The concept of a shopping fast is nothing new in the sustainable fashion community. Whether it’s to manage consumption and hit reset on shopping habits or to assess your current closet by taking note of what you actually wear versus what’s just taking up space — a shopping fast can be a great way to jump start your sustainable fashion journey and curb your urge to consume by helping you differentiate between what you actually need versus just want.
I can’t recall how I originally came across Victoria (@thelook365) on Instagram but when I did — I knew I wanted to tell her story. Many platforms tend to focus on telling the stories of bloggers, brands and influencers with thousands/millions of followers — which is great but can sometimes feel a little inaccessible.
We get a lot of emails/DM’s from people asking what they can do to become a conscious consumer most if which, like Victoria, aren’t bloggers or influencers but rather just guys and gals that want to be more thoughtful with their choices. That alone is incredibly powerful and something many of us can relate to.
SFF: Tell us a bit about yourself.
VICTORIA: I’m 37 years old born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. I have a Masters of Science in Business Administration and Corporate Communication and since 2009 I’ve worked in both private and public procurement. For 3.5 years I’ve worked as a public procurer at a municipality in the furniture category. We work hard on qualifications in our agreements and sustainability is one of the most important aspects. Personally, the environmental interest has grown each year and now I’m involved in a European project targeting circular economy in public procurement.
The fast-moving fashion industry makes us insecure of what we own and how we look and at the same time inspired. At some point I just said stop. Wait a minute. WTF is going on?
SFF: When did you become interested in minimalism and sustainable fashion?
VICTORIA: Since my personal life and work intertwine, my interest in sustainability at work made me rethink my lifestyle. It was not a sudden decision but rather a gradual change. I saw the need to change when I looked in my closet and saw chaos. This is quite “normal” in society I’d say. The fast-moving fashion industry makes us insecure of what we own and how we look and at the same time inspired. At some point I just said stop. Wait a minute. WTF is going on? Two years ago, I started following Youtubers who promoted minimalism and my initial thought was that all minimalists have extreme lifestyles. Not to mention the climate amongst minimalists can be quite harsh and judgmental at times. That made me a bit skeptical. I’ve never been interested in being part of a group with set ways of doing things. But in the end minimalism was too interesting to drop, so I continued watching videos and reading about it. A while later, I watched The True Cost which was not a complete surprise but still shocking. I also watched the documentary Minimalism – a documentary about the Important things. It spoke to me in a way that just made everything make sense. You don’t have to be radical or become vegan overnight. Make the changes as you go and embrace minimalism in your own way. I had an inspiring chat with a friend about the documentary and he was all into it. Both of us were, and are, interested in fashion so that could’ve been a real challenge. But at least for me, it wasn’t. The thinking process went on and during a trip to Iceland with my cousin I mentioned the idea of having a year off shopping new clothes. Since she was already a true minimalist without bragging about it, she said go for it. This was in July 2017. When I got home I immediately started planning for my 365-project by creating a new Instagram profile and that was the launch of a whole new perception of things.
You don’t have to be radical or become vegan overnight. Make the changes as you go and embrace minimalism in your own way.
SFF: 365 days seems a bit extreme for your first go-round. why did you choose to do a shopping fast for so long? What made you decide to do this personal challenge?
VICTORIA: I decided to do this challenge because I felt a sense of not having control over the easiest parts of my life and it made my mind unfocused. I’m sensitive to my surroundings and if I’m experiencing chaos, my hands are tied and I can’t do anything. I had to ransack my life and be honest. Clothes and shopping took too much space in my life and my closet and that had to stop. I wanted to find the focus on the important things, find more time for art and not be so stressed on and off work. It was more of a statement to myself to have a year long challenge which means I take it more seriously. If I would only do it for a few months, the risk of falling into the same old habits would be to high.
SFF: What were the guidelines you followed?
VICTORIA: Well, to begin with, I had done another 365-project a few years back. I wanted to get back to my artwork after years of not even doing a sketch. Art has been a big part of my life on and off and I felt the need to leap into it again. The concept was to draw something in my sketchbook every day, forcing me to bring out the creativity. It could be anything. I didn’t want to think too much about the result, the main important thing was to just draw. And I did. Every day I put it on my private Instagram account and the response was heart-warming. The weeks and months went by and my mindset started to shift. From finding it hard to paint I suddenly felt free and could do anything I set my mind to. That year was the beginning for me as an artist and now I have exhibitions and it’s the most natural thing in the world. With that previous experience, I understood the importance of sticking to some rules. The continuity and the goal. And each day is a day closer to change. So, the thought of doing another 365-project, was not intimidating but rather a juicy challenge since I knew that I needed that time to really change. The guidelines where:
Not buy any new clothes from august 2017 – august 2018 (It did not include underwear, workout gear, bags or shoes.)
