Chic and Sustainable

Eco-friendly fashion choices that are good for both your wardrobe and the environment

Pictured above is a photo from a PR shoot for the sustainable fashion company Tonlé, which uses only other companies' waste materials to create their line each season. (Photo Credits: courtesy Tonlé)

Let's talk sustainable, sustainability is defined as the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. In simpler terms, it's using resources in a more useful and less wasteful way. There are sustainable alternatives for everything in our day to day lives. From something as simple as using paper or reusable bags instead of plastic, to composting leftover food, maybe using bar soap over bottled, and even deciding to shop sustainable fashion.

Shopping sustainable isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about how to be environmentally conscious. However, fashion production is extremely harmful to the environment, taking up 4% of the world's waste each year, contributing up to 10% of humanity's carbon emissions, to using an extraneous amount of water and in doing so polluting rivers and streams. Not to mention, that after all of that most of it will end up in the dump, taking up 85% of textiles in landfills each year.

We have heard of the term "fast fashion" but most people are not entirely sure what that actually means or what that looks like in the industry. This term is used to describe a highly profitable business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, and mass-producing them at low cost. The issue here is the mass production of your $60 t-shirt from Urban Outfitters or the $5 one at Forever21. With brands producing an extraneous amount of product at such a high rate to keep up with fast moving trends, they end up creating enormous amounts of waste and adding to negative environmental effects. Despite that, since it is such a profitable business model, there's no stopping it anytime soon. Companies chose to take a fast fashion process due to how fast they can take runway trends and put them on the floor of their stores. So not only are they selling tons of products to consumers who wish to keep up with trends, but they are producing the items at such a low cost and low quality that their profit margins are incredibly high; allowing companies to continue this process season after season. However, what we contribute to that process as consumers affects the amount of waste we end up seeing. Now completely erasing mainstream stores such as Zara, and H&M from your wardrobe isn't necessarily feasible, but the less you shop in these stores the less they will produce leading to less waste overall. With there being other options that are more ethical and far better for the environment, it brings to question why not shop there instead, and the more educated you are about the industry the more opportunities you have to shop sustainability.

The best way to shop sustainable fashion is to start with second hand. Nowadays, with our access to the media and internet we have connections to people all around the globe letting us have a wide selection of places to shop second hand. With online websites such as Depop, Poshmark, Thredup, and Mercari, where you can buy and sell second hand trendy pieces, it provides tons of choices for great sustainable fashion pieces. An alternative to shopping online second hand stores is to shop consignment stores; consignment stores like Plato's Closet and Buffalo Exchange buy and resell used clothing for discounted prices. Prices at consignment stores tend to be cheaper than mainstream shops but more expensive than your average thrift store. While thrift stores are also great places to shop second hand it is important to understand the economic demographic of your city and make sure you aren't adding to the issues of gentrification of thrift shops, 99% of time shopping at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army won't affect anything but your new wardrobe if your just shopping for yourself. It becomes an issue when you're shopping to sell. Though many people on platforms like Depop and Poshmark go to sell their own clothes that they don't get much use out of anymore you also run into people who are reselling a $3 shirt they thrifted for $35 and places like Goodwill notice and have to raise their prices resulting in people who don't have the privilege to shop anywhere else, slowly not being able to afford even second hand clothes from the thrift store.

If you don't like shopping second hand or want some trendier pieces but still want to shop sustainable, there’s tons of shops that focus on creating a brand that produces sustainable products. Since sustainable fashion is harder to create due to companies having to use different materials, labor practices, and machines shopping first hand sustainable

fashion can get expensive quickly. It's important to note that sustainably made fashion pieces are created with much more precision and created to last lifetimes and not easily experience wear and tear, so that extra price tag ends up being worth it at the end

Sustainable fashion isn't for everyone, But with a little more knowledge on the damage the industry creates on our earth maybe you'll take a look at some of the options you read about and give sustainable fashion a shot and end up with some fresh fun new wardrobe pieces.

Pictured is a reformation

Model wearing their pearl dress

- Story By Ariana Pasquini '21