Regardless of your politics, I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that humans have done a ton of damage to the planet. Did you know the fashion industry as a whole is the second largest polluter in the world, after oil? My eyes are wide open these days, but if you asked me 10 years ago what I thought about ethical fashion, I probably would have shrugged and told you it was too expensive, not stylish enough, and just not for me. Well, I’ve changed. I’ve become curious about ethical fashion and have found brands that are in line with my budget and style. Let’s talk about sustainable fashion and why it matters.
What is sustainable fashion and why I’ve made a shift to support it
Sustainable fashion…. ethical fashion…. eco-friendly fashion…. these terms have become so trendy over the past couple of years and they’ve caught my eye. Little by little, I’ve researched what all of this means and what brands fall into these categories. As a result, I’ve become more conscious of my spending and I think it’s a worthwhile topic to write about, so here we are.
Let’s start with the main question: What is sustainable fashion?
It’s a complicated answer, as the fashion industry is constantly evolving. If you do a Google search for “what is sustainable fashion,” you’ll get all kinds of different answers depending on who you ask. At its core, “sustainable fashion refers to garments that have been made in a way that is mindful of the many environmental issues the fashion industry touches upon,” writes Study34.
You can read more about what sustainable fashion is here and here. For those of you who really want to go nuts, read this 65-page Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study from last year.
Next, we need to talk about fast fashion. The opposite of sustainable fashion is fast fashion. You know, popular stores that mass produce clothing at rock bottom prices and always have new inventory. The goal of fast fashion is to make as much as possible as quickly as possible. The focus is on money, not environmentally friendly practices, quality, or the ethical treatment of workers. Until watching The True Cost on Netflix, I didn’t really get it, and to be honest, didn’t care much.
But now I sure do, and I’m making some personal changes.
Before we get into it, let me be the first to say I’m not a fashion expert. I’m also not an expert on sustainable living. But I am someone who has taken an interest in sustainable living and companies who prioritize the environment and people over profit. Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to incorporate more pieces into my wardrobe when I was able to do so. A $15 Everlane t-shirt is what started my collection.
As I’ve gotten older and learned more about manufacturing practices of brands I’ve grown up with, I’ve made a shift in how I buy clothing and the brands I support. No, I don’t have a crazy high clothes budget. But instead of buying a bunch of things I don’t really need and will rarely wear just because they’re on sale, maybe I’ll spend the same clothing budget on just a handful of ethically made, versatile items that I actually need.
A few months back, I committed to buying only from ethical, sustainable brands. Or only buying clothes second-hand. Does that mean I’ll never shop at a mall ever again? I’d like to say no, but in all honesty, I’m sure I’ll slip. And that’s OK. The first step toward changing behavior is becoming aware and then setting the intention of making a change. So this is me committing to making a change. All we can do is try to be aware, educate ourselves, and make choices that align with our values.
So to get one thing straight, I don’t think I’m going to save the planet with better shopping habits. But I do think I can minimize my impact on the environment in little ways that fit my lifestyle and budget. The little things add up over time. I’m talking about using reusable shopping bags, a stainless steel water bottle for travel and the gym, walking places instead of taking the car. There are hundreds of examples and I feel I need to do my part.
But at the same time, I feel conflicted. I travel by plane. I eat meat. I take baths from time to time. I use a clothes dryer. You get the point. I’m not here to shame anyone else’s choices or tell you what you should be doing. I see the contradiction and my choices aren’t better than yours. I’m just sharing something that’s become increasingly important to me and maybe it’s something you care about, too. Being a conscious consumer in our own way is something we can do to better the planet and the people who live on it.
Something I always remind myself of is that it’s not all or nothing. Doing environmentally-friendly things most of the time is better than not trying at all because we don’t think it matters in the grand scheme of things. Looking at it in such black and white terms leaves me feeling either overwhelmed or defeated. Neither one is good. I go from feeling like my little positive changes won’t impact anything on their own. And then feeling like so much damage is already done, the hell with trying because I’ll be long gone before the planet dies.
Back in the day, I’d probably tell you that my little actions can’t change the world so why bother. Yah, my attitude was different then and I’ve come a long way toward how I approach the way I live, where I spend my money, and what and who I support. We can make the world a better place by making better choices as humans. We at least have to try.
