It’s that famous line, repeated over and over since 1999, yet despite Brad Pitt’s perfect jawline and washboard abs gleaming at us, the words still don’t sink in.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
Man, Chuck Palahniuk deserved the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for that line alone.
It goes without saying that Fight Club is one of my all time favourite novels and films. There is so much wisdom written between the lines of his deeply disturbing yet thoroughly entertaining satire. With the rise in minimalism over the past ten years and the current hype of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, ‘Tidying Up’, you’d think we would all be anti-consumerism. But no, the shit just keeps piling up in our homes, handbags, and credit cards.
Before my European holiday in July of 2017, I felt an obligation to stock up my wardrobe with cute Instagram-worthy pieces. I looked at the photographs of friends who had travelled to Europe before me. I looked for inspiration to those influencers living in Europe, already enjoying the summer beaches, gelato and fairytale architecture not seen Down Under. Everyone seemed to own a floral dress. Fuck, I don’t have one. Surely that’s a requirement when you book a flight to Europe in July? So I bought one. But once again, a couple months before my trip to Hawaii in 2018, I started to think of what clothes I would wear. The climate would be hot, humid and everything New Zealand wasn’t.
Treat yourself, my mind told me. You’re going on holiday so buy a nice piece of clothing to wear and love.
I found a dress I loved in the same brand as the summer dress I had bought for Europe. It was expensive though, so I decided to wait until just before my departure date, thinking I would appreciate it more if it were still brand new, the novelty of it not yet worn off.
But something didn’t feel right. After everything I had learned living in Wellington about waste, consumerism and being able to wear whatever the hell I wanted, why did I feel the need to buy a new dress just because I was going on holiday?
A few weeks before my departure, I visited my hairdresser for a refresher. After talking about her boyfriend’s recent trip to Hawaii, sharing my travel plans (or lack thereof) and both agreeing I would have an incredible time, I dived into one of the local magazines. There was a feature article on the amount of waste in the fashion industry. I read that each year enough clothing is produced to give everyone on the planet eighteen new additions to their wardrobe. Every damn year. Reading that made me feel sick. Where does the clothing go when we grow tired of it or it goes out of style? Landfill. How long does that take to break down? Too long.
Instead of buying the new dress, I decided to try something different. Wellington has several really great recycled clothing stores which I’d bought clothing from this year. After my appointment, I walked up quirky Cuba street to my favourite second-hand store: Recycle Boutique. This is a chain store, which accepts quality and designer items and, when they sell, the donor gets a portion of the sale back. I searched through the racks, eyeballing all of the wonderful pre-loved items up for grabs. I ended up finding the cutest camisole top in a pale metallic pink colour that suited me perfectly. The best part: it was only $10; far cheaper than the $150 dress I was originally going to buy. I left the store feeling excited that I had something new but without the guilt of spending an excessive amount of money on something that negatively impacted the environment.
When I arrived in Hawaii I felt overwhelmed by the trashy souvenirs at the tourist hotspots. One day, on our way to the beach, we visited a pineapple plantation and the entire store was filled with crap either covered in or shaped like pineapples. The overwhelming yellow glow hurt my eyes. After exiting the store, we encountered the most horrendous sight: a middle-aged male tourist wearing matching pineapple printed shorts and shirt, hastily licking a pineapple flavoured ice cream in the hot Hawaiian sun. The worst part: pineapples aren’t even native to Hawaii. They’re from South America.
On previous holidays I had felt obliged to bring home souvenirs even though I knew people probably wouldn’t get any benefit from them. This time, I sent post cards. I had travelled to so many different countries yet this was the first time I had ever sent a post card. Surely a story on the back of a pretty picture was more valuable than junk? For a couple friends in New Zealand, I bought souvenirs that wouldn’t be wasted such as local cookies, vodka and a mug; all things that would be of use and not awkwardly accepted only to later be forgotten about.
For myself, I bought two local hand-made rings that I now wear every day, reminding me of my incredible holiday. To me they are much more valuable than a cringe worthy Hawaiian shirt and, by not succumbing to tourism marketing, my savings dwindled less, leaving more money to spend on my next holiday.
Tyler, honey, I hope you’re proud.
Now what was that club you were talking about?