I am currently living in New York, one of the most exciting fashion capitals of the world. From the beautiful, extravagant Sacks store on 5th Av to the individual, quirky vintage stores of Williamsburg where you are sure to find a one-of-a-kind statement piece, NYC is the embodiment of all my shopping fantasies. What can I say? I’m a shopaholic. Fashion, for me, is “greater than art because you live your life in it.” (- Nigel, The Devil Wears Prada)
So then, do I deem myself a moral person with integrity if I shop til I drop in a city where you see more homeless people on the streets than food trucks? Am I conceited, materialistic and narcissistic because I choose to spend my money on clothes, shoes and labels rather than give it to those who can barely afford a hot drink to keep them warm?
The other day I felt this awful pang of self-doubt in my own personal prospects as I stepped off the subway cradling my recent purchases. I managed to just glimpse through the sea of Bloomingdales and Macey’s bags, a man sat in the corner of the station, a piece of cardboard at his feet that read ‘Please help me, anything you can spare, God Bless’, the look of hopelessness embedded deep into his eyes. I began to get really anxious about the whole thing, seeing myself as superficial and conceited. How could I ignore the fact that one of my first thoughts in the morning is “What shoes look best with this outfit?” in comparison to over 60,000 homeless people in New York, who wake up wondering if they’ll get to eat that day?…..
Fashion is something that really does receive a good beating from many who aren’t moved by its power – I regularly find myself facing stereotypes that if you love shopping you’re either a “bimbo“, “lack depth” or “too concerned with appearance” blah blah blah. I love expressing myself through style and experimenting with new purchases. Some may scoff but creating an outfit from individual pieces of clothing gives me a huge buzz. Going on long shopping sprees is something I love to do in my free time, but then why the guilt?
I don’t think my passion for fashion means I’m conceited or cold-hearted, just like I don’t believe someone spending hundreds on gaming stations or musical equipment is immoral. Similarly, I don’t think for one minute that it’s fair to say somebody who invests thousands in a fancy sports car is superficial.
These are peoples’ passions we’re talking about! Yes, the light of humanity really does shine brightly when people act selflessly and sacrifice things for others without a hidden agenda. However, passion is a major part of humanity too – take that away and you’d be left with a race of lifeless robots. Our passions are something we should be celebrating, not making ourselves feel guilty about! Granted, there is a limit to these things and we must be careful to draw the line between feeding our passions and indulging them. But living in a world ruled by money, most things we pursue are going to involve spending cash – this is inescapable.
So…here’s where this quote comes in.
It’s not like you can give money, food and emotional support to every single person in need – you’d end up in a similar situation to those who you were helping and that’s where we’d end up going full circle, stuck in a never ending loop of poverty. However, I truly believe kindness is one of our most magical commodities, no matter on how small a scale. Sure, I’m no Mother Theresa but I do have the freedom and ability to make a difference to somebody out there, even if it is just for one day.
That is why the next time I go into my local 86th Street subway station to catch the morning train, I’ll enter prepared with a bag of food and a hot drink for the man who sits in the corner with the hopeless look in his eyes. I think engaging in some conversation would be greatly appreciated too, as I can imagine he’s starving in more ways than one.
Perhaps, helping others and making a difference doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the things you love, but instead, learning to achieve a balance between fuelling your own passions and igniting a spark of hope for those who need it most. And the key thing about a spark is that no matter how small, it has the power to ignite a blaze.