We live in a world where fast fashion brands are trying every trick in the book to get us to buy more, more, more.
As fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell unpacks in a Conscious Style podcast episode on the psychology behind fashion consumption, these tricks include everything from the tempo of in-store music, the layout and colors inside a store, sales and markdowns, loyalty cards, frequent mailers with constantly changing deals, targeted advertisements, and persuasive social media campaigns pushing the latest trends. We are up against a lot when it comes to resisting the temptation to over consume.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself: How would my relationship with fashion and consumption shift if I stopped shopping?
With the rise in popularity of “No New Clothes” challenges, more people are beginning to seek answers to this question.
What is a “No New Clothes” Challenge?
As the name suggests, a “No New Clothes” Challenge is a conscious decision to press pause on your shopping habits for a set period and refrain from buying anything new.
There are different names for these challenges, including “No Buy” and “No New Clothes”, and different lengths too. Some people refrain from buying new for a month, others for a year, and some people start the challenge and never go back to buying new!
While there are many reasons for taking these challenges, in the slow fashion community they have become an important practice for slowing down and reflecting on how to create a kinder fashion system in practice.
How Can No New Clothes Challenges Help Heal Our Relationship With Fashion?
As Liz Ricketts shared in a Wardrobe Crisis podcast episode, one of the most radical things we can do in this fashion system of overconsumption and greed is to work on healing our own relationship with fashion and move away from defining ourselves as “consumers”. This is exactly what no buy challenges aim to help us achieve.
When you press pause on buying new, you can take a step back and reflect on your consumption habits and the reasons why you consume. Taking the time to see past the fashion industry’s omnipresent marketing schemes will allow you to be more intentional in your fashion and style journey.
And just because you aren’t buying new doesn’t mean you can’t still be a fashionista! These challenges will allow you to discover different ways of getting creative with your fashion sense beyond buying into the latest trends.
This could include attending or hosting a clothing swap, giving clothing rental a try, supporting a local tailor who can help you to get more wear out of your clothes, or learning to shop your closet and become a proud outfit repeater.
In the process you’ll be reducing your fashion impact by lowering your carbon footprint and limiting your waste. And — if fast fashion was your go-to — you’ll be keeping your dollars away from extractive corporations that actively disregard their impacts on people and the planet.
Of course fashion is an important part of our lives for so many different reasons. But there is also so much power in redefining our relationship with fashion as personal, intentional, and unique.
It’s OK For “No New Clothes” Challenges To Look Different For Everyone
There are many reasons people embark on these challenges. Some people use them as a way to save money. “This was something I agreed to do with my daughter as a way to help her save money for college. We both agreed not to buy any new clothing for one year,” says Melanie Hanson, the Editor in Chief of EDI Refinance.
Others use these challenges as a way to break addictive shopping patterns. “I was one of those people who would buy something every time I went to the store or shopping mall. It was an unhealthy habit that I needed to kick to the curb,” says Mimi Paul, a Digital Marketer at Starkflow.
It can also be seen as an opportunity to reconnect with the clothes you already have. “When the pandemic started, I began buying a ton of clothes from online retailers. Most of what I purchased was not of any long-lasting quality. I started to notice the difference and realized that much of what I was purchasing was worn once and then put into my closet to collect dust. At some point I decided that I needed to take a step back and learn how to style the clothes I already have,” says Grace Baena, the Director of Brand at Kaiyo.
Some people want to actively take a stand against the unsustainable speed and harms of the fast fashion industry. “I tried this challenge because I was working at a secondhand store in my college town and I saw how quickly people seemed to cycle through their clothes and then turn around and buy more. I am all for secondhand shopping, but I saw how consignment stores were fueling fast fashion by allowing people to make money off of clothes they had only worn once or twice. I decided to take a break from shopping for a few months so that I could think more critically about my reasons for purchasing something,” says Ellie Glass from Brooklyn, New York.
Everyone has a different reason for trying these challenges so they’ll look different from person to person.
Some people refrain from buying entirely. Whereas, some people choose to still buy secondhand. “I interpret the challenge as buying as little as possible, nothing new, and sometimes at thrift or vintage shops,” says Remake Ambassador and Community Organizer Emily Henry.
And others may choose to support small businesses, but only as gifts for their nearest and dearest. The rules are yours to set.
These challenges are not meant to be overly prescriptive and rule-based. There is no “right” and “wrong” way. Rather, they are an encouragement for anyone curious to give them a try and learn their lessons from their unique experience.
