Why I Don’t Go for Designer and Brand Labels.

In the spirit of this Halloween weekend, I would like to talk about something that scares the majority of people.

Sacrifice.

No, not human sacrifice, but sacrifices made by humans for various reasons.

You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever sacrificed something for someone you love, for a prior commitment or for something you want in the future.

The whole idea of sacrificing is saying no to one thing so that you can say yes to something else, or giving something up for something or someone else.

In this world, as we all know, you can’t have everything. You can’t eat cake every day, stay on your butt and expect to be fit and lean too. You can’t stay awake all night watching your favorite TV marathon and expect to be sharp and awake for work in the morning the next day.  You can’t put unhealthy foods and junk in your body and expect to say healthy. The list goes on. Life is full of choices, you are always choosing “this” or “that”, even when you don’t realize it.

When it comes to success philosophy in any aspect of life, we often think of motivation and discipline, but sacrifice is such a big part of that.

As for me, I have made A LOT of sacrifices to live the life that I have right now. A lot of people look at me and wonder how I managed to be where I am, but the answer is sacrifice.

I am a married 26-year-old, with a toddler, living abroad and I travel frequently. I work internationally creating media and I study online with a Canadian college, because I’m about to dive into the field of recreation, fitness and self-esteem building.

I always knew that adventure and travel had to be big parts of my life. I think the first real sacrifice I knew I would have to make to live my life to the fullest was sacrificing the chance to buy and wear brand name-everything. Gasp.

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All the posh people I know probably think I’m grungy, but I don’t care about brand names and designer stuff. I learned a long time ago that my money could be used to do more than wear someone else’s name. That philosophy didn’t make me cool, that’s for sure. But it has made me who I am today.

I remember when I was still in high school and I got my first job working in the deli section of the neighboring Price Chopper grocery store. I was 14 and got paid $6.70CAD per hour. My first few paychecks were blown on clothes, shoes and lunches, but I learned something really valuable when I started shopping for my own clothing.

Just like any other brain-washed North American child, I went out to the central mall in hopes of purchasing some really cool brand name clothes that I could wear to school. I was into the hip-hop brands then, like Babyphat, Enyce, Sean Jean, etc.. I was appalled to discover that the jeans I wanted to buy costed my entire two-week paycheck. If not the jeans, I could only afford to buy two brand-name shirts, made of thin material that I would definitely be freezing in during the pending winter.

As I considered the purchase, I realized that I had busted my ass for 10 days after school just to be able to afford one pair of jeans, with only enough money left over to buy one day’s lunch. This was a problem for me, because my Dad stopped giving me allowance and expected me to be able to afford my own transportation and lunch for school now that I was working. I couldn’t spend my whole paycheck on a pair of jeans or two flimsy shirts just because some “designer” slapped their logo and bunch of tacky-now outdated-graphics on it.

My logic was simple, and to be honest, I’ve never changed the way I think when it comes to money and purchases.

I realized, back then, that someties brands were nothing more than names and ideas. But was that necessary to live a great lifestyle?

If I spent a whole month working this part-time job to afford to buy two pairs of jeans and two lunches, it just wouldn’t be worth it to work at all. The neighboring, “non-brand-worthy” stores held sales that gave me 4 pairs of jeans for the price of the 1 brand name pair. Or 5-6 shirts for the cost of the 2 designer ones. It just didn’t make sense to me that a logo and a name would be worth my hard labor, enough for me to sacrifice all the other things I needed to do with my little money. It just wasn’t.

I remember when others tried to use their logic when we compared our attitudes towards shopping, saying things like, “but it’s designer!” or “if it’s that brand, then you know it’s good quality.” But I can’t even begin to tell you how many things I have purchased without a brand name that came in some amazing quality, things I still have even 10-12 years later. I also found that some brand name items were still crappy material regardless of their name and associations.

I found that it was so much more efficient and satisfying to get the most for my money, and not necessarily what was fanciest. I sacrificed having a few designer things to have all the things I needed plus a little extra for adventure, period.

The only real downside to living like that was caring about whether or not people judged you for the names on your apparel. That does happen a lot, especially in places like Toronto where competition for jobs and status is more aggressive and looks can make make a big difference.

However, how a person dresses is not always a good indicator of their true wealth. Some of the most broke individuals have the best designer clothes and accessories. Some of the wealthiest people I know wear the same, normal, non-dazzling clothing every day. You can’t judge a book by the cover.

Wearing non-brand name clothing didn’t win me friends or make people think I was going to go anywhere in life. In fact, as I’ve written before, I was bullied and often rejected as a kid and teen. I grew up in Toronto, where I was often made fun of for not being dressed like the other kids. But that was another sacrifice I was willing to make, after I tried to make friends and please people only to learn that it was not worth being unhappy for, anyway.

