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Contrary to what Gwyneth Paltrow might have you think, you don’t need a bank account the size of Gringotts to be a conscious consumer. When it comes to cultivating a more mindful closet, less, as they say, is more. Don’t believe us? Check with the experts. Here’s the best advice we’ve heard from some of the people who know best, from legendary British designer Vivienne Westwood to the head of the Catholic Church.
1. CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Vivienne Westwood has a simple mantra: Buy less, choose well, and make it last. “I really do think that people should exercise choice and not just consume without thought—sucking up stuff all the time, one thing after another,” she told the Metro in 2012.
Maxine Bédat, co-founder of ethical e-tailer Zady, shared a similar sentiment. “When you go to make a purchase, take a look at the product and ask yourself: ‘am I being cheated?’ If a product from a ‘fast fashion’ chain is falling apart before you’ve even bought it, it’s not a deal,” she told Fortune in April 2015. “It’s the fast-fashion company trying to get you to buy something that is quick on trend but slow on quality.”
2. BUY VINTAGE
“Then there’s buying vintage where you might know a garment’s story. … You get a richer story if you buy vintage,” Carry Somers, designer of Pachacuti and co-founder of Fashion Revolution, told the Sentinel in October 2015. “You can appreciate your clothes more if you don’t look at them like something disposable you’re going to get rid of.”
3. BUY LESS
People need to learn how to buy fewer things, Jill Dumain, director of environmental strategy at Patagonia, told CBS News last November. “A lot of the horrific accidents [in overseas garment factories] are because every penny is squeezed out of every garment,” she said. “Something has to give. Something has to fundamentally shift in the consumption world that reduces the pressure on the raw materials, which reduces pressure on the planet and reduces the pressure on the people who make all this stuff all over the world.”
4. VALUE PEOPLE OVER POSSESSIONS
Speaking at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr., emphasized the need to shift from a “thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” He added: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
5. DON’T ACCUMULATE USELESS THINGS
In 1970, Go Tell It on the Mountain author James Baldwin told cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead that people are “drowning in things.” He complained: “They don’t even know what they want them for. They are actually useless.”
6. ONLY BUY THINGS YOU LOVE
7. WEAR YOUR CLOTHING MULTIPLE TIMES
Green Carpet Challenge co-founder Livia Firth encourages people to wear every item of clothing they buy at least 30 times. “Queen of Upcycling” Orsola de Castro, who co-founded Fashion Revolution with Carry Somers, says that wearing something once “misses the point” of what fashion is all about. “Fashion is about loving clothes, and style is the ability to be effortlessly comfortable in your own beautiful skin,” she told the Telegraph last year. “Nothing beats a trusted old something, restyled to look fresh.”
Photo by Kris Atomic/Unplash
8. LEARN TO SEW
“It’s a really good way to tune into your own inherent value system and your own creativity,” Clara Vuletich, a textile designer and sustainability strategist, said at TEDxSydney. “We all have it in us. We’ve just lost that touch with our clothing and fabric.”
9. REPAIR, NOT REPLACE
We live in a culture where replacement is king, Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, said in a a guest post in December.
“[The] Timbuk2 Life Cycle [program] is the most responsible thing we can do environmentally—extend the life of our existing products—and we are both passionate and proud of the reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, and reimagine aspects of the program,” she added.
“Let’s behave like owners, not consumers, and repair rather than inflict something new on the planet if we don’t truly need it,” she said. “Let’s always celebrate the effort of trying to fix something.”
10. DID WE MENTION BUY LESS?
Patti Cazzato of Timbuk2 says that the brand’s goal is to have zero of its bags go to the landfill. “That means we need to encourage our customers to buy less and to buy better,” she told Ecouterre last year.
11. BE AWARE THAT SHOPPING IS A MORAL ACT
“Every person ought to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral—and not simply an economic—act,” said Pope Francis in his 2015 New Year’s Day address.
“I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others.”
12. IT’S ALSO A FEMINIST ACT
“Because so many women design and make the clothes we wear, it’s primarily the working conditions of women that are affected by the decisions we make,” she added.