Style & Beauty

This Is What Happens When You Don't Shop For A Year

Would you stop shopping for a year?

Artist Sarah Lazarovic did and the result was her new book A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, which gives us the lowdown on why we need to spend our money wisely... and reconsider those impulse buys.

While Lazarovic resisted window-shopping and the evil "rabbit hole" of Pinterest, the author curbed the powerful urge to consume by painting coveted items she loved. Although her prints are publicly known, Lazarovic compiled them into the quick-read, which includes tips and tricks on navigating the consumerist world, without buyer's remorse and a deflated bank account.

We caught up with Lazarovic to pick her brain on the lessons we can all learn about our spending habits and the way we should deal with fast fashion.

Who is the primary audience of the book?
I hope anyone will read it, but I think the primary audience is women a little bit younger than me, in their 20s, who maybe haven’t had that reckoning moment where they realize they’re buying too much, but feel sort of guilty and don’t know how to stop.

The idea I was thinking is that I was doing these silly, overly restrictive things like forcing myself not to shop for a year, which is fine if people want to do that. But they were just experiments and overly restrictive efforts to teach myself how to shop.

So, if people can just read the book and not have to go through all that (it’s sort of like a letter to my younger self in a way, I think!) that's my goal.

What was the inspiration behind combining illustrations, text and economic theories?
People need entry points, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed. I also feel like a lot of books have been written and you can read a lot of great books about how to not shop or people who just wrote journals about not shopping for a year and they’re wonderful. But I wanted to present ideas in a different way, in hopes that people might be able to relate a little more and especially since shopping is such a visual thing, I thought it’d lent itself better to a visual essay.

The paintings are kind of messy and emotional -- just the way we are when we shop!

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a young shopper?
It’s so obvious and people have said it, but just wait!

This year I'm studying consumer behavior in the business school at University of Toronto. I've learned that [shopping] is purely an emotional thing and once you let yourself get emotional about shopping, then you start making impulse buys and acting irrationally.

Yes, there are a million beautiful things out there and maybe you would be happy if you bought this outfit that you feel you need to keep up, but honestly if you just wait -- time usually cures all.

quick tips

You mention minimalism in the book -- is it widely accessible for everyone to have a set amount of clothes?
That’s why the book is called A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy. There's this constant thing of 'buy this thing to stop buying' and there are all these purveyors now with high-quality goods that are sourced from artisanal baby llamas and nobody is hurt in the making of the sweaters. And these things are so over-the-top.

But at the end of the day, it’s still buying, even if you’re buying the most well-made beautiful thing and this idea that you can just have a few beautiful things is unrealistic.

That’s why I made fun of it -- being minimalistic is a luxury. You could only have a few things if you have the economic means to go buy something whenever you do need it. I keep a bunch of crap in my basement because I’m like if I need this tupperware once a year I still have it here and I don’t have to go out and buy it again.

So it’s just an elitist position -- it would be nice. It just takes a long time to get there and I feel like these essays on 'you just need this one $500 Egyptian cotton shirt and your life will be perfect and you won’t need anything else' -- that’s ridiculous because you wear it once and you have to wash it and then you need something to wear the next day and do you have some time to wash the same shirt every night and iron it?

Do you have tips on navigating fast fashion stores like H&M and Zara? Especially in terms of quality?
I interviewed this local seamstress in Toronto who I think is amazing and she spent the day giving me this lesson in quality. Because I’m a person who didn’t know how to sew, who didn’t know any of that stuff... I couldn’t even tell good quality.

But I guess the point was that sometimes an H&M shirt is fine. It would be wasteful for me to buy a $200, fancy wick-away Lululemon something-or-other exercise shirt when I could just go to Value Village or Goodwill and find a used H&M T-shirt for exercise.

fast fashion

I think people get this feeling like 'I can’t buy this,' and okay, you don’t want to go sweatshop fast fashion, but at the same time you don’t want to waste money. You want to use just as much resources that you can to get the job done in a way that’s both environmentally- and economically- feasible.

The question is what’s the quality you need? You want to buy a good quality winter coat and hope you get to have it for eight years. But you also just want to buy an old T-shirt at Goodwill that could've come from Forever 21 if you’re just going to paint your house. So, it’s figuring out the right thing to buy for the right purpose.

What's the Buyerarchy Of Needs?
It’s like a hierarchy -- people can move things around, but buying is your last resort and if you can borrow it first, that’s great. If you’re just going to a fancy party one night, you don’t need to buy a new dress to go to that occasion.

But sometimes you do want something new and I got a new summer pantsuit at my favorite vintage store and I got a lot of wear out of it. It was just a $40 romper but I hadn’t bought anything new in a long time and it satisfied that craving for me and it was my go-to outfit and it’s a nicely made thing, so sometimes you do just have to get something that you want to be yours.

buyerarchy of needs

a bunch a pretty
From A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Sarah Lazarovic, 2014.

Get your copy of A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy here, which comes out October 28th.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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