I remember the exact moment that I knew I had a problem. I had walked into one of my favorite stores with the intention of buying a new outfit for New Years Eve and instead walked out with seven. Because God forbid I would repeat an outfit on an occasion meant for showing off! I had justified it to myself with arguments like, “Well I am an actress, and I have a show coming out this year, so this is a business expense because I will be wearing these outfits for press events etc.”
But still, there was no joy in my heart as I unpacked my purchases later that evening. The sky was black from the smoke of a billion animals burning in Australia’s worst bushfires in its history. New Years didn’t seem important to me anymore. In fact, nothing I had once thought of as important mattered to me anymore. Parties, going out for dinner and drinks, wearing the latest trends, taking photos of myself in enviable locations and scenarios. It all seemed irrelevant and distasteful in light of the tragedy we were living every day.
As I began to soul search and take accountability for my role in the climate crisis that was most certainly the root cause of these fires, I found the courage to look at my consumption habits. I had already eliminated animal products from my diet earlier that year. But I had always managed to justify my clothing consumption problem because of my job and the fact that I was supporting my friend’s women-owned boutique and young designers.
The fact that my consumption habits were contributing to our current climate crisis was a particularly hard truth for me to swallow. But I came to learn that if everyone in the world shopped like I did — we would need three planet earths!
This is the tricky part to explain to people, because when we are browsing on Net-a-Porter or buying big hauls at Topshop, we don’t think of these clothes in terms of the resources that are used to make them. We don’t think of the water used (two years drinking water to make one cotton shirt!) or that the season’s latest PVC trend is literally made from fossil fuels. We buy these clothes at staggering rates, and if you are like me, give or throw them away after wearing a few times.
To admit my wastefulness in this area is hard for me. My grandmother in Peru used to wash other villagers clothes in the river for some potatoes to feed her nine children. My mum and and sisters would handmake all their own clothes because they couldn’t afford to buy them, and they would treasure and keep their clothes for years and years, passing them down until they couldn’t be worn anymore.
And here I was — a ‘success’ because I could afford to buy new clothes every week and dispose of them just as quickly. That was the moment I knew things had to change.
Especially considering my platform, I could no longer promote a new OOTD (outfit of the day) and feed this ridiculous fashion culture that tells us what we bought last year is not wearable this year because it’s not ‘cool’ anymore. And the best way I thought I could change my message was to not buy any new clothes for a year.
So this is my #nonewclothes for a year fashion diary if you will. Every month I will be updating this column to share my journey with you. It’s been pretty easy so far because due to Covid the only thing I have had to dress up for is the occasional Zoom interview, and that is easy, because to be honest, I have enough clothes to last the rest of my life.
I have so many clothes that I had to do a big closet overhaul to decide what I would be keeping on this journey and what I wanted to swap/giveaway/sell. That will be my focus on next months column — because so many of us have closets that are overflowing, we need to be educated on the best and most thoughtful way to part with clothes we don’t need so that they don’t end up in landfills.
Thank you for joining me on this journey and exploration of our consumption habits. I am looking forward to discussing this topic candidly and honestly, and I invite your questions and feedback. If you want to join me on this journey (as some of you already have) please feel free to use the #nonewclothes hashtag. And I look forward to remaking our world with all of you. The future of fashion is ours to write.
Join the Conversation
Dear Ms. Kelley,
Thank you for being a guest speaker during this year’s POSHFEST 2020! I found your story to be so inspiring. I think your story regarding regenerative fashion is so inspiring and should be shared with today’s young generation regarding having ‘everything new’ and pre-owned anything is gross, ‘the latest and greatest’ even when you can’t afford it, ‘disposable’ everything. Today’s teens live in a world of entitlement!
You are in a position to educate our teens to appreciate what they have, and that they are enough…Especially today’s teen girls; they want to look like models, dress like models, spend money they don’t have…they have low self esteem, eating issues, cause unnecessary debt in their families because they have to have everything their friends have…
Please use your influence on YouTube to reach out to our girls! I am a Poshmark reseller/buyer and my 14-year old step-daughter, watches Vampire Diaries, she thinks that thrifting and recycling clothing and hard goods is gross and why would I do what I do…She won’t wear anything pre-owned even if it’s a brand she currently insists on purchasing new…
I am trying to educate her on the ‘why’ I do what I do, but I find it falls on deaf ears! I know that I am not alone in my challenge…Please help us to bring awareness to our young daughters and (sons) so that they can grow up appreciating the earth, and repurposing and taking care of the things we have, learning how to regenerate fashion and learn a new skill such as sewing, knitting, crocheting… something our mothers and grandmothers taught us…these skills that were passed down through generations are disappearing…Today if something is torn it is thrown out or donated instead of mended or repurposed…we need to change how these kids think today…
God bless you for stepping up and making a change and making a difference! Thank you!
You have inspired me to start a non-profit to recycle, up-cycle clothing and other items…there are so many poor people, and those that are without in this world…If we all did our part, just think what we could do!!! We need to change the mind-set!!
Thank you so much for allowing me to post here, and for your influence! Wishing you all the best.