Today I want to start a conversation of a very dear topic to me. As a woman and a yoga practitioner, my involvement in women empowerment has always played a big part of my life. I constantly look for the ways to empower my clients, friends, family and myself as a consequence through celebration of each other’s successes and being a good listener when we need to talk things through. Teaching mindfulness and searching for ways to make more conscious decision about the way I live my life so I can share with my community are essential for me as individual. The topic that I want to talk about today is – Shopping! I bet you didn’t expect to hear about it here but the reason why it is so important to me is how much we as women can contribute towards empowering OR disempowering women across the globe through contribution to consumerism and fast fashion. It is not just about how much we buy but more about having the knowledge of where it is all coming from and who pays the highest price for it.
My love-hate relationship with buying new things has always been a very complicated on many levels. Growing up in Russia 80s-90s my family has gone from being a part of the working class in the communist country to a business owner in the 90th post USSR capitalism boom to a complete bankruptcy in the financial crisis of 1998. All of these event to me being a child I learnt one thing for sure that nothing is forever and change is inevitable. I also learnt that we shop only out of necessity. I watched my mum cutting my step dad’s shirts to make new clothes for my sister and I as well as how she would slave over her sawing machine at night so she can have dresses she could never afford to buy. I remember feeling embarrassed going to school in my old shoes as to me being a geek and not to have any fashionable clothes even in the 90th in Russia wasn’t a cool combination especially when we stopped having uniforms and everyone’s ability to buy has become open. My background in the shopping was very limited as you can see…
Now when I went to America at the age of 19 and started earning my own money, I went to the other extreme for a while and started buying all I could but mainly cheap things as it meant I can have more! Until I had too much stuff and started to give it away thinking that was a good thing to do since I was also sharing it with those who couldn’t afford it. This mentality kept me going for some time until I learnt how to appreciate better quality clothes and how you can keep it for longer if the styles you get are classier. I have become a more considered shopper trying to combine more expensive classier and less expensive trendier items. Later as I was going through my process of self acceptance and self love I started to notice that I struggle to enjoy shopping ‘full stop’. I started saying that I don’t like shopping even when i needs to replace some items and wanted to dig deeper as to why I don’t relax and enjoy window shopping, trying on clothes and buying things I like and need.
My years of work through yoga, positive thinking and getting to know myself led me to understanding that my body as well as my lack mentality was a huge obstacle for me. I felt like I didn’t look good in the things I liked and therefore it wasn’t worthy of trying it. I also felt that I don’t need to buy too much as I don’t want to attract attention to myself and wanted to hide away. A few years ago I started to create a little shopping ritual which I called ‘self love shopping’ where I would have a morning of meditation and self love affirmations, dress nicely and set my mind to shop for my body and enjoy every thing I try, appreciate the story behind it and play with the idea of what I would wear it with. I wasn’t shopping because I had nothing to wear but rather to reconnect with my feminine energy and to show myself how I can lovingly dress my body.
The story continues through my life and yoga practice and more and more learning and diving into the world of sustainable and conscious living. Several times in the past couples of years I came across the “fast fashion” combination of words and how it is connected to consumerism, lack of self acceptance and shopping our way to happiness. As the universe has it, once you show interest in the topic you are given the resources to dive deeper. And so I did! My relationship with shopping was challenged once again. I have learnt that the supply chain of the items from the moment of it production to the moment of us wearing it to the time when we part with the item is fascinating. What more fascinating is how little we know about it and how time from is buying it to us giving it awayshortens rapidly.
Firstly, how many of us know or heard about the working conditions of women at the factories in third world countries that produce cheap clothes for most of the high street brands that a lot of us shop at weekly? Secondly, how many of us know what materials are good to use for our environment and how some of them, like polyester, influence global warming? Thirdly, how many of us notice the trend of consumerism and lack of appreciation that someone somewhere in the world has been working on the shirt that you wear and if you bought it very cheaply, someone has to pay the price? The fact that your shirt or a pretty dress costs someone of their health, motherhood or even their life is pretty big responsibility.
Obviously, we all want look good and well groomed but by becoming more mindful of where we shop, how much we buy and how we treat our clothes helps us to be a conscious human beings who cares about future of our planet and humanity. It doesn’t mean we should stop shopping full stop and only recycle clothes from one generation to another, but would it hurt you to ask yourself a question when you buy a new piece “would I wear it at least 30 times?” If the answer is No, put it back without a doubt! In order to answer yes, you need to consider durability of the material, style and price. If you want to go a little deeper, research the brand and find out where they have their factories and what is their association and plans/promises for sustainable manufacturing.
These new start up companies or the companies that are try to sort out their supply change might have a higher price, but their items will have better quality, last longer and you can only view it as your investment not just for your wardrobe but into your own future, future of your children and our planet as a whole.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try to sleep with one mosquito in a room” by Dalai Lama
I wanted to write about my love hate relationship for a while but something was missing.. After listening to Deliciously Ella podcast with Livia Firth and her eco-age project, the dots have connected. Thank you for the inspiration to them and thanks to my readers and listeners for allowing me to share my perspective. Namaste