It started when I came back from a press trip in October and, when unpacking my luggage, realised that I had nowhere to stash my new purchases.
My wardrobe was stuffed within an inch of itself, the metal runner rail that I bought to cater for the overflow from the wardrobe was now, itself, also overflowing—which, upon closer inspection, was starting to bow in the middle from the weight of all the fa-shun (which, to my mind, only further supported my belief that I only bought things of ‘good value’)—and there were so many shoes on my bedroom floor that I had to tip-toe in the gaps between them just to get to my iPhone charging by the window. As you can imagine, treacherous stuff; especially in the blur of early mornings trying to turn off the bloody alarm.
I had enough. Just like the doors to my wardrobe that started to protest by coming off their hinges—apparently you can’t hang five coats per wardrobe door handle. Who knew?
So, I made a vow to myself: no more buying stuff for yourself Norman until January 2019. Why January? I’d be back in Milan and Paris for men’s fashion week and there was no chance in hell that I wasn’t going to snag some Dior from Kim Jones’s debut SS19 collection (see our cover star, Korean rising star Jung Hae In), or my must-have for the season since I saw it on the runway, those H-leather sandals fastened with an ankle strap from Hermès. Gorg. You know, necessities.
There were caveats to my shopping fast for general survival and human decency—I could buy groceries and household supplies and gifts for other people (I mean, Christmas was around the corner). But, other than that, there was a strict ‘no shopping’ rule. No clothes. No shoes. No accessories. It was a sustainable and slow fashion new Norman.
Naturally, friends and family members alike—plus the occasional Instagram follower who saw my IG story on the idea—ridiculed my fast:
“This is more ridiculous than Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas getting married,” one said. (Why? I quite like #prick)
“What’s the real reason? Have you maxed out your credit card?” asked another. (Well, I had. But that’s just like any other month really.)
“Are you finally saving for that Brownstone that you’ve always wanted in Brooklyn?” queried a close friend. (Kinda, sorta, maybe? But seeing the crushed state of my velvet Zegna Couture blazer from all that wardrobe stuffing was more of an incentive than some future dream to live in New York.)
For the first six weeks, things were going really well. I resisted buying yet another LV pouch to pack in all my toiletries when travelling, said ‘no’ to a logo-emblazoned Gucci sweater from their Cruise range, and didn’t even walk into Prada when I had a spare half-an-hour between meetings at ION Orchard. I mean, my credit card was not maxed out! Life was amazing.
Then I had a meeting with Fendi and, before our meeting, was shown the sample sale room. There was this gorgeous lightweight summer mac with a collar sporting an embroidered double-F heritage monogram. I tried it on (a mistake in hindsight) and was triggered when I was told, “This just came in and no one else has seen it yet. It’s practically new.” It was beautiful. I think it even made me look taller. And the way the double-F monogram collar framed my face… it was just… becoming. “I don’t have any double-F monogram in my life, so I need this,” I reasoned. “It’s also a sample sale, surely that’s an exception to the rule.” Card swiped. Fast broken. A crack had formed in the hull of my little no-shopping ship.
Then I needed to wear a scarf for a trip to Japan, and logically, had to ‘invest’ in a Hermès scarf ring. (I wasn’t going to just tie my silk scarf like some commoner. God forbid.) It was only a few hundred. Just a bit more than my monthly gym membership, which, like the palladium-coated Chaine D’ancrering, was clearly a necessity. I’ll take it. Water was now gushing in unencumbered.
Then my grandmother gave me her gold ring set with Chinese jade—a family heirloom that was first worn by my great-grandmother who, upon her passing at the ripe old age of 106 years, handed it down to my grandmother who was now, to the surprise of all my aunts and uncles in Melbourne, was passing it to me. It had skipped a generation. (Yes, I’m Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians; the favourite grandchild, but how can you not love this face?)
Conundrum. This yellow gold and jade ring on my right pinky finger stood out in the sea of my white gold jewellery. There was only one way to fix this: I hadto buy more yellow gold rings to balance off the stack. I mean, I couldn’t not wear the heirloom ring right? The day after I returned from Melbourne, I headed into Boucheron in Ngee Ann City and bought a yellow gold grosgrain ring (the way the light glistens off the striped pattern is hypnotic) and, the day after that, walked into Cartier and bought a Juste un Clou yellow gold ring for the other hand (it’s all about harmony okay).
The ship was not only sinking, it was well and truly wrecked on the rocks of irrational self-justification. Like a dieting fat kid let loose in a dessert store, I was binge shopping. My name is Norman and I’m a shopaholic.
Something had to be done. I was Ariel in TheLittle Mermaid drowning in all this stuff (isn’t it neat? Would you think my collection’s complete?) but I longed to be where the people are, singing and dancing in… what do you call it? Debt-free living. So, just like Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic, it was time to rip off the band-aid and, I can’t believe this, sell my stuff.
After a painful edit of my wardrobe, I donated over 100 designer items to our charity fashion market (held in conjunction with other shopaholics) with a portion of the sales proceeds going to St Hilda’s Community Centre to support the elderly. Talk about cathartic. I can now walk to my bed without tripping over shoes, my metal runner rail actually has ‘some space’ between garments, and I even managed to pay off my credit card. Is this what freedom feels like? I like it. I can finally… breathe.
Less, as it turns out boys and girls, really can be more.