Fashion Detox Challenge Meet-up; conscious consumerism; Credit to Rebecca Meechan

Fashion Detox Challenge Meet-up image provided by Rebecca Meechan

While in the midst of working toward a Ph.D. in Sustainable Fashion at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in the U.K., author and clothing designer Emma Kidd has developed the Fashion Detox Challenge. As an intervention in the whole fashion system, this challenge invites the individual consumer to change from within and become more conscious consumers.

In a world where, on average, people tend to only wear 20% of their wardrobe regularly, this initiative invites the participants to abstain from buying any clothes for 10 weeks — breaking a habit that for some is a compulsion, and for many is a simple and mindless act of consumerism. Instead, they’re invited to explore a more sustainable lifestyle and share their journey.

The Fashion Detox Challenge is inspired by a research study carried out in the U.S. in 2012-13, which asked undergraduate fashion and marketing students not to buy clothes for a whole term and reflect on their experiences on a group blog. The change in perception and behavior of the students was significant, and quite illuminating.

In the current research, this model is repeated and expanded. The Fashion Detox Challenge is open to anyone who buys clothing regularly. It is a “gentle invitation” to stop buying clothes for 10 weeks and to reflect on that experience via a private online forum, where an individual’s “detox diary” is shared with other participants either through writing, videos or photos.

“I am blown away by the profound insights and changes that have taken place in response to such an apparently simple idea. All I have done is to ask the participants to stop doing something they normally do. But in the act of pausing, of stopping, it seems that we can see that aspect of life more clearly than before,” Kidd says.

The initiative has been getting a lot of attention, including from BBC Scotland, highlighting the fact that this idea is resonating with a lot of people. In the meantime, taking part in this process has helped participants save money, reduce clothes-related stress, be more creative, appreciate what they already have, and — perhaps most significantly — tackle clothing waste. The clothing industry has the 4th largest environmental impact in the U.K. after housing, transport and food.

Whilst the next steps of the program are still unclear, it’s evident the project is transforming people’s perceptions and behaviors around consumerism and waste. Kidd says that, “The Fashion Detox Challenge has taken on a life of its own and I believe it is showing an appetite for change.”

The shift proposed by the initiative supports the conscious consumerism, upcycling and zero-waste movements, which are globally evolving as environmental awareness and crises increase, and the power of systematic changes becomes more urgent.

“The Ph.D. journey so far has taught me that we should never underestimate the power of doing something that, to many, appears extremely ordinary. The ordinary and the extraordinary are related. It is simply a matter of perspective”, Kidd concludes.


This post is part of our Winter 2019 editorial series on waste reduction. Get our free ebook on this series: “Beyond Waste: Community Solutions to Managing Our Resources.” Shareable is a partner of this project with Greenpeace. 

Take a look at the other articles in the series:

Mirella Ferraz


Mirella Ferraz

Mirella coordinates the Network of Wellbeing's community work in Totnes, U.K., where she's helped set up the Share Shed – A Library