Publish a look on Instagram every day or at least as often as possible.
I could shop second hand but not overdo it since less consumption was the goal.
Unsubscribe to newsletters from fashion brands and online stores if they bother me.
SFF: Why document your journey on Instagram?
VICTORIA: As with my previous 365-project, the fact that people expect you to publish something, made it easier to stick to the plan. Doing a challenge offline, is much more difficult since you can fall off the wagon any minute and no one would notice. My life is not that interesting to others but the challenge inspires people and it helps having observers. I also noticed the Instagram community of fellow equals, trying to change their life too. The more hashtags I looked at the more people I found. People talking about sustainability, eco-friendly tips, wardrobe challenges, entrepreneurs, sustainable influencers, sustainable fashion brands etc. It’s all in there and that’s what I love about Instagram. You can shape the platform any way you want. I’ve had great discussions and a few eye openers. I also found Stylebook and started documenting my wardrobe content in the app. It took a while to get it up and running but now it’s a part of my life. It’s a great inventory tool displaying stats so you know what you’re wearing or not.
SFF: What are a few wardrobe staples that helped you create your outfits?
Silk shirts and oversized lyocell shirts in different colors.
Heavy knits with a crew and turtleneck.
Fitted jeans in (washed) black and blue denim.
Black and brown boots in leather and suede.
Opaque cotton t-shirts in navy blue, black, white and grey.
Cardigans in different colors
SFF: Was there a certain time of year that was more tempting than others for you not to shop?
VICTORIA: Of course. The winter sales were tough. Winter fashion is the best season to shop, at least where I live in Sweden. But, instead of going nuts from not shopping, I became angry thinking about “sale” as a concept. I even wrote about it in one post. I realized that there’s always a sale somewhere the whole year. And then we have black Friday which is just insane. The industry feeds us with great deals all the time making people crazy, hoarders and full of debt. At the same time, we live in a society where bad mental health is increasing. We cannot overlook the correlation.
SFF: What was your biggest takeaway from the challenge? What did you learn?
VICTORIA: Continuity. Having the same mindset every day. It keeps you focused on the goal and gradually you change. You change the way you look at everything. During the challenge I started clearing out my wardrobe. That might be contradicting since I would buy anything new, but there was a lot in there I didn’t use. I sold, gave to friends, donated to charity and recycled a few things. Downsizing my closet content bit by bit. It’s also become clear to me what I like and now I use the same clothes I love over and over and found new ways to style an item. I’ve become more creative. I’ve also downsized the content in the rest of my home. Clearing out the kitchen drawers and cabinets. Clearing out the cellar. My life is so much easier now and it’s easier to clean too. I’ve minimized the amount of (traditional) mail I get in my post box. Why have unnecessary things in your life? It’s just waste of energy, time and money.
SFF: From your Instagram it looks like you’re doing the challenge again. Are you following the same rules?
VICTORIA: It’s not the same challenge this time. I’m still working towards a more minimal closet and consuming less of course, but it’s more about the financial aspects. I’ve presented a budget which I will try and stick to. There’s a limit on clothes and the purchases I make will be thoughtful. It’s tough to set a budget after one year of not buying anything major. I must admit I’m struggling but it could be way worse. It will be interesting to see how I translate sustainable fashion in my everyday life. Will I only focus on sustainable brands or will I choose sustainable materials? I think this is very interesting. Thankfully more large fashion companies are working with the social aspects in the chain of production but we are still observing with a critical eye. And then we have sustainable fashion brands that sell items in recycled polyester for instance. Is that good or just less bad? In the end you must look at yourself. Can you motivate a purchase? How do you do that? "
SFF: What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone who wants to do a shopping fast?
VICTORIA: Be humble and honest towards yourself. You need to look at what you’ve got and what lifestyle you lead before you get started. Maybe six months is a better start? Or go for a year! It’s all about motivation and life situations. If you have too much stuff and you feel overwhelmed by it, this is certainly for you. And I promise that if you were not already enlightened, you will be after a year. Follow inspiring people on Instagram. Embrace both the shop crazy influencers (they have great ideas but you don’t have to buy anything) and the slow fashion ones. Be open to become inspired and look at your clothes in a new way. Try a 10x10 challenge to really get to know your garments. Maybe a capsule wardrobe is for you or maybe not? Get to know yourself and what you want and don’t compare yourself to others. And remember that it’s human to fail. If you fall off the wagon, hop on again and remember what you learned.