I keep going on about sustainability and that's because the deeper I dive into the world of online influencers and #fashion, the more obvious it becomes to me that fast fashion is a pretty big problem. I know that not everyone can afford a pair of $600 vegan and sustainable designer shoes, so I'm not going to GOOP guilt you guys into making it seem perfectly normal to have access to that kind of money. What I do want to do is inspire you to think twice before you buy something just because someone (or something) is making you feel like you need it.
Hopefully, this list helps you make sustainable choices without being overwhelming. Even if you start with applying 1 rule at a time, you're still making a difference.
1) Check the label.
- The first thing I look for is fabric. Because I'm vegan, it's pretty impossible to avoid poly materials like PU and PVC, especially when purchasing "fake leather". However, if I'm not buying a "leather", I avoid poly and lean towards cotton, Tencel, linen, corduroy and denim. These are not perfect for the environment, but it's better than the alternative.
- The second thing I look for is where the garment is made. I try to avoid anything imported from Asia (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, etc). I don't know enough to be able to figure out which brands have great, healthy relationships with their factories and aren't taking advantage of women and children in these countries. Modern slavery is a real issue and it only takes a quick google search to figure out how bad the conditions are for those forced to work in the garment industry, so there is no excuse for ignorance. The only place I have a really hard time doing this is activewear, so if you know of any stylish, sweat resistant and ethical activewear brands that fit properly, please email me!
2) Brand awareness. If you love a brand and you're wondering about their ethics/sustainability/fabric sourcing, email them! If a brand has nothing to hide, they will give you the information you're looking for. I once found out that a super cute, vegan brand I was about to buy a coat from was actually owned by Moose Knuckle, a company known for their gratuitous use of fur. I emailed several times, reached out on Instagram and called, all with no response. Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere. Transparency is key, and brands are realizing that social media has given consumers the ability to hold them accountable for their practices, so they had better step their game up.
3) Ask yourself these 2 questions:
- Do I need this? It seems silly, but it's so important to take a step back and think about whether or not you really need (or even want) something. We are overwhelmed every day with images of beautiful people wearing shiny, beautiful things. I get distracted all the time. My trick is to put things in my cart, then try to remember what I put there a few days later. If I can't remember, I realize it was just a fleeting desire and move on.
- How many times will I wear this? There was a study done a few years ago that showed the average amount of times a woman wore an article of clothing was 7 times. SEVEN TIMES. I can't imagine discovering a beautiful piece, thinking about it, loving it, buying it and then discarding it after 7 wears. It really does hurt my heart to think about all the clothing that is considered garbage because of the fast fashion industry. They (the sustainable environmentalist who know what's up) say that you should wear something at least 30 times, and if you don't think you can do that, you shouldn't buy it. I agree, and I apply that rule when I shop. This is actually a great article on the #30wears initiative that was started by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age.
5) Research. Social Media is your friend! As a vegan, I was trying to give up wool. As a Canadian, I was finding myself very cold, so I started to look for companies that made knits from recycled wool. I used Instagram hashtags and eventually discovered Sandermann, a brand focused on sustainability and zero waste design. They create knitwear from wool that would have been discarded and burned by Danish sheep breeders because it didn't wasn't "good quality". My research paid off and now I own a beautiful and sustainable lilac knit made from something that was destined for the trash. What's not to love?
6) Consignment! I have an entire post on why I love consignment shopping, so I won't go on about this too much, but there is no shame in secondhand shopping! There is also no shame in letting go of something you once loved and took great care of and giving it a second home. Circular fashion is great for the environment and the economy. The added bonus is the rush of finding a vintage skirt that fits you perfectly for $40.
7) Washing and Tailoring. Activewear and intimates aside, I try to wash my clothes only when I absolutely must. If something smells (it happens), I hang it outside and let fresh air do its thing. I have clothes patched and sometimes completely altered to give them a new lease on life. I have shoes resoled many times over. I have pieces that I've owned (and worn) for over 10 years and they look as good as new - and they aren't all high end, some of this stuff is from back in my Zara days. It sounds crazy, but washing your clothes (and dry cleaning them) is the most damaging thing you can do, so think twice before you drop something in the hamper. If you dial back the washing and make friends with a tailor or seamstress, you're guaranteed to extend the life of your clothes and who doesn't want that?
So that's what I do to make my wardrobe more sustainable and reduce my overall impact on the environment. Maybe you do something different, or maybe you have ideas on how I can do better. I'm headed to The Sustainable Fashion Forum at the end of April and I'm excited to get inspired and hear what all the industry leaders have to say. Stay tuned for my blog post and video on my time in Portland. xx