May 7, 2013

Interview: Two fashionistas, one blog and 365 days without new clothes

Meet Jeanine and Vera, two fashion professionals who decided to reset their fashion behaviour and stop shopping for a year. They write letters to each other on a blog called Fashion Reset, where they share their struggles, thoughts and successes. These girls get creative with fashion in an alternative way, and after a lot of digital penpalling, we finally managed to meet over coffee to talk about fashion, style and some “deep stuff”.
Let’s do it: 525.948 minutes without new shoes! Collage by Vera Van het Hof
 Please tell us something about yourself; who are Jeanine and Vera?

J: I’m Jeanine, a 34-year-old designer who graduated from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. I design accessories for private label collections and work on my own label that is to be launched this year.

V: I’m Vera, a 35-year-old freelance copywriter and stylist. I give branding advice for companies, but have also recently done styling for a music video, so my work is really diverse. Me and Jeanine met each other at a clothes swapping event called Ellie’sKledingkast, where we worked in the same team as stylists.

You started a one-year shopping sabbatical together in January 2013. Why? What were the main reasons for you to stop shopping?

J: A few people I met were doing the Free Fashion Challenge and they told me that not shopping hadn’t been that much of a struggle for them. It made me wonder how it would be for myself. I wrote on my facebook that I was thinking about taking the challenge and not shopping for a year, and Vera reacted with panic. (laughs)

V:  I was like “what are you thinking?!”

J: Yes, and I then told you to join me.

V: It made me really curious. First I thought “no way”, but then I started thinking that if I could buy second hand, maybe I could actually do it. The thought became more serious, and I got an idea that if we did it together, we could also write about it to each other.

J: So, two weeks before the New Year we got together and set rules for our non-shopping challenge. We also made a list of must-have items for last minute shopping spree.

What were the items on that list? 

J: For me it was mainly the basics: socks, underwear and a few tops...I was actually so focussed on finding good quality socks that in the end I completely forgot to buy any bras. (laugh)

V: I bought socks and underwear, too, but I also had a last minute panic and made a 200€ order to Topshop. I got myself leggings with a super trendy space print that you can probably wear only once and a stupid pair of shoes which I didn’t really even like. I basically made all the worst shopping mistakes the night before the challenge started.

Have you also worn those clothes? 

V: Some of them, yes. Despite the panic, I was still thinking practically and also ordered cardigans and things like that, but the silly impulse buys that I threw in – like the leggings – I haven’t worn once.

J: One of my friends gave me a good tip to put some of the things you buy before the challenge aside until the time you need them. I still have some things in store that I haven’t worn, and when you need them it will feel like you really have something new.

That’s a smart tip. How did you come up with the idea to write each other letters on a blog?

J: We wanted to get something extra out of the challenge. We both also wanted to do something with our talents, so the Fashion Reset-blog became a channel for us to do those creative things that we have dreamed of doing. 

V: The non-shopping challenge also makes you wonder about things about yourself. Why do you feel the need to have something new? It’s nice to record your thoughts somewhere, especially since fashion is everywhere and it means a lot more than just…fabric.

Next to the letters, you also make beautiful collages and drawings about your experiences, which really hit our soft spot for art. What inspired you to start creating those?

V: I had been doing the collages already before the blog, but although I really enjoy collaging, I didn't do it that often. The blog gave me a good reason to get into a routine of making one every now and then.

J: I hadn't been drawing much since my fashion studies, so the blog gave me an opportunity to start drawing again. That’s actually what Fashion Reset has become; a reason for us to do our creative things.
Last minute shopping for socks sucks. Collage by Jeanine Wijnen.

You haven't been shopping in 4 months now, so you are nearly half way there with the year of not shopping. How has the experience been so far?

J: The challenge has become kind of like a personal…well, journey sounds bit cheesy…

V: That's right, though. I think we are both finding out what we want to do "when we grow up".

