Did we just press cancel on the age of mindless over-consumption?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pre COVID-19 world and how so many of our ways of doing and being have abruptly changed. ⁠

⁠Where once so many people were ravenous consumers, almost overnight we are reviewing our habits and, in many cases, realising that our over-consumption is causing great damage to ourselves, our fellow humans and our planet. ⁠

It might be too early to call but I think we’re leaving the age of mindless over-consumption behind. And while this opportunity for a reset has admittedly been forced upon us, I have faith that the positive outcomes will stick.

Prior to COVID-19, the fashion consumer mindset was already undergoing a shift in how organisations and brands should address the questions of sustainability, transparency and ethics in their production and supply processes. There was an ever-growing distaste of waste and the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013, which cut short the lives of 1,134 garment workers and injured more than 2,500, brought worldwide attention to death trap workplaces within the apparel industry.

Following this tragedy, efforts to improve the conditions of workers have been accelerated and some brands have taken positive steps towards improving the safety of the supply chain.  Many, however, still flounder in working out the fine balance between making a buck (or a trillion) and looking after people and planet.

The need to progress this is still pressing.

COVID-19 is a terrible beast. No arguments there. But with it, comes opportunity for massive transformation of how we do things.

What will this look like for the business of fashion?*

And as consumers, how will COVID-19 change our buying habits?

The big question being asked is whether the virus will be a catalyst that will shock the fashion industry (designer and high street) and consumers into change?

While the beginning of the pandemic revealed a hideously unattractive side to our collective consumption power (understandably based in fear for many people), it also taught us that we simply don’t need what we previously thought we did.

Editor-at-Large of the Business of Fashion, Tim Blanks suggests that “The habits, preferences and sentiment of shoppers will change — are changing already — and this is only the beginning.

Similarly, those in the know at KPMG agree “Another change we can expect to see will be a shift in consumerism. Our collective current experiences will affect how people think about money and material goods, and how people live and shop. The current state of physical distancing is highlighting for many the value of community and connection to our environment. Consumers will have a renewed focus on health and wellbeing, family time and improving their home environment and will expect retailers to provide all these things at a value price point, sustainably and responsibly.

I am reminded of the phrase used by an older and perhaps wiser generation “waste not, want not”, which essentially means that if we use what we have carefully and without extravagance, we will never be in need of anything.

This sentiment suddenly rings true for many items that we consume every day. Let’s focus on the ones that I know a bit about. The clothes.

We’ve all heard the excruciating cliché “a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear”.

Annoying? No doubt about it. Lived experience of many of the women I work with? No doubt about it.

What this anguished cry really means is that this woman has a ‘wardrobe that wants’ and what she actually needs is a ‘wardrobe that works’. Waste not, want not and all that.

A wardrobe that wants is one that has been built without enough care and attention to the precise style needs of that woman. It doesn’t align with her Style Intention (mindset) or Style Identity (message) and it hasn’t a skerrick (what a word) of Style Implementation (method) (more on all of this in a later blog).

As a result, her wardrobe and style are left seriously wanting and wasteful. It is over-filled with items ‘bought without thought’ or that were coveted but not cherished. She often experiences an unrelenting need to shop for something shiny and new. A fashion fixer. Something that will magically transform her cluttered collection of clothing into her forever after wardrobe.

Not gonna happen. The fixer doesn’t exist.

Alas, the wanting remains. Even after the shiny new something has taken up residence in her wardrobe. Possibly with tags still on. Probably forever. So much for no waste.

Without taking the proper time and energy (no shortcuts allowed) to work out your mindset, message and method, the underlying symptoms of waste, want and the soul and style destroying need to consume more and more will persist.

Striking the balance between achieving a wardrobe that wants and a wardrobe that works can be challenging. And it also very doable.

A good place to start is by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How can I use this current opportunity to take a closer look at my own buying habits?
  • What are my clothes shopping needs and wants?
  • What are my consumption triggers?
  • Am I endlessly pursuing clothes and accessories? Why?
  • How can I ensure that I walk away from this experience more focused on building a style and wardrobe that will serve me in the long term?
  • Do I even want to?

If the answer is yes, I’ve got you covered. Curating a more conscious style is something that I always do with my clients and now more than ever I understand its truest value.

And just because I can’t be hands on during this time of physical distancing, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to serve up my insights and practices for breaking unhelpful style, shopping and wardrobe patterns to show you how you can achieve a lighter, less wanting and more elevated dressing experience.

And maybe even help improve our world in one small way.

*While I don’t have any answers yet, I’m doing a heck of a lot of reading about it. Awareness first. It also deserves a complete analysis in its own right. Well the geek in me thinks it does anyway, and I’ll be working on this in the weeks to come.

I’m Nicole, and I’m a personal stylist obsessed with helping women in business and corporate roles to experience effortless, stylish dressing, allowing them to stand out for all the right reasons. I bring strategy, solutions and expertise to my clients. I fully understand the challenges women face when trying to achieve a wardrobe that actually works and I take the pain out of shopping for clothes and deciding what to wear. I transform something that feels fraught and complex into a streamlined solution expertly tailored to you.

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