Can shopping ethically make your life more luxurious?
From silver tea pots to dressing gowns.
How ethical shopping brought more luxury into my life.
I was asked the other day where I shopped. Malls? Queen Street? Holts?
I paused because the answer makes me sound pretty darn pretentious.
A deep breath and a deep gaze into the questioner’s eyes. “I only buy ethical products,” I whispered. Was this a #humblebrag? Likely. Was this true? Yes.
Somewhere over the last 5 years I stopped buying generic consumer goods. I’d try on a pair of shoes and think who made these? I’d pause over a gorgeous blouse, stroking the silk and then ask a bewildered sales associate where it was made. She couldn’t say. No one could.
Eventually I stopped shopping
The more I learned about supply chains and child labour and the Great Garbage Patch and sweat shops and Rana Plaza, the less I found the products around me beautiful. The lustre dried up like dust and disappeared into the wind. And I stopped shopping. There was no luxury left in those departments stores.
Of course, I still needed clothes and skin care. Eventually I waded back into the retail world but I was only drawn to vintage, second hand, local, small-scale, cruelty-free, fair trade. Basically, ethical type products.
Shopping ethically changed my life
What has shopping ethically mean for my life? Isolation? Deprivation? A sense of despair? Or, even worse, ugly clothes?
Not in the slightest. Honestly, this almost accidental decision consistently means less crap and more luxury.
I buy the best ethical quality I can, every single time. Which means I don’t do “spontaneous” buys. Plastic doo-dads? Forget it. Malls? A totally pedestrian waste of time, as are most retail shops.
I shop online and from local markets the most. I get to know designers and retailers. I have personal relationships and get sneak peaks at what’s coming up next. When I do go to a retail space it’s for an experience – sip & shop, speakers, demonstrations, dinner and VIP experience.
No more just going to stores because why? Retail has to do something good for this world, otherwise it just feels like a waste of my time.
And I’m not a minimalist. I love beautiful things. Antique malls are my raison d’etre. I have inherited so many beautiful pieces like antique china and silver flatware. I own at least four different dressing gowns and I’m open to more. Books? Oh hell yes. Art? I make it and collect it. Plants, sculpture, strings of beads, old hat pins, art deco Champagne glasses, a full silver tea service (yes, I polish it). I love beautiful things and yes, I am just a touch pretentious.
If its not ethical, it’s not beautiful
But all those beautiful things are only beautiful if…
They are not adding additional harm to the world (vintage, inherited, second hand fall in this category).
They are adding additional good to the world (supporting independent designers, buying fair trade, choosing zero waste, paying craftspeople living wages here and abroad).
The quality of materials and skills of construction is impeccable (the luxury - quality ratio is my golden rule).
The design is interesting, unique, classic or compelling (aesthetics are important because I am both an artist and a gentle snob after all).
Yes, there are still areas where my standards are difficult to meet. Pascal’s clothing for example. At nearly 6’6” my silver fox is a giant who struggles to find clothing that fits in conventional apparel, let alone the tiny little sphere of ethical men’s clothes. Tech is another one. I keep begging FairPhone to come to Canada but so far they have ignored my pleas.
The humblebrag has to be kept in check. My shopping habits aren’t perfect.
But they do align with my values and that makes every single purchase feel decadent and delicious.
Can shopping ethically make your life more luxurious? A resounding yes from dressing robe wearing, silver tea pot pouring, Champagne sipping bon vivant.