Among the hardest things I have done in my life is to quit smoking. It has been over a decade since I last touched a cigarette, but I live with the effects of a 25-year habit, dealing with illnesses and issues that lead directly back to damage done by smoking. Perhaps that is why I am so outraged and angry about the vaping epidemic and the acceptance of Juul as a Silicon Valley company — when it is nothing more than a maker of cigarettes 2.0. The world is finally waking up to the insidious nature of Juul and all addictive substances. Even the president dislikes those guys enough to try and shut them down.
But there is one demon I have not been able to conquer, an addiction that is worse than nicotine: consumerism. For the past four years, every year, I make an effort to get rid of things and buy less. It is not easy to do — the machines of desire work constantly and are powerful. I looked at my own spending trends, and I am at about 25 percent of where I was four years ago. I have bought much fewer things and gotten rid of an average 10 things a month. And yet, it is not enough.
“At the root, what we have is a consumption problem,” says Anika Kozlowski, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Ethics & Sustainability at Ryerson University. “Fundamentally, it is a business model that is flawed—capitalism is still functioning on the premise of endless resources.” In a conversation with
Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong. It isn’t a surprise that cotton fields are losing their capabilities, cashmere is running out, and grasslands are vanishing. Sure, you can recycle a lot of fabric — as Iris Textiles of Guatemala has done in tandem with local coffee farmers — but honestly, it isn’t enough.
“The absolute best thing that anybody can do right now is to not buy anything new, use what you have, repair it, swap it,” Kozlowski told i-D. Dana Thomas, a fashion writer and author of books like Deluxe,
I was recently introduced to the young and idealistic founders of a small clothing company called Paynter Jacket Company. Becky Okell and Huw Thomas started the company to make a few products, sold only to a few people, to be worn over a long period of time. The premise is to remake iconic jackets for modern life. They make three styles of jackets a year and only 300 units of each jacket. In other words, they sell only 900 units a year. “We’re ultimately trying to make people re-think the way they buy clothes, whether it’s from us or anyone else,” said Okell. “If we have 900 customers per year, but we inspire many more to re-think the way they buy clothing, then that’s a good job well done.” These modern fashion anthropologists/art historians/entrepreneurs are onto something — smaller is definitely better.
My battle to consume
In the original post, the quote from Becky Okell was incorrectly attributed to Huw Thomas. Error is regretted.
September 14, 2019. San Francisco