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Pay the Same to Be Different

Posted by:

  • Charlotte Vines
“If you actually wear and love your clothes, you won't feel the need to constantly consume,” - Shakaila Forbes-Bell (2024). Read my story of how transformed my ability to express myself without posing a threat to my finances.


‘Another night, another day…‘

My alarm ringtone of ‘Boom (Heartbeat)’ by Ray Foxx pierces through my ear drums in the early hours of one of the five-too-many weekdays. They all blend into one.

Against the will of my pre-coffee-self, the repetitive tune attempts to prime my brain into enduring the 2-hour journey to my office job in London.

The tune isn’t wrong, you know. It’s always just ‘another night, another day’, wrapped up into an endless spiral of monotony.

A cartoon image of someone struggling to get out of bed, with creased covers and messy piles of work in the background. It is dark with a lamp lighting up a tiny part of the bed to the right.

What’s this got to do with Gensbot? I can hear now somewhere among the inescapable and everlasting auditory memory of my alarm.

Don’t snooze just yet, I’ll get there.

So here’s how the morning goes:


Another night, another –’ *snooze*

Another nigh –’ *snooze*

Another –’

Ughhhh don’t make me go into London,” I groan, whacking the ‘Dismiss’ button and praying for a ‘Lottery Winner’ notification to penetrate my phone, despite having never bought a ticket.

I spend over half of my allocated getting-ready-time making a coffee (with no regrets, I might add). I open my wardrobe and see the same three plain tops looking back at me.

‘Take your pick’, I imagine them sarcastically taunting me, ‘We have: A navy. A grey. And a black top on offer. No patterns. No variation in colours… Yippee.’

I haven’t really known how to dress since lockdown (nor before it, if you ask my teenage niece).

With the obligatory COVID-lockdown-culture (read: bread-making) weight gain refusing to leave the post-COVID-lockdown party happening among my tummy, hips and thighs, and the increase in workload with the then-increase in time from not commuting having never decreased from the decrease in time with the return to commuting (*deep inhale*…), I can’t deal with the stress of finding current trends with limited time and trying to situate myself in them with limited patience.

So, I use the same three plain tops on rotation.

A row of clothes in shades of grey, navy, and black hanging up in a dark wardrobe.

I’m not suggesting it’s a problem to repeat outfits – I’d much rather do that and save money (for an irrational amount of coffee) than buy a new outfit every week.

But the clothes I wear everyday are not me.

They are easy and they fit any body. And I’m not suggesting it’s a problem to wear items that fit any body – what is it to ‘fit’ anyway and also whose body falls under ‘any body’?

The socio-philosophical questions are endless, so I’ll arrive here:

What about me?

What if everything felt a little less mundane if I showed up as me everyday?

I don’t just mean the tired-eyed, didn’t-have-time-to-brush-my-hair, begrudgingly-in-the-office-when-I-could-be-working-from-home-in-pyjamas me. I mean the me who used to hone her creativity.

Before adulthood. Before covid. Before the transaction involving my soul and an office job.

A cartoon image of a woman with messy hair and sleepy eyes sat at a desk with her head in her hands. There is a lamp illuminating her from above, with a mug of coffee and piles of paper on her desk in front of her. There are stacked up papers behind her to the right, and a printer behind her to the left.

I had always thought I was resisting consumerism by not caring about what I wore and going for the cheapest most plain option.

While that is true to a degree, I was also resisting myself.

I had listened to Episode 279 of Kelechi Okafor’s ‘Say Your Mind’ podcast, where Kelechi invited Shakaila Forbes-Bell on to talk about her experience as the first Black person in the world to hold a Masters degree in Fashion Psychology.

I had been completely unprepared for a conversation on fashion to resonate with me for the first time in my under-expressive and over-caffeinated life.

Shakaila defines fashion by five main components:

  1. How you use clothes to navigate your different identities
  2. The way people use style to define themselves and other people
  3. How clothes change your mood and behaviour
  4. How mood dictates and impacts the way you dress
  5. Exploring why we buy the things we do

A cartoon image of people browsing in a colourful clothing store from aerial view.

Thinking about it in this personal way that pays homage to your inner self and accounts for how you show up in the world as well as how the world shows up to you was transformative to me.

Maybe buying clothes and merchandise does not have to involve accepting defeat to current trends or reaffirming the (over)popularity of a designer who will never know you.

I had been showing up in the world with my feelings towards weekday mornings enduring on my body for the whole day, day after day.

I had been reinforcing my feelings of gloom around not wanting to show up.

My t-shirts, my hoodies, my bags – heck, even my water bottle – all plain. Because I felt life as plain. I accepted it as plain and I navigated it as plain.

In the wake of hearing Shakaila’s words, I had decided that I wanted clothes that were colourful, that spoke to my inner child and the unparalleled feelings of joy she felt from different things in life (far removed from my commute to London).

“Screw the trends,” I’d told myself. “I’ll start wearing a pink jumper and a green zipped hoodie and look like a Fimble if I want to.”

An image of the Fimbles from CBeebies.

“Ohhh,” I had expressed in that moment of reality-check that followed, induced by the Google search that had dragged me back down to earth.

Adulthood is when you passively accept: ’Of course it costs too much – I actually like it’ to every consumerist choice you want to make.

An even more mature form of adulthood is when, for the sake of your bank balance, you resort back to the same three plain tops you already own.

Navy for Wednesdays and Fridays. Black for Tuesdays and Thursdays. And grey for Mondays… of course.

It had been a short-lived dream to show up to the world in style without spending days scrolling through endless shopping sites to find something both:

  1. Beautiful (to me), and
  2. Affordable (to me and probably 98% of other people in this world working for money that the non-working billionaires will inevitably find a way to keep taking… I’m not bitter).

