Fast fashion has had a profound negative impact on our environment over the past few decades. According to Vox “Apparel and footwear production currently accounts for 8.1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, or as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union.” Sure, I’ll admit that thrifting has become “trendy” but shopping second-hand does have amazing environmental benefits; like reducing waste pollution and water consumption. Additionally, lots of fast fashion brands are based out of countries where the cost of resources and labor are dangerously low, leading to extreme worker exploitation. So today, I want to give you some tips on how to have a more sustainable wardrobe and be more conscious about fashion sustainability, because the health of our planet isn’t worth the hot new T-shirt trend Zara and Forever 21 is going to try and sell us.
One of the biggest brands in the fashion sustainability market is Reformation. They make 75% of their inventory from natural, renewable, plant-based fibers or recycled fibers. The labor for their product production is locally sourced and 65% of the cutting and sewing process is done in LA. They also operate and invest in “green building infrastructure” to minimize waste, water, and overall carbon footprint. However, their stuff does come with a heftier price tag than you’d see at an H&M or Urban Outfitters. But with the amount of environmentally conscious thought that goes into their production process, it is definitely a worth wild investment for those who can.
And of course with any conversation about fashion sustainability and the environment, shopping local is a big point. Shopping from local brands and businesses is a great way to help support your local community. The best leggings I’ve ever owned have come from a local business in my hometown. So try shopping local. You’ll probably end up getting a higher quality product, and a piece that has a little bit more sentimental value to it.
Chanel the year 2012 and go to the thrift shop
If you’ve only got $20 in your pocket and looking to pop some tags, this is the move for you. As much as I would personally love to own a Reformation dress, my bank account would never forgive me. Now for some people, digging through piles of used clothes isn’t really up their ally, but I have some tips for that a little later, so don’t worry :). Personally, thrift shopping is my form of free therapy. There’s just something so exciting about finding that one piece of clothing that makes you excited to give a second life to. I’ve definitely found some favorites of my own.
Goodwill is a big name in the thrift store community, and for good reason. They use the proceeds from sales and donations to help provide job training and assistance to lower-income people, so even if you just donate, you’re helping a community (also when you donate most Goodwill’s will give you a 20% off your total purchase coupon along with a tax write off slip, so who doesn’t love getting coupons). With all the good that comes out of Goodwill, it’s probably the most accessible way to practice fashion sustainability and to make it a part of your own day-to-day life.
Of course, Goodwill isn’t the only place to go thrifting. You can find local thrift and consignment shops in your community and two big consignment chains you might have heard of are Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor. What’s cool about both of these places is that they have a more curated selection of what they stock in store, so it has a more refined selection. Another highlight of both these places is that when you bring in your donations, they’ll pay you cash on sight; this differs from some of the smaller consignment stores that will give you a cut of what you bring in only when it sells. Both Plato’s Closet and Cloth’s Mentor offer about $3-4 per item they accept and they have a laundry list of things they’ll take; tops, jeans, shorts, skirts, leggings, shoes, sweatshirts, and jackets. If you’re planning to go make a sale at either Plato’s Closet or a Cloth’s Mentor, check their local website to see what they’re really in need of because that can differ between locations.
And if rifling through used clothes really isn’t your thing, there’s an app for that
In the digital age, you can do anything online, even thrifting. With sites like ThreadUp and Poshmark, thrift shopping without ever actually having to drive to a thrift store actually is a positive for the environment (since it limits the number of car emissions that drive would produce). I’ve done my fair share of Poshmarking and Thread-ingUp and have really enjoyed it, and even some fashion influencers, like Ashely of “Best-dressed” of YouTube and Instagram, have collabed with these companies and have promo codes for their fans that they can use to get some 10-20% off on their orders. Ashely herself even goes thrifting and finds items to resell on her online store.
And speaking on Instagram, that’s another amazing place to go thrifting. Instagram based thrift stores have been becoming a bit of a trend over the past few months. Implementing a very Ebay-ish bidding system, the owners of these accounts visit their local thrift stores and handpick a few items they then go and sell back on their accounts. Each respective item gets its own post and a starting bid (ex. $4) is placed on the item. You might also notice the acronym BIN followed by a price (ex. $22) on an item as well. That stands for “buy it now.” Sort of a way for you to call dibs on an item you don’t want to leave up to the chance of the bidding cycle. For me, that was an amazing, grandma-ish, white cardigan that a personal favorite account of mine had posted over the summer. My favorite Instagram thrift accounts are @rethreadit, @thrifted_finds, and one based right here in Athens @ouohthrift. They all use venmo and I highly recommend checking them out if you want to find some super cool, handpicked finds, and to just support some awesome ladies. Who knew fashion sustainability was right at your fingertips?
You might have heard this term thrown around, but if you haven’t, upcycling is the process of taking a piece of clothing you already own or have thrifted, and upgrading it, or “upcycling” it, to make into a new, more interesting piece. A perfect combination of upgrading and recycling, hence the name. Upcycling is a big thing within fashion sustainability because it focuses on reusing fabric rather than adding to the overall textile waste in landfills.
There are plenty of ways of upcycling that doesn’t include sewing if that was something you were afraid of, although many fashion sustainability advocates do sew their own clothes and use sewing when upcycling, it’s not a requirement to be environmental conscious :). Things like distressing or cropping a thrifted pair of jeans or cropping a shirt. Or maybe for some beginning seamstresses, cropping a sweater (sewing the new hemline will keep the sweater from unraveling). If you want ideas of how to upcycle some older or newly thrifted items, I recommend Annika Victoria on YouTube. She has some of the best sewing tutorials on the platform and she has a really cute dog named Ella, so what’s not to love!