Now don’t get me wrong, there were some memorable break-ups even before my year of #nonewclothes.
At 23, I banned Victoria’s Secret 5 for $25 panties…baby steps. At 25, I made a concerted effort to relinquish myself from Forever21, a poster child for fast fashion (in-full transparency, my all time favorite swimsuit is from F21. I bought it two years after the ‘break-up’ and right before a trip).
Mostly, I made slight tweaks like these throughout the years, gradually shifting my fashion dollars from the likes of Old Navy, Gap, H&M, and Zara to what I thought at the time, were more conscious retailers, Madewell, Everlane, and Anthropologie (I’ll need another whole post to talk about why they are not).
My efforts to have a greater social and environmental impact with my purchases, up until now, had been mild at best.
Simmering in my own angst and inspired by Ayesha Barenblat, the founder of Remake, who I heard speak at MCON earlier that year on cultivating a conscious consumer movement, I knew 2017 would be my year of #nonewclothes.
Better understand my desire for new, fresh looks. (i.e. What drove my desire to buy? When did my urge to buy new clothes most often pop up? What was I most drawn to buying?)
Build patience back into my quest for fashion
Get to know my closet again
I was turning 30 that year and when I looked in my closet I only saw remnants of years past, going out tops from nights now way beyond my bedtime, a smattering of bright patterned anything, and mounds of high-waisted pants staring back at me.
Ready to rediscover my fashion voice, impact and style, I dove in.
Set the ground rules
First things first. Every good challenge needs boundaries, so I defined what #nonewclothes meant to me: (1) no new apparel, jewelry or shoes (second hand and consignment were open for business); (2) if I did give in and purchase a new item (because I am not a perfect creature) I was to note why I bought the item, when I bought it and from whom; (3) gifts definitely didn’t count.
I was never going to make it through the year receiving weekly emails with constant sales promotions from Madewell, Refinery29, ModCloth, and TopShop. Unsubscribing was a must.
Finally, resist. For me, the first half of the year was the hardest.
Post-new year mega markdown ads were trolling me, I had four weddings in five months and I “just needed” that new summer look, right?! Plus, January through March was usually when I bought most of my clothes for the year.
My year of not purchasing any new clothes wasn’t perfect, but it was impactful.
Naturally, I had setbacks throughout my first year of no new clothes.
Three runs into 2017 and my knees demanded a new pair of running shoes, so I bought a pair of Nikes. After working with Soko, an amazing ethical jewellery brand, I couldn’t help but nab two new pieces from them and a pair of earrings from one of their partners before my work wrapped in May.
In early August, I just gave in.
With no time to search for second-hand items or swap with my sister (she lives 2–3 business shipping days away and played a key role in me making it through my #nonewclothes year), I did a quick search on Amazon and with one click bought a $20 swimsuit that would arrive the next day. In that moment, while I knew I had “technically” failed my challenge, I also learned something about myself as a consumer.
My excitement for travelling was a very strong driver for shopping — it was as if travelling somewhere new validated purchasing something new.
After August, I stuck to my guns minus one last misstep.
It was December and I was entering Outdoor Voices for the first time under the guise of shopping for my sister’s Christmas present. Caught up in the fun of trying on matching OV Kits with a friend, I spaced out and bought a pair of track pants.
It wasn’t until I got home while showing off my new digs to my boyfriend that I realized, “Oh yeah, I wasn’t supposed to buy this…remember #nonewclothes Sam?!”
By giving myself the time and space to rediscover my closet, I learned what still worked, which clothes I wanted to keep but needed repair, which items were better off with someone else, and which key classics were still missing.
A year might not be the right time frame for you, but if you made it to the end of this article, I challenge you to try #nonewclothes. Whether it’s a year, a season, or a month, use the time to rediscover your closet, your drivers for buying and gift yourself the space to develop your own unique purpose for purchasing. And remember, there is great power in the choices we make with our wallet.
As the Director of Education for Remake, Sam supports a growing community of Remake Ambassadors, individuals working across the fashion industry and in their local communities to make fashion a force for good. She is narrowly focused on empowering the next generation of sustainable fashion and women empowerment advocates.
From TOMS to fair trade to grassroots advocacy, Sam has spent her career at the intersection of social impact and business, knowing full well that without informed, empathetic consumers the fashion industry will not change.
Sam holds a BA in Textile and Apparel Manufacturing from the University of Missouri, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. Alongside Remake, Sam is a managing partner at qb., a purpose-driven consulting firm helping clients create and implement sustainability and diversity and inclusion strategies and communications.