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The Vogue editor who’s vowed to stop buying clothes

My partner pointed it out in the papers the other week. A Louis Vuitton ‘Face Shield’, complete with monogrammed strap and gold studs embossed with the company’s logo, that would retail at £750.

We had a good laugh — what suckers are going to go for that? — and then I thought, if this were five years ago, when I was still a Vogue contributing editor, one of those suckers might very well have been me.

Well, those days are long gone. And though Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign, which encouraged us all to buy its pre-loved clothes for the month, was admirable, I want to go one step further. 

Former Vogue contributing editor Christa D'Souza (pictured) is giving up a life of fashion opting for more pre-loved items and launching two clothes campaigns in which she buys no new clothes

Former Vogue contributing editor Christa D’Souza (pictured) is giving up a life of fashion opting for more pre-loved items and launching two clothes campaigns in which she buys no new clothes

As of Thursday, I’m launching my own two-month campaign with #ownclothesonlyoctober followed swiftly by #nothingnewnovember, during which I will be buying … precisely nothing.

If you know me, you’ll think I’m kidding. My partner certainly does. Ever since I could talk, maybe before, I’ve had a thing for fashion.

Honey magazine was my bible in the Seventies. And I still recall the illicit thrill of my first ‘significant purchase’ — a black, stretchy dress from Azzedine Alaia, the label all the models wore then, which cost me three weeks’ salary — and not caring, because this dress was going to change my life for ever.

Some of the great perks of being at Vogue were the exclusive sample sales, the discounts and, yes, the gifts.

There were also chances to borrow. Many a time, when I needed to attend a show or interview someone important, I’d have a designer bag on my arm, empty and with the label still inside.

Bags have always been my thing. For years and years, I fantasised about owning a Constance leather handbag from Hermes. (The average price of a basic Constance is £7,000, and involves being on a waiting list for months).

To me that was the pinnacle, more chic than Chanel even, a semaphore to the world that, even if the soles of my shoes had worn through, I properly ‘ran with the pack’. 

Now, I’m quite happy to say, the idea of owning a bag that retails for a minimum of £7,000 repulses me. Actually, nowadays, the very word ‘fashion’ makes me feel slightly sick.

The woman who used to live for fashion has shocked everyone she knows with her change of heart and says many people will think she is kidding with her latest campaigns

The woman who used to live for fashion has shocked everyone she knows with her change of heart and says many people will think she is kidding with her latest campaigns

So what happened? Well, Covid, for a start. When we look back we will probably realise the full effect of its impact, the faultlines, political, social and economic, it laid bare.

We need to get over it to gain perspective and it will end eventually. One day we will all be happily bumping up against each other at bars and parties again, slyly judging each other by the labels we wear, jostling elbows at the sales and so on.

But in the interim, it has forced us to stand still and take stock, to examine our perpetual need for more.

I don’t know how it was for you, but one of the biggest revelations for me during lockdown, was how it was not only possible to do with less, but infinitely preferable.

For the past six months, I have lived in four pairs of Carpenter-style trousers (yes, the ones handymen wear), maybe five sweaters, ten T-shirts and either Birkenstocks or trainers.

As October approaches, invitations for six-only get-togethers are trickling in and I should be anxious about my not very on-trend autumn wardrobe.

Normally, I’d be thinking, with slightly heavy heart, about the ‘significant purchases’ I’m going to have to invest in before throwing myself into the social fray.

Magazines are very good at seducing you into thinking that if you just buy this one thing, your entire wardrobe will be transformed — a pair of boots or anything fringed, say — but it is just a way to hook you in.

Nowadays the very word 'fashion' makes Christa (pictured) feel sick, despite previously being willing to pay £7,000 on a handbag

Nowadays the very word ‘fashion’ makes Christa (pictured) feel sick, despite previously being willing to pay £7,000 on a handbag

I’ve always known this to be true, but it has never stopped me from overspending hugely at this time of year. 

Get me in a shop or on to a website and a dull-eyed hunger takes over. I have to have not just ‘it’, but three of it just to be safe.

That Cash And Carry approach to clothes shopping is fine if you don’t give a fig about the environment. But, if you have obscenely expensive taste, as I do — a legacy of being at Vogue — it can be lethal.

As it is, I have not as yet bought one item of clothing online for autumn. I’m far more interested in trawling the net for limescale remover and laundry bleach.

For my 60th birthday I requested, and got, a steam mop and a new Dyson vacuum. For Christmas, I’m asking for a new ironing board and an air fryer.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love nice things and I’m not planning on letting myself go. I just, in the spirit of decluttering guru Marie Kondo, want to appreciate what I already have and stop being in this constant state of wanting when I’ve already got far, far more than I need.

And so, when I went to London the other day — usually a big trigger on the shopping front — for a dental appointment, I had a look in my wardrobe at all the clothes I haven’t worn for six months —Chanel, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Yves St Laurent, among them.

For the past six months, Christa (pictured) has lived in four pairs of Carpenter-style trousers, around five sweaters, ten T-shirts and either Birkenstocks or trainers

For the past six months, Christa (pictured) has lived in four pairs of Carpenter-style trousers, around five sweaters, ten T-shirts and either Birkenstocks or trainers

I’m not good at looking after my things, so it looked like a jumble sale. What I need is to give them a loving going over, put them on wooden hangers and get them darned etc.

Some of the tighter, shorter stuff, which has miraculously shrunk over lockdown, should go to my niece, because who am I kidding? I’m 60 now!

And, besides, I’m a country mouse nowadays. Not much call for a green lamé festival dress or a skin-tight Azzedine Alaia sheath in the wilds of Wiltshire.

So, in short, I don’t need to buy anything more and nor, God knows, does the planet need me to. As a result, I have pledged not to buy anything to wear for the next two months. That includes second-hand stuff.

This means unsubscribing from all online boutiques and sales updates, not reading fashion magazines and being obdurate about not caving in around my fashionista girlfriends. 

One of whom, I smugly noticed, was rather intrigued by the Stanley tool belt I’ve taken to wearing since the beginning of summer.

Bought off Amazon for under £30 and perfect for dog treats and poo bags, clothes pegs, and my phone, it is far more convenient than any bag I have ever owned and is even quite flattering, the way it gives you a waist.

I hope Louis Vuitton doesn’t come out with its own version. The sad fact is, if it did, plenty of suckers would buy it.

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