“Sustainable” is a word that gets thrown around a lot lately, as the trend of sustainability has been growing. It’s not surprising that “sustainable fashion” is a term that’s been booming in the fashion industry as well. But, what does it mean?
Essentially, sustainable fashion is any type of clothing, accessory, or product that seeks to be environmentally friendly and ethically conscious throughout all processes of the product’s life. Sustainable fashion isn’t just about the production of more environmentally and socially beneficial clothing, but about the different patterns of consumption that customers place on their wardrobes. Throwing out an item after a month of being on-trend, a phenomenon called “fast fashion,” is something the sustainable fashion industry strives to avoid. Instead, it aims to create items for the long term, to be used for an extended period of time or recycled at the end of its life. Sustainable fashion can look like a lot of things, from purchasing from companies with strict missions against unfair garment laws to buying jewelry from businesses who have an environmentally-driven production model. Sustainable fashion is a growing problem that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution; however, there are many ways to be more sustainable within your personal closet.
One way to achieve a more sustainable wardrobe is by shopping brands committed to sustainability. Here are a few established brands that have a reputation for their good ethics and environmental accountability.
Everlane is a company that prides itself on transparency with its customers. It works only with factories that meet their ethical standards of fair wages and hours for its employees. Its products are meant to last longer than fast-fashion products would, preventing further tossing out of used clothing items.
Patagonia is an outdoor-wear company that takes sustainability seriously. The brand audits all materials and methods used for production, takes responsibility for the entire lifecycle of each product, and monitors how materials are used at facilities.
RAE Collective aspires to deliver both vintage and ecologically made clothing in a way that recycles clothing, fabrics, and resources sustainably.
Reformation achieves sustainability by using all-green building models to cut down on factory waste/consumption as well as publishing a quarterly sustainability report that tells customers exactly how their business remains environmentally and ethically sound.
On a local scale, many creators in the 417 community have started businesses of their own to inspire sustainable, ethical fashion. Here are some examples:
Wasteless Apparel seeks to offer an ethically conscious place to buy trendy clothes. Whether thrifted and revamped, vintage, or made from recycled materials, no fabric from production goes to waste.
5 Pound Apparel creates quality products that benefit the local community. 5PA partners with many ethical and social brands and production companies who are committed to fair trade practices.
Dogwood Vintage is another shop in Springfield that is upcycling vintage clothing and reselling it to new owners. By reusing vintage pieces, waste is reduced and the lifespan of a garment is increased, giving it a more sustainable value.
These are just a sample of the multitude of local shops that are committed to the reduce-reuse-recycle ideals that sustainable fashion is keen on. Sustainable fashion is not some far-off plan available only for the big city fashion areas, it’s right here in the 417.
Unfortunately, for the college budget, a lot of these stores won’t be something affordable for consistent shopping. So what do you do if you want to become more sustainable with your closet, but can’t afford to drop the cash on an ethically-made garment? This is where another aspect of sustainable fashion comes in: thrifting and shopping second hand.
This is by far the most effective way to keep a sustainable closet on a budget, and the method I use the most often. Second-hand shops have used items that you can sort through to find pieces you’ll love. These shops are typically more expensive than a thrift store, but they also only select a certain standard of donated pieces, and filter out the clothes they don’t think will be purchased or aren’t as high quality. Thrift stores, on the other hand, take almost everything donated to them. This means there’s a lot to sift through, and though it’s hit or miss, you’d be surprised at the things you can find. Thrifting is easily my favorite way to shop. It happens to be sustainable and - bonus - oftentimes charitable as well! Many thrift shops in Springfield, for example, have good causes attached to them. Thrift Haven’s profit goes to a children’s home, the Missouri Council of the Blind Thrift Store donates all their proceeds to helping the blind population of Missouri, and CARE Closet goes to benefit the Castaway Animals Rescue Effort animal shelter. By shopping at thrift stores like this, you’re not only contributing to the reuse of existing clothing (and not encouraging the practice of more clothing being put to landfills) but you’re also able to support a charity.
No matter where you choose to shop, it’s always important to know where your products are coming from and how they affect the world around you. The fashion industry is a beautiful and innovative place, but it is also one that has negative side effects on those at the roots of the industry. From conception to the runway, each piece of clothing leaves an impact on those who made it and our planet. I encourage you to utilize your resources: brands worldwide, local business, and thrift stores that give you a chance to lessen your carbon footprint and/or support fair wages for garment workers. It’s impossible to be perfect when it comes to achieving the ideal of sustainable style, but it isn’t impossible to make small, every-day steps towards that goal. Make your first step today! Shop sustainable. ♥
Graphic by Jocelyn Samatmanivong