.

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