Why Splurging on Style is Good for People, the Planet & Your Pocket Book

Shopping Splurge - working lookDo you ever feel morally conflicted by environmentalists, social rights advocates and finance gurus who take the fun out of fashion by telling you it’s unsustainable, unethical or imprudent to buy the clothes your heart truly desires?

Well get ready for your daily dose of self-serving validation, because I’m here to tell you the exact opposite. It’s my opinion that buying the premium piece you’re lusting after is GOOD for the planet, GOOD for humanity and may even be good for your wallet (with a small caveat).

Sound too good to be true? Hear me out.

We live in a grossly unsustainable period of fast fashion. Today, the typical American buys hordes of poorly-constructed, chemically saturated clothing and then quickly turns around to throw more than 80 pounds of textiles in the trash each year.

80 pounds.

Per person. 

Per year.

This statistic makes one thing crystal clear: the clothes we’re buying are little more than trash to begin with.

80 lbs of textiles thrown in garbage per person per year

Trashy garments filling up landfills is just the beginning of the problem. Our incessant demand for disposable pieces is depleting natural resources at an alarming rate. The fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, second only to oil. 

Then there’s the humanitarian cost of fast fashion which forces people with limited options to work in unsafe conditions for slave wages. Working conditions can be fatal, as in the Rana Plaza factory collapse where 1,129 people died and another 2,515 people were injured when they were forced to come into work despite signs structural damage to the building.

So what are non-sociopath style-lovers supposed to do?  

As far as I can tell, there are two paths to sustainable shopping: the ethically uncompromising path and the buy less, buy better path.

Let me explain the difference:

The ethically uncompromising path involves researching the manufacturing practices and fabrics of every item prior to purchase. The more you learn about the crimes of fashion, the more disgusted you’ll become until eventually you’re forced to shop only at your local health food store and a half dozen internet-based companies who you’re confident live up to their fair trade promise. Male or female, you will live in $75 bamboo t-shirts and the majority of your wardrobe will be unbleached beige.

You may turn down invitations to the theatre, conferences and weddings because you’re not willing to comprise your deeply entrenched ethics to dress for the occasion (and you can’t afford a couture hemp gown).

I applaud those who take the ethically uncompromising path, but for those who lack the willpower, energy or resources to do so,  I suggest this alternative:

The buy less, buy better path is about getting more joy out of less clothing.  Followers invest in quality over quantity and only buy exceptional pieces they will long love and care for. 

This path doesn’t prohibit you from researching the manufacturing practices of brands or blacklisting the worst offenders. You may still explore consignment shopping, clothing swaps or sustainable brands to become a greener consumer, but the only hard and fast rule is to:

Only buy exceptional pieces you will wear for many seasons.

Small Shopping

Garments you feel this way about will cost more money, but splurging on them is one of the most sustainable options in today’s fashion landscape (with the aforementioned caveat being that you buy less garments overall).

To be splurge-worthy an item must be “exceptional”, however you personally define that, be it a designer label, great materials or your own unique style.

If you make “exceptional” your standard, you’re not going to be persuaded by 2-for-1 sales to buy heaps of textiles you don’t need.

If you make “exceptional” your standard, you won’t buy many pieces that were produced in sweat shops.

If you make “exceptional” your standard, you may save money, because exceptional pieces take time and effort to find, and you won’t be as quick to replace them.

If you make “exceptional” your standard for garments, you won’t throw away 80 lbs of them a year. 

In summary: Buy less and splurge on what you truly love.

It’s sustainable.

7 thoughts on “Why Splurging on Style is Good for People, the Planet & Your Pocket Book

  1. totally agree with you on this! I’ve always loved clothing and have lots of clothes to prove that. However, about 3-4 years ago, I started reading about sustainability, waste, and the effects of fast fashion. I made the conscious effort to shop smart and downsized my closet to a manageable size. I now really look for quality pieces and don’t buy as much. I do buy “cheaper” pieces still, but I make sure to try them on before purchasing and also making sure they work with what I already have in my closet.

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    1. Thanks for the great comment, Laura.

      Although there is some logic in rejecting “cheaper” fashion, I do believe it’s possible to take a more “slow fashion” approach to “fast fashion” by way of purchasing less of it, taking care of it and loving it longer.

      Your method of evaluating how well it works with your current collection is a great example of this.

      “Exceptional” is entirely relative. While it may be high quality materials and (sometimes) designer labels for me, it could be a sequined dress from Forever 21 for someone else. As long you approach the purchase from the perspective of valuing the piece for more than a couple of seasons, the consumer mentality shifts to a much more sustainable model.

      Thanks for the conversation!
      Lesley

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  2. So true! This is what I am working on right now: buy less and high quality. I recently was on the look for a wedding dress, something that I could dress up and down, no matter the price. I tried on a dozen dresses but couldn’t find the one that I really loved or the quality I was supposed to pay for was not there, so I decided not to buy and just use one I already owned. I will only buy clothes that look durable, good quality and that I love. No more compromising, no more impulse buying, no more “grab whatever, it’s an emergency”.
    On the same note, 3 years ago I bought a pair of shoes that were quite expensive (I would’ve normally bought 3-5 pairs for that money) that are impeccable and really comfortable (I was never able to walk more than 30 min in my usual high heels, I danced all night in these more than once)

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    1. Thanks for the great comment, Lifevalueis! Those shoes sound amazing. I’m dying to know … would you be comfortable sharing the brand?

      I admire your steadfast commitment to not buy an inferior dress. Over time, with your buying principles, conundrums like these will be rare because there will likely always be something in your closet that you already really love! While the occasion may open the door for a wardrobe update, we’ll never feel desperate to find something in short order if we already love what we have.
      L

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s an Italian brand, Batta. I am not sure if it’s known (I don’t think it’s too famous in my country:) ) but they have good quality shoes and the price is high for the economy here.

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