The Fashion Stylist: How to Break the Cycle of Impulse Shopping

Meg Pirie is a top fashion stylist and ethical fashion advocate. She has previously written about what to do with non-vegan clothing from before you were vegan and how to make your clothes last longer. Here, she gives her perspective on how to curb impulse shopping. 

There’s just something about getting a wedding invite that starts somewhat of an internal turmoil for me. The happiness you genuinely feel for your friends can often dissipate when the dreaded, ‘what do I wear?’ dilemma starts to surface. I recently went through this very scenario – what started off fairly relaxed and casual ended with me running around charity shops the week before the big day. Even given my very open stance on only buying what we need and trying to stick with pre-loved items, I will admit to feeling a certain societal pressure to buy something new as the day approached. I managed to take a step back and re-evaluate why I was feeling this way – it did get me thinking about what had prompted such a feeling of unease.

If you’ve been following the news recently you won’t have missed the Extinction Rebellion protests and thanks to the campaigners’ tireless work, we’ve finally seen some progress with Scotland, Wales and the UK declaring an environmental and climate emergency. Labour have also gone as far as to call on the government to deliver a zero-waste economy in the next six months. We have crossed critical planetary boundaries and so it felt a little hypocritical on my part worrying about what to wear  to celebrate a union of love. It wasn’t about me or what I looked like, but about my two friends committing to one another. The conclusion I came to was, that like you, I am only human and just like you I am trying to break years of habitual behaviour – this won’t happen overnight. So how do we change this cycle?

With this in mind I took to the internet and read article after article on consumer behaviour and researched the reasons why to some extent we feel the need to have a splurge even if we have a wardrobe full of options. It’s estimated that Brits spend around £144,000 on impulse buys over a lifetime and fashion items make up around £18,000 of this. Looking back at my past spending habits, I was definitely guilty of the occasional impulse buy, so I consulted hypnotherapist, Shirley Owen M.Ed. who says there are many factors as to why someone could shop in this way. “For some people impulse shopping can be driven by dopamine the feel-good hormone,” says Owen. “Dopamine works in two ways by stimulating the desire to carry out the behaviour and then rewarding it with a happiness high. One can then become caught up in the dopamine cycle and drawn to the happiness high. Of course, there are other reasons behind impulse shopping such as loneliness, depression, self-esteem, confidence, seeking empowerment or excitement.”

And fast fashion has perfectly aligned itself with this consumer behaviour offering knock-offs from the runway at very cheap prices and with deliveries twice a week in some of the larger stores, there are always new pieces that don’t cost the earth – easy to justify in the moment and if you’re in need of a quick fix or a boost of dopamine.

What it comes down to is finding out what matters to you and using this as the driving force for change. For some of us it will be safeguarding the planet for future generations – here we could do a little research into biodiversity loss, hazardous waste, our levels of consumption, climate change or even diminishing natural resources. A great place to start is at WWF.

For others it will be more of a social standpoint. Social inequality with cases of oppression and severe neglect are frequently documented and there is a very real issue of modern-day slavery. Looking at a fundamental disaster like Rana Plaza where tragically 1,134 people lost their lives, will open up a whole new perspective. Clean Clothes Campaign and Fashion Revolution have some fantastic resources if you want to delve a little deeper.

Modern-day slavery can also be extended to animals and their suffering is something we’re very passionate about here at Vilda. PETA also offers a wealth of knowledge and the work the organisation does in promoting animal rights is second to none.

With knowledge comes power. Once we arm ourselves with information, we can make conscious decisions about our purchases moving forward – and it’s crucial that we limit those purchases to what is really needed and will be cherished for years. As we are facing a climate crisis and a vast extinction of species, it makes no sense to continue our vicious cycle of impulsive buying. Shopping with purpose should be imperative to every fashion lover – no matter what the motivation is.




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For more from Meg, click here.

Header photo by Mark Zamora via Unsplash

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Meg Pirie

Meg is a British fashion stylist, with a decade of experience in the fashion industry, specialising in writing, styling and consulting in the slow-fashion space. As an ecopreneur, Meg's work has a strong focus on ethical and sustainable fashion and she encourages working in the slow-fashion space, with an emphasis on supporting local businesses. As a vegan herself, Meg encompasses a compassion driven attempt to live an ethical, sustainable and healthy lifestyle without contributing to animal suffering.

  1. I really needed to read this, I am so bad for impulse buying, the last 3 things I bought new are now sat in a pile for eBay/charity shop because they are just not right. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to figure out/plan/buy items that will last and are sustainable

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