Fast forward again to the same one of the far-too-many working days, there I am in my plain navy top, daydreaming of… well, just not going to work in London, I suppose. I’ll take the Bahamas if you’re offering.

A mood image woman on a train leaning her head against the window, which has rain falling down it. Her face is partially shadowed by her hair. She sips her coffee, the drips falling around the cup blending in with the rain. She is looking ahead thoughtfully with sadness in her eyes.

As I sip my carefully crafted coffee – that would remain the hardest work I would put into anything for the rest of the day – at 7am on the (probably delayed) Avanti train, I open Whatsapp, prepared to send the routine message to my boyfriend about how I hated my office job and loved my coffee (as you’ve probably gathered, that’s about everything there is to know about my personality), when I see he’s already messaged me first.

‘You’re amazing and I will never find anyone as charming and funny as you ever again. I must marry you before someone incredibly famous and successful snaps you up,’ it reads… Just kidding. (And also hinting, Ash.)

‘Look, this site lets you design clothes and merchandise with AI art from any description you come up with –’ (He’s the romantic type…)

Love you too, I think, but I click.

Dolphin in the sky about to sip a hot cup of coffee on a canvas,’ I type into the Gensbot app sceptically. There’s no way it could fabricate –

An image of a canvas presenting a dolphin flying in amongst the clous with a cup and saucer filled with steaming hot coffee in front of them.

– I stand corrected.

While I don’t normally take well to being stood corrected (ask Ash), I’m intrigued.

It is a fun distraction from the head of the man next to me leaning ever closer to my right shoulder as the lack of air conditioning on the train and his disregard for personal space invite him to drift off towards it.

‘Bottle with a picture of a male commuter being launched out of a crowded train's window.’

An image of a white bottle with an image of a man about to be thrown off of a very busy train.

Ok, I could buy into this, I ponder.

But what if I tried to outsmart it with a particular type of painting and a hint of anti-Capitalism

Ladies t-shirt with photorealist picture of a woman leaving an office in London and stepping into a world of natural beauty.’

It even speaks to me while generating the images:

Say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of nature with our 'London Escape Crewneck'. Let the vibrant greens, serene forest, and majestic butterflies transport you to a world of peace and calm. This photorealistic design will not only elevate your style but also your spirits. Get ready to embrace the beauty of the great outdoors!’ it reads, and I giggle to myself as the loading wheel turns.

Damn, it’s got more charm than I do.

A black t shirt with an photorealist image on it containing a woman heading out of central London and towards a forest with butterflies and flowers.

This can’t be so. Could I actually make something that I can wear… out of my own imagination?

Can I not only be the model (I use the term loosely before you ask) but also the designer (…not so loosely)?

What if I could proudly exhibit an insight into my mind to the world, without having to convince anyone that it’s an idea worth materialising? Without having to care if other people want to catch on?

What if I could pay homage to that inner 12-year old girl who never wanted to succumb to social pressures and just wanted to like Pokémon and science fiction and eating too many potatoes without caring about being called an over-carbohydrated unfeminine nerd?

(Ok, no one referred to carbs directly when insulting me… but they sure referred to the thighs the carbs created.)

Cartoon image of Pikachu and a Dalek sat opposite each other at a table enjoying a meal together.

I could resist the endless consumerist pressures that attempt to lure me into buying into a wealthy designer’s idea.

I could buy into my own idea.

I could believe in something, create it with Gensbot, and showcase it as a more authentic version of myself than I’d ever had the tools to present to the world before.

To think you can legitimately create your own personalised clothes, items, gifts on Gensbot with only: an imagination, a few clicks, and a little patience while the images load… it baffled me.

There must be a catch! My cynical mind insists on sinking my hopes down to about the same level of coffee remaining in my flask… It must be too expensive.

Scrolling down smugly as if I’d gotten the whole thing figured out and excited to prove my boyfriend wrong about what a great idea he believed the website to be (we do have a healthy relationship, I swear), I notice the ‘Gens Reward’ that the t-shirt would give me of 442 and the static price tag of under £15, including postage.

£15? That’s half a month’s bag of (admittedly overpriced) coffee.

A sack with a dollar sign on it. Coffee beans have been poured out of it in front.

And half the price of far too many impersonal and short-lived-in-style t-shirts that bombard the oversaturated merchandise websites dominating the online shopping sphere.

It is half the price of clothing from retail stores that only ever eventually trigger dissatisfaction from an endless cycle of passive consumerism we are falsely promised will bring validation.

And Gensbot offers one fixed price per t-shirt, regardless of the colour or design.

I can pay the same to be different. Every single day.

I can honour my different feelings for each of the five weekdays (it’s a roller-coaster for my ever-patient boyfriend) with five designs personal to me… for the same price each.

A cartoon image of 6 t-shirts in different colours. They each have a different positive facial expression on them.

Imagine that? Paying the same price to reinforce happiness as you would to reinforce gloom.

And paying half the price of other plain clothing…

to finally feel like you can present different parts of your multifaceted inner self to the world.

Every. Single. Day.

And that’s a future I’ll be bargaining on.

Starting with the sacrifice of half a month’s bag of coffee and the purchase of a t-shirt I design on… Who knows, maybe my newfound designer status will be enough to keep me caffeinated.


Nearly all images on this post were designed on Please email if you wish to generate any of the same images for your chosen product.

As the source of the headline quote, watch the full conversation between Shakaila Forbes-Bell and Staff Writer Andrea Bossi here.


What I imagine the inside of my mind to look like... (somewhat optimistically...)
What I imagine the inside of my mind to look like... (somewhat optimistically...)
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