If you type the words “sustainable clothing haul” into your YouTube search bar, you are bound to come across hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of fashion influencers grinning wide grins, surrounded by an abhorrent amount of clothing. Most of these videos center on these YouTubers showing off dozens of clothing items they “purchased” from a “sustainable” company, such as Reformation or Urban Outfitters’ “Urban Renewal” line. I would argue that more likely than not, these videos are the results of paid sponsorships between these self-proclaimed “sustainable” brands and popular fashion influencers. This is always clear when the YouTubers urge viewers to use their promotional code to receive discounts on their purchases from said brands.
The “sustainable” brands that are promoted in these haul-style videos may or may not have completely ethical practices. But either way, the sponsorship of these videos obscures the reality of what it means to shop sustainably. The YouTubers being paid by these companies to encourage their viewers to throw money at them are giving a distorted view of what sustainability is. Purchasing unnecessary hordes of garments from a for-profit company isn’t a glowing picture of eco-friendly fashion. Rather, it’s a consumerist tactic used by online content creators and companies to take cash out of your pocket and put it in their own.
Being a sustainable consumer doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on luxury items: in fact, it means the opposite. Learning how to consume less, recycle what you already have, and learn useful skills to upcycle your garments is the best way to be truly sustainable with your fashion and it won’t break your bank. Here are some ways to get started:
1. Remember that less is more
Buying more clothing from a “sustainable” company is not the answer to shopping sustainably. In the long run, buying more garments, regardless of where they’re sourced, will likely expend more energy and resources than purchasing clothing less frequently.
2. Go for more classic pieces when you’re shopping
With the speed at which trend cycles move, it can be tempting to go shopping for every new Instagram fashion fad that’s produced. However, playing into trends is a sure-fire way to consume excessive amounts of clothes and have a closet that quickly becomes outdated. Before you shop a trend, consider how long you think the fad will last. Instead, lean into classic silhouettes, prints, and patterns that you know will be around for a while.
3. Shop your closet (or your friend’s!)
I probably only wear 75% of the clothes in my closet. There are so many items that I purchased on a whim, assuming I would get used out of them and never did. On a day when you have some free time, explore some of those discarded items crumpled in the bottom of your wardrobe and consider the ways you can bring them back to life. There are probably more possibilities than you think.
You can even do this activity with your friends! Host a clothing swap party where you and your friends all bring the clothes you don’t reach for much and see if you can trade them for some others’ pieces that you like.
4. Learn how to sew!
Learning some basic sewing skills can be a great way to repair damaged clothes that you were planning on discarding. I’m not talking about transforming into some world-class designer but rather learning some basic skills: like patching holes or even hemming. If you get good, you may even be able to upcycle some of the outdated pieces in your closet!
By implementing these fashion tips and more, we can all move towards having sustainable consumption habits that keep money in our hands and out of those of corporations.