Meet the Bag That Will Last a Lifetime
Next time you step outside take a look around you. How many billboards do you see? My guess is a lot. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America estimates that there are 368,263 billboards across the country. Hot damn that’s a lot of billboards. If you live in a large city like I do, you see so many billboards in a single day they start to become just another part of the landscape. They’re inescapable like the sky or rush hour traffic.
Billboards are created specifically to get us to buy stuff. And trust me they work, otherwise no company in their right mind would spend thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars per month if they didn’t. This push to constantly consume is powerful. Ads promise us if we just buy this type of car we’ll be popular, if we just buy this makeup we’ll look young forever, and if we just wear this designer we’ll spend our days skipping through the streets of Manhattan just like the model. Sure if we stop and think about it we know it’s bullshit, but we don’t stop and think about it. Instead our mind files it away as a subliminal message and the next time you see that designer you’re more likely to buy it.
At the heart of every ad is the same message. Buy our stuff and you will be happy. As anyone who’s gone on a shopping binge can tell you that happiness doesn’t last. I like to think of traditional shopping as junk food. Sure it’s fun for a second, but wait an hour and you have a stomach ache. It’s just so...empty.
That’s why I choose to buy less and when I do buy make that item count. The average American spends $1,700 on clothes a year. They average American also throws out about 82 pounds of clothing a year. It’s a feedback loop of consumption and waste.
We’ve all been there. We get bored of our clothes, buy something new, chuck the old thing. After all we just bought like ten new shirts and we have to make room for them in our closet. I for one hate squashed closets. But did we really need to buy those 10 new shirts in the first place, or are we so conditioned from constant advertising to think we do?
I rarely need new stuff, like really and truly need it. Sure I want new stuff all the time, but that’s different. And this has been a really important distinction for me to make. Learning to distinguish between the two helps curb the messages I constantly get from advertisers and stops me from buying impulsively. Slowing down my shopping has created space for me to only buy things that I truly love. Gone are the days of buying a shirt because it’s “cute I guess, but like it’s on sale for $12 so why not.”.
I’m also more practical with what I buy. If I’m buying less, I need to make sure that I’m going to get a lot of use out whatever I’m buying. It’s gotta last. I know the word practical is such a downer. Fashion should be fun! Weirdly though, being practical with my shopping has actually expanded my fashion horizons. It’s made me seek out companies that are doing innovative things, branching out to new styles. Being “practical” has made my closet not only unique but meaningful.
Sometimes that meaning turns out to be a metaphorical middle finger to fast fashion. Case in point my new tote from Remember Me Green. Each bag is made from recycled New York City billboards. How cool is that?
I love that they’re made from old billboards for two reasons.
First, billboards aren’t going anywhere. Some cities across the world have banned them (way to go Sao Palo!) and even a few states (looking at you MA, HI, AK, VT), but everywhere else new billboards are going up every day. As the fashion world speeds up so does the advertisers need to advertise them. If Remember Me Green didn’t scoop these old ads up, you know what would happen to them? They would pile up in some landfill hanging out for decades before they break up into smaller and smaller pieces eventually being ingested by animals where it will probably block their intestinal tracks. All because some executive needs you to buy stuff so they can look good for their shareholders.
Until we can get rid of billboards there is hope. Everything that makes this vinyl terrible for the environment makes them perfect for upcycling! They have to withstand the harsh elements of NYC, and as a New Yorker for many years, I’m here to tell you those elements are no joke. Billboards are made from layers of water resistant vinyl with a layer of ripstop nylon scrim to keep them from tearing. In other words, ain’t nothing happening to these babies. Which means I can be as tough on them as I want! I’ve taken my bag to the beach, hiking, to the farmers market, and it doesn’t show a single bit of wear.
Which brings me to my second reason. Using an upcycled ad is beautifully subversive in a subtle way. As a non-confrontational person I’ve always loved judo for the way it emphasizes using your opponent's strengths against them. With my Remember Me Green tote I feel like that’s exactly what I’m going When I carry my tote I’m not only rejecting their attempts to woo me to back to fast fashion, I’m turning their ads against them. I even customized my bag to say “Do More Good” as a kind of anti-advertising advertisement. It’s ethical fashion judo! People are intrigued by the look of my tote which gives me the perfect opening to share my passion for eco-fashion without coming off as pushy.
The soft Pima cotton handles, unique design, and three interior pockets mean that I will love this tote for decades to come. That’s at least a decade longer than whatever junk the billboard originally sold. One day this blog will become obsolete as everyone moves to more sustainable fashion. But it all starts with us using fast fashion’s bits of trash to raise awareness about the horrors of fast fashion. Eco-fashion judo for the win.