J: Yes, the challenge has more to do with exploring our talents, getting to know to each other and ourselves and learning about our insecurities. In the end, it’s about much more than just fashion and not shopping.

Have you found the challenge difficult at any point?

V: Not at all! I was quite a big fashion addict before, and we both thought that I would freak out at some point, but that hasn’t happened. I simply love the project and everything we have created around it!
J: We write and make stuff, so there’s always something new going on. You focus on that rather than all the things that you don’t have or can’t buy.
V: Yes, it gives you a lot in return.
J:…to fill the empty void inside of you… (laughs)

So, you aren’t getting bored with your clothes?

V: No, I’ve discovered a treasury in my closet with all the clothes I already have!

And how has your relationship with fashion changed during the challenge?

J: I’m a really blue, grey and black person, and I’m a bit afraid of all the colourful things in my closet. Now I've had to face them, wear them and reinvent my style. I also do a lot of DIY and just bleached these jeans that I’m wearing. I bought them from Primark two years ago and wore them only twice, but now after pimping them I’ve been wearing them two days in a row! Overall, I think I was getting a bit too comfortable style-wise before the challenge. Now I try to push myself to put more effort in it; it’s nicer for myself, for my partner, my friends and everyone!

V: For me it’s actually the exact opposite. I used to walk in heels every day, but now I’m getting more laid-back. I don’t need to make a statement with how I look, because I have other nice things to focus on. This challenge and the creative blog-project satisfy the creative hunger that I used to satisfy by putting a lot of energy into expressing myself with what I wore. Now I’m presenting myself in a different way by channeling that energy into the blog…wow, that’s actually deep, man! It’s amazing how our behaviour and other things in our lives are actually related to fashion!

J: I have also learned that I do really need fashion in my life, and I don’t mean just clothes but everything that’s around fashion.

V: Me too. I love fashion as an art form. Before the challenge, fashion was my mistress. Now it feels like we are married – I’m in a steady relationship with it.

Had you been thinking about sustainable matters also before starting the challenge?

J: Yes. I try to act more sustainably in everything I do, but I want to make sure that it adapts well to my life. You can't do every single thing right, so instead of trying to do everything I choose to focus on the things in my life that I can easily change.

V: Fashion Reset is more of a personal challenge rather than a project that tries to send a big message to the world. We are perfect examples of the Instagram generation struggling with the constant overflow of information, longing to slow down and become more conscious. I don’t think human beings can physically keep up with the insane speed of our world. Maybe we can do it mentally, but our bodies cannot cope, and the whole movement of slowing down is a way to deal with it. It’s the Zeitgeist. It’s not about me trying to save the world or become the perfect hippie – I still might throw a wine bottle into trash every now and then instead of recycling it! The sustainability in my life is more about me wanting to embrace the things that I believe in and learning to live in a way that fits me.

Have you told everybody around you about Fashion Reset and the shopping sabbatical? How have people reacted?

V: When I told my boyfriend, he was very encouraging and said “you’ll never make it”! (laughs)

J: My boyfriend was actually very supportive and curious to see how I would cope with it. I work in fashion, but haven’t told many people at work, because I’m afraid that my managers would feel a bit threatened by this non-shopping movement.

What do you think will happen after your year of not shopping ends? Will something have changed?

J: I want to continue using what I have instead of saving my clothes for "special occasions" that might never come. 

V: I also want to start investing in good quality and buy one good item instead of ten trendy rags!

Some wise words or advice you would like to share with other fashionistas who are considering giving the non-shopping challenge a go?

J: Don’t stretch the challenge into something you aren’t comfortable with. Set your own rules.

V: That’s a good one. Make it your own and make it a project; find something you like to do, whether it is writing or drawing or something else, and use it to enjoy the year!

We got the honour to feature a set of Vera's and Jeanine's artwork on Dear Fashion Journal’s blog,
so stay tuned for more!
You can also follow Fashion Reset at VJsFashionReset (in Dutch)!

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