A guide to conscious consumption: Part three
Consumption is an essential part of our lives. It is our nature as humans to consume that which helps us navigate a constantly evolving world, it also supports a process of personal refinement towards an improved self. But in a time where our lives have been made easier, streamlined by tools and technology, our brains lack the stimulation of complex daily issues, and with this additional time we search for stimulation elsewhere...
My journey into conscious consumption actually began in 2015 after participating in a workshop hosted by students on the MA Fashion Futures course at UAL, which focused on creative solutions for sustainability in the fashion industry. This was thinking not just about how we could better produce a physical product as designers, but how we could potentially find a way to better consume fashion without creating anything new at all.
Today in part three of my exploration of conscious consumption, I'll be discussing alternate ways in which we can consume fashion in tune with our motivations, whilst lessening our negative impact. These introductory ideas are not exhaustive, I hope they actually excite you to develop upon these and your own ideas - we need the creativity of many people!
Our current culture champions speed, and our ability to have the world at our fingertips; we're now used to this ultra efficiency, all so busy with the bustle of everyday life that with a few clicks online we're now able to have something delivered to us within a few hours if we choose. This condensed experience is removing us from the full stimulus and value we could gain from an experience - a sort of numbing and unsatisfactory experience which leads us to seek more and more.
A key element of conscious consumption is being fully mindful in the act of purchasing; mindfulness allows us to fully process an experience, tune into how we feel and ultimately gain higher satisfaction from it. We can create a mindful experience by slowing down, observing, savouring and immersing ourselves within the full process (consuming or everyday tasks). By taking this additional care, inputting a higher level of effort, we're more likely to attach a higher value to an experience and get more out of it for longer.
We live in a time of increased digital dependency which connects us globally, opening a huge pool of information (and potential overstimulation), but immersing ourselves within a physical experience allows us to connect to reality in a tangible way; searching for stimulus in offline experiences - travel, viewing or creating art, attending events, discussions, spending time in nature, visiting physical stores and spaces. If a human motivation to consume is to reflect and project our individual choices, we can do so through being mindfully present within these places we feel reflect ourselves, tuning into the experience of being there as ourselves as a form of enjoyment, satisfaction and wellbeing away from material goods.
Consumption is a way to process and interreact with an evolving world, through the intake of new information. The consumption of fashion through information (image and word) is not new - magazines, exhibitions, editorials, blogs, books, podcasts are forms of knowledge and insight about fashion which can curb our need of a physical product. Finding insightful, healthy sources of inspiration that resonates with you, will expand your knowledge and is a great way of serving the need to consume.
Speaking to our progressive selves, the regeneration of our image is a constant; when our inner world develops we want our physical world to reflect this, so the shedding of items that no longer represent that image occurs and causes waste. The idea behind circular fashion is one that encourages a resource to be endlessly used through reuse, repair, repurpose, reclaim, recycle and regeneration. Circular design can be adopted at the design stage, but a few very simple ways in which we as consumers can participate in circular fashion are:
Learning to care properly for the items we already own
Mending, altering, transforming and upcycling the items we already own
Purchasing second hand goods in place of new items
Purchasing goods made from recycled materials in place of virgin materials
Responsibly disposing of items through repurpose, resale, donation or recycling
Speaking again to our progressive self motivation, the use of creativity is an essential tool in problem solving, wellbeing and sense of self. Taking up a hobby or craft is a source of learning, entertainment, and fulfillment - gained from creating something with your own hands. Creativity is also an essential part of consuming in a more considered way, it can sometimes take creativity to find a way to do so, and it's this process that can spark joy for us hopefully displacing the need for more 'stuff'. A few crafts you could engage with could be sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, natural dying print or jewellery making - you could even expand this into homeware such as pottery, quilting or candle making and room fragrance!
So hopefully this entry has sparked a little creativity inside you!. Two resources I used whilst writing this entry - 'Loved clothes last' issue 2 of Fashion Revolutions zine, and the book 'Emotionally Durable Design' by Johnathan Chapman - both interesting reads I would recommend if you would like o take this further. As always please share your thoughts, ideas and comments with me below, or by email. xo