In 2021, I challenged my community to take on the #nonewclothes challenge. The #nonewclothes challenge challenges people to not buy any new fashion for 90 days, some for a year.
The goal of the #nonewclothes movement is 2 prong: It intends to educate people about the destructive impact that mass production of new fashion (especially fast fashion) has on people and the planet. With this awareness, it intends to help people rethink their choices and actions in how and what fashion they consume.
Last year, I started the challenge because even I, as the owner of a secondhand brand, wanted to fine-tune how I was shopping for fashion. I invited my community to take the challenge on too.
Dr. Aisha Mays, an Oakland-based adolescent medicine physician and founder of Dream Youth Clinics, did just that. Here are 7 things she wants you to know about the #nonewclothes challenge.
You become a purposeful shopper
I love the style and the story that used clothes tell. As a person who loves the experience of shopping, I have felt discomfort with the overconsumption, overspending, and waste that goes hand in hand with shopping. Even with used and vintage clothes, we can still be impulsive and buy too much. I’ve had to work to unlearn many of those wasteful shopping habits and retrain myself to shop with more purpose.
Purposeful shopping is a journey. When I read LaliSimone’s blog post, it resonated with me. It was about taking the #NoNewClothes challenge to celebrate fashion and take a stand against its destructive effects. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do to strengthen my commitment to responsible buying and resist overconsumption.
Stop old habits. Begin new ones.
My first approach to not buying new was to refrain from window shopping for new clothes both online and IRL. I had to make an effort to shift to only browsing pre-loved and vintage clothes. Once I truly made that shift, the entire process felt easier and more enjoyable.
It was of utmost importance to continue supporting and publicly highlighting some of my beloved local small business boutiques that sell responsibly sourced, BIPOC-centered new fashion. I believe their approach to fashion is integral to the #NoNewClothes movement as well. That’s why I continued to patronize local BIPOC and allied businesses that sold new sustainable items for undergarments and swimwear.
The Master Plan: Go with the flow
I didn’t have a detailed plan on how I was going to do the #nonewclothes challenge. I just knew that I wanted to have fun with it. Also, having a community of support helps me stay on track.
It wanted to chronicle this experience on Instagram where I connect with other creative folks. I wanted to inspire others on how to do #NoNewClothes. I shared photos of outfits I styled with all secondhand clothes. I connected the looks to a metaphor for life – a reminder that often what we wear is about so much more than the external look; it’s really a way for us to communicate something to the world.
The challenges of the #nonewclothes challenge
Buying shoes and undergarments has been a challenge. As a diehard fan of clogs, one of my favorite pastimes was browsing my favorite clog designers’ latest collections to score a new pair of clogs. But that changed.
So I have chosen not to buy any new shoes this year.
Regarding undergarments and swimwear, I took a different approach and discovered many new brands with whom I share the same fashion ethical principles. It also allowed me to buy from some of my favorite local new clothes boutiques that now carry sustainable items.
The easy parts of the challenge
To start I just had to commit! I knew that it would be a challenge because I love buying clothes. I knew that in order for me to stick to it, I had to know exactly why I was doing it. I chose my birthday because I intentionally celebrate it every year. This solidified the importance of this challenge and my commitment to it.
So I started with shopping my own wardrobe! I have lots of clothes and accessories. Rather than going out to shop secondhand that was new to me, I decided to shift my focus to ‘shopping my own closet’. I started wearing pieces that I hadn’t worn in years. There were many things that I forgot that I had. I also rediscovered my appreciation for pieces that I had tagged to give away or sell. It felt like a wardrobe refresh that inspired me to wear my own clothes in new ways.
Shop your favorite brands and discover new ones
I intentionally made a list of my favorite second hand and vintage shops to remind myself that I could still shop (and do a bit of virtual window shopping, too). I continued to go to the flea markets. When I was traveling, I made it a point to visit consignment and vintage shops to check out fashions in other areas.
On social media, I was introduced to more secondhand and vintage boutiques through Instagram Live events and virtual pop-ups. A major highlight was learning about more Black-owned vintage and pre-loved fashion brands across the country.
It is worth it!
This experience has made me a much more purposeful and intentional shopper. I used to do more impulsive buying. I didn’t really enjoy that, but I found that I just couldn’t help it. That practice felt unhealthy for me.
The #NoNewClothes challenge has changed that for me. Because I am not buying new, I completely stopped that practice. When I did shop, it felt much healthier.
I also can’t overemphasize how much money I’ve saved through intentional shopping of preloved fashion. With the money I’ve saved, I have been able to travel more, support art events and other experiences that celebrate life – which deepen my love of fashion.
Starting the #nonewfashion can open up your world to a whole new way of shopping, style and creativity. More importantly, it's a way to become a practitioner of conscious consumerism that is healthy for the planet and people.
If you're interested in starting the challenge and being featured, please message LaliSimone at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this blog is also featured on Gem.App
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