When I was younger, all I cared about was having as many items in my closet as possible on a budget. I didn't know anything that went on behind the scenes in the fashion industry. So I shopped at fast fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M and Zara.
As long as I looked good, I didn't care.
But in high school something changed. After a trip to visit my grandparents in China, I experienced how bad pollution can get. I was unable to open my eyes outside due to sand storms and the smog gave me bronchitis.
I didn't want to live like that.
When I entered my high school business plan competition, I decided to create a sustainable fashion brand called "8 O'Clock".
From doing that project I learned so much about the fashion industry and its large impact on our environment. Today, the global fashion industry is valued at 3 trillion dollars or 2% of the world's GDP. It's the largest polluter in the world second to only the oil industry.
According to Maxine Bedat, co-founder of Zady, “the apparel industry is responsible for 10% of the total carbon output for the entire world. That’s 5x more carbon output than airline travel combined.”
We don't fly every day, but we do wear clothes ever day (unless you're a part of a nudist colony where that's not a problem). Thus, we need to make more concious decisions about our fashion consumption.
So what is "sustainable fashion"?
According to Sarah Ditty, Head of Policy at Fashion Revolution, "Sustainable fashion is about meeting today’s needs while ensuring that the way we go about meeting those needs meet future needs as well"
Our resources are limited and if we don't care to preserve them we won't have anything left for the future.
"It literally is as simple as it’s a matter of life or death." -Sarah Ditty
Don't panic. You don't have to join a nudist colony to save the environment. Here are 5 easy ways you can have a sustainable wardrobe but still look fabulous.
Buy Secondhand or Vintage
All the cool kids on Instagram are rocking scrunchies (never thought they'd make a come back) and high-waisted jeans they thrifted at Goodwill. Brands like Urban Outfitters are producing vintage inspired goods to cater to this audience.
But why not just buy real vintage?
By purchasing secondhand items, you're not using up any new resources nor adding any waste to our planet. Plus if you find a real one of a kind treasure, nobody else will be wearing it.
If digging through dusty racks at Goodwill gives you the heebie-jeebies, don't worry you can buy secondhand from the comfort of your own home.
I too used to be turned off by used clothing. My mom never let me buy anything used and made me believe they belonged to dead people or would give me aids. I still hate going into Goodwill or other thrift stores because of all the dust that makes me sneeze uncontrollably. But thank goodness for sites like Thredup and Poshmark where you can shop secondhand online.
Thredup is my favorite because the clothes come already cleaned and with no strange smells. They also have a lot of designer brands and it's easy to search and filter through them. I don't have to waste time at the store digging through racks and trying on clothes.
"If everyone in the US bought just one item used instead of new in 2019, it would save nearly 6 billion lbs of carbon emissions - the equivalent of taking over half a million cars off the road for an entire year." - Thredup
I'm making it my personal mission this year to only buy used clothing. Not only does it save me money but it also saves the environment.
Resource sharing is truly the future. We can share homes with Airbnb, share cars with Zip Car and share clothes through rental or subscription services like Rent the Runway or Stitch Fix.
Now that I'm 25, a lot of my friends are getting married. I don't want to be seen in the same dress at every wedding but I don't want to spend money buying 10 different dresses either. For a small price, I can rent a dress.
Whether you're a working professional who meets a ton of clients or want more options in your wardrobe, subscription boxes are a great way to mix up your wardrobe. Most of the services will let you switch out pieces of clothing as many times as you want.
Subscription boxes and rental services save you space, time and money while also being sustainable.
Repair or Recycle
According to Sarah Ditty, "In North America alone, consumers throw out what is the equivalent of the Empire State building in weight every year."
What if we didn't have to do that?
I once had a pair of cute sling back sandals that I wore every day for 2 summers. One day I came home feeling like my heel was a little funny. I looked down to realize that one of them had fallen out of it's casing somewhere on my walk home. I was devastated until my dad told me to go to a cobbler.
The only times I'd heard "cobbler" was when someone put peach in front of it.
So I found one and for a small price a middle-aged Korean man fixed my heel, and I was able to wear it again.
It saved me money from having to buy a new pair and I didn't have to create more waste by throwing them away.
If you have clothing that is too used to be repaired, you can bring them to a place to be recycled. Stores like the North Face, Madewell and Levi's will take back your used clothing and recycle them. Sometimes you can get a discount or a coupon for doing so!
Buy High Quality and Timeless Designs
If you have the means to do so, invest in high quality, timeless designer brands such as Burberry and Chanel to name a few. Designer brands like these have withstood the test of time and produce high quality items of clothing. Their fabrics are less likely to pill or break and the clothes are made by real craftsmen.
My most treasured item is a Burberry trench coat passed on to me by my mom. It was expensive when she bought it but now they cost even more if I were to buy it new. Although she's worn it for years, the trench coat still looks and feels like new.
Choosing timeless designs means they'll still be in fashion years from now and the high quality means it'll last longer than bargain brands. When you're tired of an item, it will still hold a huge portion of its original value.
If you can't afford new designer pieces, buy used ones at a discount. I bought a vintage Calvin Klein dress off of Thredup for $40 and it looks brand-new.
Be aware that just because a piece of clothing is expensive doesn't mean it's high quality and timeless. Do your research before you invest in big ticket items to make sure you're investing in something that'll last you a long time.
Buy from Sustainable Fashion Brands
If you hate the idea of wearing secondhand items or want to buy new clothing in the latest trend, sustainable fashion brands give you that choice. Most of them use recycled fabrics and more sustainable methods of production to create new clothing.
One of my favorites is Everlane. They recently launched a line of clothing called ReNew, which uses fabrics made from recycled plastic water bottles. It's a great place to buy basic sweaters, t-shirts and jeans for the modern working woman.
Reformation is a great place to buy trendier clothes for a younger audience. They also use recycled fabrics to create their clothing items. I love their dresses and crop tops that make me feel like I'm an insta-model.
A lot of other sustainable fashion brands are popping up with their own unique style. It's great to have a lot more options and to know that the world is beginning to care more about sustainable fashion.
Know any other sustainable fashion brands, share them with us in the comments!
I hope this post will inspire you to start a journey to wear more sustainable fashion. We all make choices every day and sometimes a simple change could make a big impact.