Shopping Mindfully

Have you ever watched the documentary The True Cost? It’s a film about the decreasing cost and quality of clothing, and the increasing environmental and human costs that occur as a result of the clothing we choose to buy.

It will make you run away from fast fashion retailers, or at least it will make you guilty for running into them them with your wallets wide open. Watch if you dare.

As a fashion student, I feel it is my duty to address this broken fashion system. It’s just not sustainable to buy new clothing all the time at extremely low prices. Shopping can be so fun and the thrill of the perfect new garment at the perfect price is literally a high. I can go shopping often and have a dresser and a closet full of clothing, but every morning I still have nothing to wear.

In the School of Fashion, they don’t teach us about what styles are trendy and we don’t evaluate the collections in any of the Fashion Weeks around the world. Instead, we learn about the industry and its inner workings. Despite how amazing and exciting the fashion industry is, there are parts that are bleak, to say the least. I’ve had to evaluate and change my habits to reflect what I’ve learned which has been tough as a former shopaholic.

Fashion is used to express yourself and I want to express myself in the way that makes me feel the most confident and the most like myself. So in theory, I want to buy high quality, ethically made, local, beautiful clothing. In reality, I don’t have 150 dollars to buy a single top (which really is the value of some of the clothing in Toronto that fits my description).

The truth is as a student, there’s no way I can afford to buy the clothing that I want as a conscious consumer. But, I still want to buy clothing that reflects my personal style.

The solution I have found is buying vintage and thrifting. I love vintage styles and the clothing of the past is often really high quality, which is why it has lasted decades. I understand vintage isn’t for everyone, which is why I also highly recommend buying gently used.

Plato's Closet Collage

Stores like Plato’s Closet are leading in this sense. Plato’s Closet is a store that buys and sells trendy, gently used (if not new), brand name clothing, accessories and beauty products for us twenty-somethings in university. The prices are reasonable, if not cheap. For example, you can get a pair of Lululemon tights for around $30. The closest location is on Eglinton, just east of Kennedy Station and is bursting with stylish clothing from your favourite brands. So, you’re still getting the quality clothing you want, at the price you want, and perhaps more importantly, you’re not buying into this broken system I mentioned earlier.

Stores with this kind of model are great because you can sell your clothing for cash based on an assessment process that takes into consideration the brand, condition, style and demand of these used garments. Do you have any clothing you’ve bought in the last 12-18 months that you rarely wear? This is a great way to streamline your closet and get paid in the process.

This assessment process also means that the clothing available at the store is vetted and despite not being brand new, it still feels like that perfect garment at the perfect price.

From an environmental point of view, buying used is just good practice. A lot of the issues brought up by the documentary The True Cost revolve around the sheer volume of new clothing being made in factories around the world. By buying used, you’re minimizing your footprint in two ways: reducing and reusing.

As a fashion student, this is an idea I can get behind.


Check out Plato’s Closet on campus in the Pitman Hall Cafeteria on March 23rd, where you can buy some new gems and sell your own gently used items!