I wish I could tell you I have always been this passionate about sustainable fashion. However, until I had my own ah-ha moments, I truly didn't know what I didn't know...
I grew up as an unstoppable extrovert on a Saskatchewan farm that was far away from anyone else.
I would ride my bike around our Saskatchewan farmyard with the Sears Catalogue under my arm. I would stop and talk to the flower barrels, the trees, and the dog and consult them on the latest looks that they should be going with for the upcoming season.
From the time I was able to interact with the world, it became very clear that I loved three things: people, purpose, and fashion.
For many years, those three things were somehow not fully connected for me. I loved people so I always chose career paths that would allow me to be around them. I loved purpose so I eventually started a charity that has accomplished great things around the world to help make lives better and safer.
But always, my love for fashion was a conflicting pull for me.
After all, I worked with the poor all over the world. In light of what I did, I somehow felt guilty loving something so temporary as fashion. Part of me felt shallow for my secret love affair with clothes, shoes, and accessories.
For many years, I was also incapable of seeing the connection that my choices could make in the most unexpected ways.
- A cheap pair of jeans were an item to start a conversation with, not a cause for concern
- A synthetic material that happened to have a print on it and be on sale was simply an item to be obtained.
- Shopping should be about getting the greatest number of items for the lowest possible price - shouldn’t it?
After all, I would tell myself, at least I am being a good steward of my money. If I shop for the lowest prices I should feel proud of myself, right?
But eventually, things started to take on a different significance for me. In fact, I clearly remember the first time I stopped and questioned the global supply chain.
I had bought a pair of funky pleather boots in a cheap shop in the fashion district. Two days after I brought them home, I opened up the closet and the smell of chemicals overwhelmed me. Clearly, there were some other secrets these boots were harboring behind their unbelievably low price tag.
I stared at those boots and asked myself if this is the end product, what happens to the people that are working with these chemicals day after day?
The answer that my better self was telling me was unnerving and I couldn’t bring myself to wear those boots more than once. They made their way to a used clothing depot without regret.
For the record, these are not easy words to put down and have staring back at me. It would be so much nicer if I could just tell you that I have always been clear on how to live sustainably and be proud of my choices.
But like you, I am a work in progress.
We all hang on to a level of cognitive dissonance when it’s convenient. We all have times of doubting if our choices matter in the little things.
And because we doubt, we are tempted to subtly push down the questions. Life is difficult enough at times, why complicate it with the little things that seem so far away from our day to day life?
But little things matter.
There is a path we can each take to be able to sleep with our choices, one by one. We can each decide what we want our story to be about.
It’s not a call to restrictions, it’s a call to freedom.
Learning to question where my clothes and fashion items come from has freed me up in so many ways.
- I feel more authentic in my humanitarian work and interests because I know I am part of a solution to help provide a more equitable world
- I have the most amazing conversations with my own daughter as I watch her begin to see the power her choices have to affect the future
- As I work to learn and grow, I keep on meeting the most beautiful people, day after day. Good things attract good people. (Hint: if you are reading this, you are one of the good guys)
- I feel free to love fashion AND people.
And that feels...well...good :)
Choosing quality over quantity has given me a deep appreciation for every minute I am here on this earth. I love this life and I am infused with a passion to help make this world one that is a reflection of what you and I value: love and kindness.
There is a way we can all choose. I am choosing to start with the story behind what I own and what I can do to build an equitable world that even my daughter’s kids can enjoy.
What do you want your story to be about?