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mind·ful·ness (ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/) noun. 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; Their mindfulness of the impact of the fashion industry on the environment made them think twice about purchasing fast fashion garments.

To be mindful is to be fully aware of what is happening around you – a true challenge in our digital, touch-screen, high-frequency, instant response-based world. Our mind is focused on dozens of things at once, our bodies stressed by the challenges of daily life, our life comprised of multi-tasking and achieving our goals. To counteract this, a common meditation technique is to practice mindfulness – “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us” (According to mindful.org).

The idea is based on Buddhist philosophy and religion, where mindfulness is an approach to work towards the state of Enlightenment.

Why be mindful? It is said to reduce stress, fight depression (increase positive emotions), increase focus and train our brain in areas that impact learning, memory, emotion regulation, empathy. The impacts of this include making the practitioner able to perform tasks better, while helping them better understand both themselves and those around them. Many studies have even reported physical health benefits (i.e. boosting immune systems), in addition to those related to mental health. It is a simple and often quick way (your meditation need only be a few minutes a day) to give some pause to our constantly fluctuating day.

As LifeHacker.com puts it, “Mindfulness is both a practice and a state of mind (for lack of a better word).” This means it can be practiced anywhere (seated, walking standing, moving, during yoga or other exercise and even lying down) and at any point in the day. Per mindful.org: “Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.

It’s a way of living.” That being said, a quick Google search helps identify many websites with recommended techniques on how to engage in mindfulness. There are even apps that send you reminders, such as Breathe on the Apple Watch that enables users to stop and focus on breathing and mindfulness.

If mindfulness is both a practice AND a state of mind – a way of living – then perhaps it is a mindset we can embed into other aspects of our life, such as how we decide what we wear. “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” very much applies to the decision that is made when one choose to buy ethical fashion. By being mindful enough to realize the impact that our garments and accessories have on the planet and on the producers of these items, we are applying this concept. This means reading labels, researching companies and methods of production and choosing to care for the well-being of those involved in the making of our fashion.

When we ask “Who made your clothes?” we are being conscious.

This concept is nothing new. Fashion and consciousness have been integrated for millennia –

  • the gradually shortening of skirt hems was women being mindful of what long skirts meant on their place in society,
  • the impeccable discipline around an army uniform is a soldiers method of inspiring focus and awareness,
  • the wearing of a hijab is a conscious way of an individual practicing their religion.

Fashion is closely tied to the collective consciousness of our society and each time society realizes something needs to change or evolve – fashion either leads or closely follows. As Luciana Zegheanu points out in an editorial piece on notjustalabel.com “Fashion itself is a reflection of social, economic, political and cultural changes. It expresses modernity, symbolising the spirit of the times.”

Therefore, I propose that ethically conscious-fashion is a way to practice mindfulness. It is a chance for us to stop in the moment and understand that what we do – from how we breathe to what we wear – has an impact on ourselves and on those around us. It is a chance for us to emphasize and make decisions that align with our values. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), has said “The real meditation is how you live your life.”