Breaking Up: Fast Shopping and Bad Clothes

A year ago I broke up with Zara. I don't use that term whimsically- I went cold turkey on that store. Living on a budget, in a city, for the better part of the last decade, has meant that this place was my primary source for the clothing that dresses me 70% of my life- workwear. Zara, consistently provided easy access to blouses, pants, skirts... You name it, I bought it there. I approach shopping fairly methodically, the brand fulfilled my top four criteria for brand loyalty:

  1.  On-trend and stylish with consistent classic pieces. 
  2. Well made. It won't fall apart after a year of wash and wear and doesn't require dry cleaning (with some exceptions). 
  3. Reasonably affordable. Regular discounts on merchandise. 

Zara satisfied all of the above. 

So, what made me stop cold-turkey? Over the years I've heard murmurs of Zara owning and promoting bad culture and some rather racist company leanings. I had read about fast-fashion ruining the cycle of the apparel manufacturing industry, but never dove too deep into asking why. Like any semi-informed shopper, I chose the Ignorance- Is- Bliss path because I really loved their clothes and it was convenient. "Where else would I shop? Where else would I get such a seamless blend of style and price point satisfaction?" (I am ashamed to admit that I even chose to ignore the first time I learned of the brand accidentally putting swastikas on some of their merchandise. ) I explained away this single incident but then... Let's just say there are only so many times that a brand, based in Europe, can "accidentally" throw a Star of David or swastika on a garment before it no longer feels like an accident. Sure, a swastika was a symbol of peace long before the Nazis appropriated it BUT Zara is a company based in Europe. Zara's design and manufacturing headquarters are based in Europe. In Europe that symbol only means one thing.

My habit continued until Summer of last year when I saw this article and it rocked my Zara-addicted world. Further research blew me away with allegations and proof surrounding everything that would usually make me get on a soapbox: racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, racial profiling, the list goes on and on. So, as someone who in my personal life disavows any of the above, I could not continue to support a company that time after time has demonstrated a hierarchical, deeply rooted, culture of hate. To continue shopping at Zara would mean I was a full blown hypocrite (along the lines of the many semi-professed Peace Corps activists I know who regularly use cocaine). I quit cold turkey. 

You say, "So what?". Big deal, there are tons of other brands, stores, etc. Once I quit Zara I started doing research on all the other merchants I often turned to for a quick fashion fix. I read about how the world of fast-fashion impacts not only the fashion industry but our culture as a whole. According to The Guardian, "You now demand roughly four times the number of clothes you would have in 1980." If you're interested and have Google, there's a world of information on the subject available. I'm not writing this to preach to you about where you should or shouldn't shop, so I'm not going to repost a lot of them here. What I will tell you is that I made a choice to fundamentally change my approach to how I consume clothing. 

Before I decided to get informed or do any reading on the subject buying clothes for me was what is commonly called "retail therapy" : Bad day? Shopping. Good day? Pop in and buy something cute. Medium day? Probably need a new t-shirt or that pair of pants I saw in the window of H&M. (No wonder when I was packing up for NYC last summer, I discovered that 90% of my wardrobe was never worn.) I donated or gave away a lot, but even then I was left with boxes and boxes of clothes (I don't even have an actual shopping addiction!).

According to studies I fall into the totally normal consumer behavior model. Impulse shopping, constantly acquiring, that's the norm now. Again, I'm not saying this is bad. Every person has the right to approach this issue in their own way. Just like I'll never preach purchasing exclusively organic food, I will never tell you where/how to spend YOUR money. For myself though, I wanted to make a habit shift in how I consumed clothes. I decided to like everything I own and not own things just to own them. I want my clothes to feel as special to me as my food does, or as decor in my home does. I would never just throw something on my bookshelves- why was I being so careless with my closet?

I made an immediate change. There are countless tutorials online for how to clean out your closet and edit your wardrobe. Although certain tutorials- like creating a capsule wardrobe really appeal to me, I know they aren't realistic. They resemble the "only make pie crust and brownies from scratch" people of the world. Capsule collections don't allow for much color and pattern and I need both of these things to lead my best life. (Also, boxed brownies are damn good and fast. Sometimes you need fast brownies.)

The reality is that sometimes I don't have the time to read endless guides and blogger tutorials. Also, trends like capsule wardrobes don't always work for someone living on a budget and required to attend more than three kinds of events in life (i.e.; brunch, coffee shop, Brooklyn park, tech start-up clothes). So, to save myself time and stress I developed my own system for how to edit my closet and love my clothes.

Next week- my quick and dirty guide for editing your wardrobe and starting the transition away from fast shopping and bad clothes. 

*photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/40646519@N00/26273183520">Motorcycles At Zara</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>