I am self-aware about the fact that when it comes to fashion, I do not buy sustainably. I often buy from fast fashion companies because that is what bests fit my budget, and personally, I wear my clothes out for a very long time. I am not the type of person to wear a piece a couple of times and then move onto the next one. I do wish I can afford sustainable fashion. Isn’t that a crazy thought, though? The fact that sustainable fashion is considered a luxury for people who can not afford it is truly mind-boggling, and it is why sustainable fashion is a classist issue.
Sustainable fashion is not the industry norm, so it is mainly driven by small online or in-person boutiques and thrift stores. Many Gen-Z members of society try to push sustainable fashion, but it is actually doing more harm than good.
The small ‘eco-friendly’ boutiques are like a whole different breed. They promote their products as sustainable clothing pieces and then mark them up with crazy prices. A blouse that is ‘sustainably’ made can cost $50 minimum! This price is an issue because immediately, it sets a standard of how wealthy a person has to be to purchase this blouse, and who falls below that standard? Low-income consumers who are mainly people of color.
The people who fall below the standard needed to shop sustainably buy from fast fashion companies because it is the only option that fits their budget. It does not matter whether it was made sustainably or not because at the end of the day, it is most likely going to end up in the clothing landfill laying next to a pair of Forever 21 jeans and a SHEIN jacket. That is where 84% of clothing ends up, no matter where it came from and how it was made. [bf_image id="g78nwvgfkr6g3x98tb49hg3p"]
But what about thrift stores? That was another way low-income consumers can buy clothes within their budgets… until about two years ago. Thrift stores have spiked up their prices tremendously ever since it became a trend to go ‘thrifting.'
A somewhat trending top that may have cost $5 back then, but now it is priced at $15, making it more expensive than a simple T-shirt from Walmart that costs $10. With all of the wearable clothes from thrift stores now being bought out at a high rate by people who enjoy thrifting, there are fewer options for low-income consumers to buy for themselves, especially those who are plus-size, considering that there are not many options for them in the first place.
Depop is also another monster that disguises itself as a place to buy sustainable and second-hand clothing. This is not at the fault of the sellers who have good intentions and the platform itself, but the scalpers who run their shops for their own benefit. They will list clothing as ‘cute,' ‘trendy’ and ‘sustainably made’ with very realistic pictures and shop descriptions. However, with one simple reverse Google Image search, you can very easily find the same exact garment being sold on AliExpress for a fraction of what it is being sold for on Depop.
Sustainable fashion is not a bad thing. It is incredible how important it is to Gen-Z and how widespread it is practiced. However, it caused many classist issues that were already prominent to run deeper than before. It is important for the fashion industry to embrace it as a whole and move towards a fully sustainable environment so it can be fully available for every consumer, not just those who can afford it.