How to Live With Great Purpose in a World that Consumes

Posted on September 7, 2013

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Hi Dear Ones! I’m now settled in on the East Coast in the NYC area and taking this year to study Accessories Design at FIT. If you live nearby, hit me up. This first fall post is a bit more about my back-story for those who haven’t heard it, how I journeyed into the fashion world, and a few mindsets I’m clinging to along the way.

View from High Line Park, NYC.

View from High Line Park, NYC.

When you choose to live with great purpose, you never know where you’ll end up. It’s risky business. But one rule of thumb I’ve come to embrace is the idea that whatever choice you make is the best choice for you. You either excel or you learn from your mishaps; both outcomes are admirable. What isn’t as admirable is making the decision to stop taking risks altogether.

Three years ago, I decided to start a blog, then another blog, and then another. Despite the fact that the blogging pool was overflowing and that houseplants and unborn children everywhere were somehow finding ways to purchase their own domain names, I wanted to start something of my own. I wanted to come in to my own. Blogging was my tool of choice.

I was in a dead-end job with half a college degree under my belt and a lot of creative, though aimless, ambition. What was I to do? Since my first stint at college I’ve held many interests, but three have held the course over the last ten years: the environment, global issues, and design. I found it difficult to integrate these interests at the forefront of my education until I began writing about them in a holistic way on my own time, a practice that led me to develop fashionatliberty.com in 2011.

Let me point out one thing that is noteworthy here. If I hadn’t allowed myself the freedom to consider options for my future that seemed out of reach, absurd even, I would have never found my way into fashion. I didn’t grow up pining over glossy fashion magazines. I grew up exploring the ponderosas that surrounded me, all while dreaming about how I could live out a great purpose in this world. Choosing to cultivate my interests no matter where they lead and taking the opportunities that present themselves is a way of life that’s yet to fail me.

Shop With Purpose, Not Impulse

Here are two truths about me. I am not willing to walk around naked. And, I am not willing to give up my values. That said, I have to allow myself some room as a consumer to not be perfect so that I can remain clothed. I try to buy less and buy better quality. I look for things I really love instead of things that will last only one season. My goal is always to make the most informed decision possible and to choose items based on purpose rather than impulse when I spend.

In addition to this shift toward purposeful, informed buying, I contend that one of the fashion industry’s greatest needs is transparency within our supply chains. We need to know what we’re really paying for, where it comes from, and how it has impacted people or planet along the way. As hard as it is to hear, it’s really up to the consumer to fight for this knowledge. We are the ones that need to seek out how our purchases are either improving lives or perpetuating global harm.

Despite the fact that the majority of big box retailers still live in murky waters, there are many companies I admire that are moving in counter cultural ways. For instance, Patagonia, Timberland, and Oliberté are just a few brands who not only boast quality and innovation in the materials and processes used, they strive for greater goals. These are businesses that encourage consumers to send back old merchandise for reclamation and recycling and to live in a world where we use only what nature can replace.

Focus on Product

I have observed a number of great fashion start-ups, whether clothing, accessories, jewelry, or all of the above, that seek to address environmental and social issues, but in many instances the product often becomes the afterthought of a great initiative. For sustainability within the fashion industry to occur, I believe the company must be rooted in ethics and responsibility, and the product must have a renewed focus: Is it innovative? Is it remarkable? Is it well made?

Or, will it simply fall into our wastelands after one season of wear?

The significant role that good design plays in changing lives is one of the main reasons I chose to go back to school for Textile and Apparel Design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010. After wrapping up my program at UW-Madison, I’m now in New York taking a year to study Accessories Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. This path of pursing my interests in design and writing about issues that matter simultaneously has allowed me to advocate for my values, start practicing entrepreneurship, and engage in my own creative fulfillment. For this, I give thanks.

What’s next for me? I’ll cross that bridge, or build one, when I get there.

Practice Creativity

Being creative is not just about the visual world, it’s about finding solutions to complex problems, and it’s something we can all do. As we practice creativity in whatever form, we become more, and the world around us is able to benefit and advance in the process.

Advice: Be true to yourself. Never forsake your values. Always choose your own great purpose over what might seem like the easier or more expected course. Your path probably doesn’t look like mine or anyone elses for that matter, which is a wonderful thing, because we all have our own unique value to offer. And when we embrace that, we can join together to do more than we could ever do on our own.

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