Regardless of whether you identify as a sustainable fashion enthusiast or not, the lessons that come out of these challenges are often important revelations about fashion consumption and the need to be a more intentional consumer.
A Few Lessons Learned From No New Clothes Challenges
Since these challenges look different for everyone, everyone also learns different lessons. So we asked different people to share their lessons and experiences with us. Here’s what they learned:
Shopping your own wardrobe and creative restyling can spark joy
“I learned different ways to style my clothes and it suddenly felt like I had a completely different wardrobe. So many new options opened up for me and I didn’t have to spend a dime,” says Grace Baena.
“It’s a great opportunity to ‘shop’ from my own wardrobe and give new life to clothes that I haven’t touched in a while. It helps me be more creative with my outfits and have fun with clothes that I already own,” says Emily Henry.
ForYou can form deeper connections with your clothes
“Something that surprised me was the emotional attachment I developed with my clothing, especially with clothing that had been passed down from family members. I have a dress my grandma wore during my baptism and I often wear the blazer my father wore for my baptism. These items are over 30 years old, in great condition, and they mean everything to me,” says Italian Remake Ambassador and Community Organizer, Debora Florio.
We can step outside of trends and proudly outfit repeat
“It made me appreciate my existing wardrobe more, challenging myself to create new combinations, or just rewear outfits that I like without shame of outfit-repeating. I tapped into my own strength by resisting the trend cycle and my desire to constantly have the next new thing. I was surprised by how little I regretted not buying something that I thought I wanted at the moment,” says Ellie Glass.
Creativity is more important than consumption for developing your style
“Ultimately what I learned from this challenge is that it’s not the amount of clothing that you have that defines your style. It’s the creativity and how you style it that defines who you are. What’s still a surprise for me even now is when I can pull off at least 30 looks with the same blouse. Just imagine what I can do with my whole wardrobe,” says Theola Tinny Co-Founder of VinPit.
You really don’t need the latest gear and apparel
“Before last summer, I decided I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes or products for outdoor-related activities because I wanted to save money and be less wasteful. Surprisingly this was easy to do. I found that I was able to do all the things I loved even without the latest gear. Now I only ever buy new outdoor apparel when I legitimately need it,” says Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals.
There are many healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve retail therapy
“Buying clothes has been my therapy whenever I felt sad so this challenge was hard for me. I was able to not buy new clothes for six months and chose to take better care of my existing ones. I realized that with proper care, clothes can last longer. And I can find other activities that will act as my therapy, instead of shopping for new clothes,” says Rachel Scott Co-Founder and Medical Practitioner at National TASC LLC.
Detaching from the urge to impulse buy is such a powerful experience
“It took around three months for me to detach from the urge to impulse buy whenever I would see a social media advert or walk past a clothing shop. I’ve kept a folder in my phone of items I’ve seen that I have been drawn to, and kept images in there to see if I still want them by my birthday. 9 times out of 10 I have ended up deleting the screenshots after thinking about them for a while and realizing that I wouldn’t get much wear out of them,” says Lydia German, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator at TAO Digital Marketing.
You’ll have more time to learn new skills
“My daughter and I bonded, saved a bunch of money, and we both got a lot handier with alterations than we had ever thought possible,” says Melanie Hanson.
Keen To Give It A Try? Check Out Remake’s #NoNewClothes Pledge
Whether you are saving money, wanting to get in touch with your personal style, or learning to live with less, there are so many reasons to give these challenges a try.
Of course you can start and end your “No New Clothes” challenge whenever you’d like. But if you are keen to give this challenge a try alongside others who can keep you motivated and inspired, you could take Remake’s 2022 #NoNewClothes Pledge.
From the 1st of June until the 1st of September 2022, you can join Remake’s community in pausing purchases of new clothes for 90 days. (You can start after June 1st too!)
During this time Remake encourages pledge-takers to reflect on our culture’s consumption habits and how you can play a role in shaping the future of the fashion industry moving forward.
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About the Author
Stella Hertantyo is a slow fashion and slow living enthusiast based in Cape Town, South Africa. Stella finds solace in words as a medium for sharing ideas and encouraging a cultural shift that welcomes systems change and deepens our collective connection to the world around us. She is passionate about encouraging an approach to sustainability, and social and environmental justice, that is inclusive, intersectional, accessible, and fun.
Stella holds a B.A. Multimedia Journalism from the University of Cape Town, and a PGDip in Sustainable Development from the Sustainability Institute. She currently works as a writer, editor, and social media manager. When she is not in front of her laptop, a dip in the ocean, or a walk in the mountains, are the two things that bring her the most peace.