Do you have too many clothes in your life? There’s a club for that and everyone is in it. We meet every morning, throwing heaps of rumpled tops around the room and shouting, ‘I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR.’ The full wardrobe meltdown is my signature move. Grunting, screaming, and sweating usually. Often I am still in my pants, whirling rejected pairs of trousers around my head like a discus gold medallist. 

The sheer scale of fashion options available to us in the 21st century isn’t only a problem for the planet and the people making them, it’s messing with our heads, too. Abundant choice is one of modern life’s biggest privileges, but it can also be a mental burden. This is one of the contributing factors that led me to break up with fast fashion.

Like many relationship dramas, it all started around the festive season. Buried under an impressive collection of Christmas gifts I pulled my hungover ass out of bed at 5am to head to the boxing day sales. My palms are clammy, pupils dilated, on a mission to buy ‘stuff’ hastily and hungrily with an adrenaline rush as I see the sexy red reductions.

The pursuit of new is human instinct. It’s what we do, and always have done – we push forward, innovate, then get bored and start sniffing around for the next micro-hit of dopamine.  

In the following weeks, I found myself choosing the clothes I had recently bought again and again each morning, not just because they looked particularly great on me but because they were the newest things I owned. And newness is everything. 

So, for my 2020 new year’s resolution, I decided to boycott fast fashion. My material pursuit for happiness was now limited to second-hand clothing, I have achieved two years without buying any new clothing except for underwear (understandably) and my one obsession, Doc Martens. 

When I began my #notnewyear, I found it surprisingly easy to limit my spending to second-hand. Rummaging through local charity and vintage stores. I have saved a lot of money and what I have spent has gone toward essential causes.  I often get bragging rights when complimented on an outfit that cost me £5 from a charity shop, knowing that my carbon footprint has been significantly reduced.

‘Fast Fashion’ has no official definition, it’s characterised by two things: low prices and relentless pace. It cycles through fads so rapidly that transience has become almost the defining trend of a generation. 

Those of us who love fashion have come to use it as a multi-purpose cure-all for everything from headache to heartbreak. The old trope of ‘retail therapy’ is taken to an all-too-literal conclusion, a place where buying non-essential ‘stuff’ can be classed as vital self-care.

The average person buys 60 per cent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago and keeps them for half as long. We are becoming overwhelmed with clutter, both physical and mental, starting to look around and ask: Have we reached a saturation point? Is it possible we have.. too much stuff?

The answer is yes, obviously.

So, what are you going to do about it? We can’t keep consuming at our current rate, it’s not possible. At current growth rates, it will take 200 years for the population of the world to double, and yet we’ve somehow produced twice as many clothes in the time since Facebook was invented. By 2050, the equivalent of almost three earths could be required to provide the natural resources it would take to sustain our current lifestyles.

As the world locked down to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the fashion industry turned upside down. Trends are beginning to slow down with less disposable income to spend on non-essentials. 

The second-hand fashion market is set to explode as we clean out and sell from our closets to make a little extra cash or donate to charity shops. People will still be eager to buy stuff, if they can afford it, but are less likely to jump on something new. This is why the likes of Donatella Versace, Rick Owens and Guram Gvasalia of Vetements have indicated they are looking forward to slowing down and creating season-less clothes.

The truth is, fashion needs us more than we need fashion.

Without thousands of thirsty shoppers emptying their racks every week, companies will be forced to take stock and do things differently

Maybe we’re so used to feeling enslaved to the high street that we’ve lost sight of our own clout as consumers. While we still believe that fashion has the power to validate, fix, comfort and complete us, it’s hard to feel as though we hold any cards at all. Besides Visa.

This feeling has been drummed into us for most of our lives, by an economy that relies on us believing that too much is never enough. We’ve grown up in a world that tells us we’re only as good as our last outfit.

Once we believe that we have the collective potential to slow down fast fashion, it makes the break-up feel less like a miserable sacrifice and more like a positive action. A power move. We may have done nothing wrong, but this doesn’t mean we can’t try to do things right.

We can think a little more and buy a lot less. We can acknowledge the part we play in feeding the monster, however small and inconsequential it might seem in the vast, messy scheme of things. We can learn. We can listen. We can fight that impulse (entirely natural, I think) to stick our fingers in our ears and lalala the facts away. 

I buy my clothes from the array of charity shop stores in the suburbs of South-East London. My favourite being Scope, who have paired up with ASOS in a new scheme to encourage more people to buy second hand. ASOS give their new, unworn sample sale items straight to charity stores rather than contributing them to the already alarming amount of landfill in the UK. Thus meaning you can find some brand new reduced items from ASOS you won’t find anywhere 

Some other great stores I use include; Rokit, British Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Oxfam, Sense and Rokit Vintage.

After working for Depop, a global online community platform where you can buy and sell garments, I learnt a lot about up-cycling and reusing old clothes by turning them into something new and selling these one of a kind pieces on the mobile application. I have started my own business in up-cycling and selling vintage clothing. To check this out head to @ch4zz4bel on Depop.

Charlie Greening is a journalist and illustrator based in London. Read more here.