4 Tips on How to Support Sustainable Fashion

Clothes give us the freedom to express parts of ourselves that we can’t put into words. They even allow us to explore different sides of ourselves that we didn’t know we had. Putting an outfit together can be a creative process of reimagining yourself and finding an aesthetic that resonates with you. But there are costs to clothes — and I don’t mean the price that you pay for a cute shirt you have saved on your wishlist. I mean the detrimental labor and environmental costs when producing clothes.

I started learning about the dark side of the fashion industry from watching Youtuber Kristen Leo explain the concept of fast fashion. In her video, Leo discusses how fast fashion retailers produce cheap and trendy clothes to increase demand from consumers. With so many pieces coming in and out of style, we are constantly buying new clothes because we want to keep up with all these changing trends. 

In order to maximize their profits, fast fashion retailers grossly under-pay and over-work the laborers who produce their clothes. Not only does fast fashion hurt workers, but it also harms the environment. Toxic chemicals are used to produce fabrics and textile dyeing pollutes clean water around the world. A lot of clothes also end up in landfills. 

As consumers, we can protest the unethical production of fast fashion by moving toward sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion values producing clothes and accessories ethically, in regard to the environment and socioeconomics, as well as shopping more sustainably. 

 

Here’s how I practice sustainable fashion: 

 

1. Shop at thrift stores and consignment stores. 

Buying used clothes is a great way to support sustainable fashion because you are bringing life back to the items that you purchase. You are giving them a new purpose in your closet and getting the most from their use. Consignment stores resell clothes that they purchase from locals, so their prices tend to be more than those at thrift stores for them to make a profit. I personally like to thrift at my local Savers and Salvation Army. As for consignment stores, I think that Crossroads Trading in Huntington Beach and 2nd Street in Costa Mesa are worth checking out if you’re in the area. 

I bought this blue shirt from Savers because I really like the bunny and floral embroidery.

 

2. Buy from sustainable fashion brands. 

There are several sustainable fashion brands and they each have their own approach to ethical production. My favorite is Everlane because I really like their collection as well as their transparency. They focus on making timeless pieces that will stay relevant to your wardrobe for several years. However, sustainable brands can be unaffordable for many consumers. Their prices are high because sustainable fabrics cost more to produce than synthetic materials and workers are paid better. Costs will decrease over time, though, as demand for sustainable fashion increases. Even though I don’t have the financial resources to regularly shop at Everlane, I really like the few pieces that I have because I know that they were made in an ethical manner and, frankly,  I look good in them. 

These Everlane wide leg pants are my favorite!

 

3. Be intentional when you shop at fast fashion retail stores.

It’s a privilege to have the resources (time, money, etc.) to shop more sustainably, so I understand if quitting fast fashionable altogether is not an available option for you. I myself have not stopped completely buying from fast fashion retailers. However, I am a lot more deliberate about what I buy. I think about whether I can see myself wearing the article of clothing or accessory a lot regardless of what’s in trend. And if I can order the product online, I give it some time to think about how much I actually want the piece that I’m eyeing. When you ask yourself these questions, you are less likely to make unnecessary and impulsive purchases.

I wear this $3 tank top from Target a lot and I like pairing it with this asymetrical skirt from Forever21.

 

4. See how many different outfits you can come up with the pieces that you already have.

I have a lot of clothes from high school that I wear to this day. Those pieces still work for me because many of them are simple, so when I buy new clothes, it’s easy for me to pair them with things that I already own. We often feel compelled to throw out our old clothes and buy completely new ones so that we can revamp our wardrobe. But you don’t always need to go through those lengths to come up with new looks. Go through your closet and experiment with how you can wear a certain piece differently. Playing around with your clothes lets you see them in a different light and find more ways of making them work together. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to come up an outfit that you adore. 

In the past, I have worn this shirt on its own. Now, I also like layering it over a black turtleneck.

 

There are many ways to support sustainable fashion. Everyone has a different budget and varying access to reusable clothes, so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. However, I want to share with you how I practice sustainable behaviors so that you are inspired and encouraged to do so as well!