As time passed, I moved and traveled a lot. I lost many belongings and had to leave things behind from time to time. I have had to replace a lot of things that I’ve lost too and even given things away to the less fortunate because I knew it would mean more to them than it did to me. If I had owned designer clothes and belongings, I don’t know if it would have been so easy to let go, to lose or give away. I don’t know, if I had to replace such things, if I would be able to afford to travel as much as I do. Some designer bags cost the same as flying to Thailand and back from Canada; some cost even more.

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I could have had designer things instead of travelling. I could have worked every day of the week to stock up my closet, but then I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have been changed by seeing people living in true poverty, understanding world politics, meeting kind strangers and other travelers, eating new foods, seeing the effect North America has on the rest of the world, learning how well I can thrive in foreign places, etc.. I had to sacrifice having designer things in order to do these amazing things.

That’s why, if you check out my pictures and feeds, you won’t see me rocking brand names and designer clothing often….especially if I’m paying for it. Unless that money is going to feed a village in Indonesia or something, it’s just not worth it to me. But you will see me always in another country, doing something I love, with my son and hubby, who also travel with me.

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I should also mention that my 2 year-old has been enrolled in Montessori school since he was 18mo. old, we eat all-organic foods and we spare no expense on real cheeses and other fine eats and drinks, wherever we are in the world. We also invest in our own businesses. These things are worth more to me than a luxury item I can wear and lose. The experiences will live with my family and I forever.

I made my choice long ago to use my money to create more wealth and happiness, and for me, a great deal of that is a wealth of adventure, experience and knowledge. I have fed and clothed the needy, I have educated others, I have inspired people and challenged them to be and do more. I don’t have brand names on my high quality stuff, which is not as expensive, even though the quality is the same or even higher. And I can actually afford to give these things away or lose them in my travels, and replace them too, several times over. I couldn’t do that if I cared about having brand name things.

That was my sacrifice. I also had to sacrifice the comfort of being among my family in Canada and hanging out with my circle of friends more than once every few years. Those hurt a lot too. But I had a reason, a vision.

It’s why I live the way that I do now. But I still have more motives for avoiding giving my money to certain established brands than just that.

It is worth mentioning that a lot of brand name things are also made on the backs of slaves and child laborers, or workers that earn less money than they need to survive, less than a dollar a day. I wouldn’t buy brand names even if I didn’t travel, because I don’t support that.

The world we live in is a result of how we spend our money. We empower businesses when we buy their products. Why would I knowingly support a company that forces 5-6 year olds to do factory labor for less than they deserve? Kids shouldn’t be working at that age! So I buy things consciously, because I want good companies to thrive and to put bad companies out of business. Even if they are the best known, well-loved designer or brand, if they are violating human rights and freedoms, destroying the environment or funding unjust wars, I won’t support them with a single penny. But that’s just me, I guess I care a bit.

For example, check out what Nestle, Hersheys and Mars are doing for your chocolate, which I no longer purchase.

Hershey, Nestle and Mars Use Child Slaves to Make Your Chocolate


We must be aware of WHY we do things.

It is important to remember that I knew, early on, that I wanted to lead an adventurous life. I wanted to learn and teach others. I wanted to entertain people with quality thoughts and ideas. I wanted to do things for unfortunate people, to have a real impact, not just be a pretty face that everyone knew. I wanted to change the world, and I had to see it to know how I could. That was my goal and dream.

Without knowing what you want, who you are and what you really stand for, it is hard to make the right choices and sacrifices. Even though we choose everyday, we need to be aware of the implications for each of our choices.

For example, simply turning on a light switch is a choice. It may seem harmless and meaningless in the moment, just a little light. But that light runs on electricity, that electricity has a price and most likely, the one who pays your utilities sacrifices dollars and cents for your lights, where they could have saved it or spent it elsewhere.

See.

Everyday life is full of unintended choices, sacrifices and the results of these things, foreseen and unforeseen. You need to become more aware and in control of that in order to lead your life in the most intended way.

No matter how motivated or disciplined you are, you cannot avoid sacrifice. For everything you say “yes” to, you are saying “no” to something else.

Like when you choose to sit, you say “yes” to sitting and “no” to standing or running. Again, very simple but it is too easy to overlook in everyday life, the fact that we are continuously making choices and sacrifices.

Gaining control of my life had a lot to do with becoming aware of how I was affecting myself with my own choices. Being where I am today is the result of pre-planning and thinking carefully about my sacrifices and choices.

In the end, it’s simple, but not easy.

You have to know what you want and make the scary sacrifices that will take you there too.

I hope you do.