BUY EXPERIENCES NOT THINGS… FROM A FASHION EDITOR

Working in fashion has been interesting in multiple ways. One interesting perk? Discounts.

I have always lived within my means throughout my career. I have tried to make mindful purchases, and by mindful I mean adopting a brand new pair of leather pants that retail for $1,000 at seventy-five percent off, because why not? My closet has room. I can do it. Yes, this was one of the multiple excuses that I would make weekly— another reason to shop or head to a certain designer’s studio to add something new to my wardrobe for a fraction of the price.

Half-off those designer boots? –Sold.

The showroom is having an insider only sample sale? Count me in.

This was me at twenty-two, when I just got my feet wet and was making a name in the fashion world. To describe what it felt like to buy something new… well, picture a dog wagging its tail in delight awaiting a treat. For going out with friends, I would buy something new. The office? Uh yeah duh, I was going to be the best dressed. Yes, a temporary source of happiness, but it had me feel rich. It made me feel cool. In a career sector that is full of vanity and finally on the quest to get my name out there, these garments and accessories would surely get me noticed in a crowd and thus my professional self would skyrocket.

I was creating a false sense of wealth that came through cheap and easy consumption.

Then it started to become an addiction. Wear the same things twice? Absolutely not. I would frantically search online through photo albums of pre-sample sale photos for “industry folk” or hit up a PR office to see what they could do for me. I wasn’t even utilizing all of my new pieces that I was buying. The latest trends just sat in my closet, for me to marvel at. I remember a time where I had an event to go to in the summer, and I literally tore through my closet to find that perfect dress. I threw on a good 10, and by the twelfth one, I broke down. I stared at myself in the mirror with my hair now unkempt from the sweat I just worked up (makeup however stayed in place, hooray for good cosmetics). But what I saw was not just some psycho girl. I saw my life flash before me. What am I doing? What about my future and saving up? Who am I trying to impress? What is this race that I have entered myself in? I was racing against myself, and I was losing.

And that’s when the beginning of the end started to happen. Or rather, the end of the beginning. That mirror was a pivot point in not just my spending habits, but my life. Let me tell you something: at the darkest hour (I mean, it was like 10:00PM but whatever), not even the best liar can escape their true self and who they really are when staring into the mirror. My mind wandered to a dark and not so magical place, and didn’t have something sweet to remember about any of these purchases. I bought because I wanted to be accepted. I bought because I wanted social status. I bought because I thought this is what I needed to give myself confidence, to be wanted… to be loved by my peers. But I wasn’t loving myself. I was destroying myself. And that’s when I embarked on the journey to learn to let go and not base my self-worth on material things.

I did something crazy a few days later… crazy good that is. I slowly started taking shoes, jeans, dresses… you name it, and donated them to charity. Nope, no eBay, no high-end consignment. Straight charity. I was learning to be present in the moment. But more importantly, I was surprised at how happy this made me. For me, happiness was in the content of this experience, the giving for the sake of giving. These material purchases suddenly were nothing for me.

That August, there was a special day where I was on the streets of New York that was no too humid, and I was unaware of what I would learn. It was there that this overwhelming sense of growth happened. The sounds of the wind making the chain fence rattle. The warm feeling of the sun on my skin with the scent of some of the best restaurants in the air— this was a sensory experience that allowed me to truly treasure what was around me. I connected with the space and myself. I wasn’t exactly on vacation, but it sure felt like it. Funny how something tangible like a dress may last in my closet for a while, but this experience, although over and gone, still resonates with me to this day.

I have learned that savoring future consumption for days, weeks if not months only makes the experience more valuable. It definitely is more powerful than my prior impulse buying, where that anticipation is completely gone. I’d take going to a show over buying a jacket on a whim any day.

Look, I get how this article might have some of you confused since I am currently a Fashion Editor and a part of what I do is expose you to new and established designers to discover and perhaps purchase. But make no mistake. Do I still go and buy a new pair of whatever every so often? Yes, but with thought and not as frequent. I am truly mindful now. You don’t need to spend your rent money on a t-shirt to be noticed, or have the latest and greatest to be accepted by those around you. Everyone can decide on the proper cocktail of material versus experiential consumption for their own personal well-being. For me however, quitting this excessive, wasteful shopping has had me become more productive: I focused on my writing, I read books, and I became happy with myself— something that shopping has failed to provide me.

At this point, when my mind wanders, I think of my experiences over clothes. And when I go in my closet, I don’t freak out or feel the need to fill it until it can’t close anymore. Instead, I feel grateful. JENNIFER STEVENS