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  • Writer's pictureTilly@ZTP

Visual Identity and Overconsumption

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about overconsumption in fashion. Newness is advertised to us in such excess with a total lack of appreciation for the value of earths resources poured into every item that comes into existence. I’m wondering how else we can go about countering the throwaway mindset in addition to highlighting the negative effects it has on planetary boundaries, landfill, communities, rivers, skies and animals.

The direction I’m exploring helps tackle overconsumption in theory, whilst also serving another purpose of improved wellbeing and self image. To help us step into more satisfying style journeys of self discovery, creating deeper lifelong love relationships with the pieces of clothing in our wardrobes.

I long for the day when upwards of 90% of my wardrobe is soooo me! The colour of my socks, the checks in my wovens, the wool of my coats, and the pleats in my trousers all screaming Tilly through and through. I’m on the journey, but still a long way to go after years of self doubt and conflict induced charity shop impulse purchases. Unsure if I’m dressing classy enough or edgy enough, sexy enough or 90s enough, or the worst yet - things that appear box fresh enough! Those strange attempts at some other ‘ideal self’ which doesn’t quite work and remains hanging at the back of the wardrobe neglected, making me feel disjointed, not matching with anything else I own either.

Perhaps achieving this dream wardrobe state is not about buying loads until something sticks or trying to mould myself to be just like him/her/they. Instead it could be about uncovering who I already am, the style I have been naturally developing throughout all the seasons of my life. Consciously recognising those elements as the style foundations onto which I can build, evolve and gently update here and there. Those foundations are something real, they won’t just disappear or change with the introduction of another era revival. They can be trusted and returned to for limitless inspiration over and over, and I think there is real sense of belonging to be found here.

The problem with hastily constructed, cheap fast fashion is that even if it’s soooo you, it’s unlikely to see it’s own first birthday before being condemned to the charity bin for being stretched out, worn through, faded or coming unstitched. In reality excess clothes are often incinerated, sent to landfill, or are flooding the second hand markets in Ghana. Masses of cheap used clothes transported to the global south in bundles to be bought by market stall vendors before discovering they have no resale value at all.

If we turn our attention to our own intrinsic visual identity, figuring out, with time, what a true expression of ourselves is, that transcends trends, would that help us avoid the enslaved cycle of impulse purchases? That release of dopamine we crave often only lasts as long as that of an instagram Like before disappointment sets in and we realise it doesn’t actually make us feel like that famous him/her/they. Thus triggering the next rebound purchase to fill the void.

Such self reflection would hopefully allow us to build a longer lasting and more enjoyable wardrobe. To experience the joy of wearing things we love over and over, defuzzing the bobbles, patching the knees, darning the holes and watching them grow in sentimental value, becoming part of our life stories and legacies.

I’m not suggesting there’s no place for trend cycles and some degree of evolution in our wardrobe in response. However it could be less frenetic than we currently see, whilst still being fun and revitalising twice annually or quarterly even.

I want to audit my own pre covid shopping habits to make sure I don’t encounter the same problems as shops throw open their doors this April. Granted my addiction was charity shops so I suppose it’s one rung down on the guilt train to Boo Hoo hell. However the addiction is the same, the craving for a hit, a new find, throwing some money I cant afford at a charity shop haul only to get home and realise I don’t feel good about half of it. I want to get to the point where I can replace those 3 or 4 misjudged purchases I make per quarter with 1 considered, loved, good quality purchase. It means I might not have a suitable spring coat one year because my focus was on a new pair of trainers at that time, but if the alternative is temporarily plugging the gap with a cheap facsimile of the coat I really want (one which won’t last long but extracted just as many of the earths resources to create) then I’ll make do with what I’ve got in the meantime.

I’m learning to choose to hold out for the sweet satisfaction of the real Mcoy, something I can still imagine wearing in ten years time with joy. It's worth a few months wait I think, don’t you?

A lot of the people I know have this whole intrinsic visual identity thing nailed, in my opinion. If you’re reading this and feel like you might be one of those people who already know the elements that make up your true personal style then I salute you!!

To those of you who have no idea but would like to try, or can kind of see it in your minds eye but have a hard time consistently grasping it (me), I’m preparing some tasks designed to help bring awareness to who you already are, to listen to what you already know about yourself and then hopefully have fun leaning into it!

Get in touch if you’re interested xx


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