The truth is that corporations control so much and the individual can be left to feel powerless in a world where our personal efforts often go unnoticed in the short term. But taking these small personal steps including buying clothes secondhand and only from ethical brands helps me to take back control. Where we spend our money matters and I no longer want to actively support such a dirty industry by engaging in fast fashion.
Maybe the most important aspect of all this for me is that when I support brands who I feel are doing good in the world, it makes me happy. And when I feel happy, I’m more confident and it carries over to how I present myself and interact with the world.
One other thing, an important one. I’d be majorly lacking in the self-awareness department if I didn’t acknowledge the privilege of being able to buy eco-friendly, ethically made, and sustainable fashion. I live in a country where I have choices, where I’m able to earn a living, and where I can access information freely and easily. Is ethical fashion affordable? Not always and I’m far from being rich. But we can still incorporate pieces into our budget and closets, especially if we only buy what we need.
I have friends and relatives who love to shop and when I’ve spoken about ethical brands, they’ve said they’re too expensive. Yes, fair labor practices and environmentally conscious manufacturing processes do tend to be more expensive, but remember, someone always ends up paying. Maybe start with an t-shirt like I did and see where it takes you… I waited 4 years to buy my first piece from Encircled and do not have a ton of disposable income for clothes. I just made this a priority.
Again, I’m not here to tell you how to shop and where to spend your money. You need to decide that for yourself. But I am someone who has become more conscious of how she spends her money and maybe you can learn from things I’ve learned. I’m curious. I want to have this conversation and I want to explore. Everyone has different goals and interests, and quite frankly I’m ecstatic when I find out my readers care about this stuff too.
This conversation is not just about fashion and shouldn’t be just about fashion. Many of us support environmental initiatives in our own way. We go green by no longer buying plastic water bottles, getting our coffee in disposable cups, using plastic straws, etc. We buy electric cars. We recycle. We upgrade to triple pane windows. We shop responsibly.
Anyway, I plan to revisit this topic and talk more about the brands below, but for now, here’s a quick roundup of my favorite sustainable fashion brands.
Ethical clothing online brands that I love:
Everlane is the brand that kicked off my interest in sustainable fashion. With t-shirts starting at $18, they’re an affordable choice to start your closet off on a more ethical foot this season. Since their founding in 2010, the brand that prides itself on ethical factories and radical transparency has branched out to a full women and men’s line of sweaters, outerwear, shoes, accessories, and more.
This organic Danish brand’s underwear caught my eye and I’ve since discovered that their workout pieces are must-haves. Everything is made ethically from high-quality materials, and the SilverTech line is stink proof and encourages more wears and fewer washes. So far so good… my sports bra and muscle tank have made me a believer. Get 10% off by using code OUIOBC at checkout.
This is a US-based organic and fair trade brand that’s one of the more affordable ones on my list. Their return policy is fab too. Pact has everything from cotton undergarments, to sweaters, dresses, loungewear and more. Shop Pact here.
This Canadian brand’s Chrysalis Cardi was on my wishlist for years before finally pulling the plug over the summer. I love versatile, well-made garments and a full review of this unique piece above is coming soon. Shop Encircled here.
I can’t get enough of these shoes. I’ve written two Rothy’s flats review posts (here and here) and love these fun shoes made of recycled water bottles. The Loafer is my favorite style. Get $20 off via my link.
Sustainable clothing brand PrAna was the only brand I wore in the humid temps this summer in Haiti and Africa. They have winter wear as well, as you can see above. I originally fell in love with PrAna because of their ethics, but their high quality linen tops and pants have me sticking around.
Poshmark is an online second-hand clothing selling platform, not a brand of clothing, but I created an account last year and have been pleasantly surprised with the deals I’ve snagged. Think of it as high-end eBay where you can buy and sell with ease all via an app. You’ll find a great selection of brands all on a very user-friendly platform. I used Poshmark to sell my Rothy’s after starting out in the wrong size and it was smooth sailing. Get $10 toward your first purchase with code CORAL1223.
Have you shifted the way you shop over the years? Is sustainable fashion something that’s caught your eye? Talk to me about shopping for organic clothing, being a conscious consumer, and shifts that you’ve made in your life…
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
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