So my year of buying nothing new has begun. Announcing it on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter was my way of publicly committing to the project. (I know like many I have more willpower when I am not working alone). It was surprisingly reassuring to get such a positive response. Some friends want to join me, which is brilliant. A few are already on this road and welcomed me along. Many said it was 'brave', and wished me a lot of luck, as if the temptation to run into Whistles might be too much for me. (It might well be - but let's see. I do hope not). Overall, it felt exciting to finally commit to something I have been thinking about for such a long time.
I want to make clear why I have decided to commit to this simple promise. In general I would say that I am not a bad shopper. I work in fashion and textiles, so what I wear holds huge meaning and pleasure for me. I have never been someone who buys cheap, fast fashion. I just can't take the poor quality fabrics, and the experience in somewhere like Primark leaves me cold. When I was an impoverished teenager, then in my student days, and in my twenties I was an ardent second-hand shopper. Now, at 44, I need a little luxury and quality too, and so my weakness is buying beautiful things that give me a ‘high’.
I tend to look for things that make me feel good about facing challenging social or work situations. For example, last year I bought a lovely navy satin quilted coat from Ghost to give a keynote talk in Hong Kong. I didn't need a new coat. I needed a confidence boost. So I think for me, my year of not buying new has got more to do with working on finding other ways to feel good - to be my best self - and to use the resources and materials I have at hand to express that, rather than purchasing in order to define it.
I am also interested in the idea of time. How little we think we have of it – working full time and a mum is most certainly a challenge – but it's what we do with the little we have that I want to spend this year considering. I find sewing and mending relaxing, but I do so little of it these days as my workload has seeped into my evening routine. However, on Sunday mornings once a month I go through my wardrobe and see what I have for the weeks ahead – anticipating the changes in weather or key diary events. This is time well spent, and as I do it listening to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, it’s one of the nicest hours of my ‘me time’ each month. I want to extend these sessions and see how creative they can become. I am creating a styling wall in the bedroom to give me some proper space to demonstrate to myself the range of looks I have to hand at any given time.
In terms of shopping and purchasing habits, I will not be buying new goods, but I will continue with my interest in the second hand trade. I am lucky to have an Oxfam Boutique, a Mary’s Living and Giving and a brilliant Cancer Research shop in Chiswick, London W4. I am already a regular customer, but this year I am going to scrutinize more closely what I buy, and donate. This market has changed so much in recent years, but what else needs to change to get more people enthusiastic about reusing existing products?
I am sure more questions will emerge week by week, but for now I need to dive in the wardrobe to get dressed for work. (Oh what to wear… what to wear… what to wear…?)