Sustainability is one of the most hotly debated topics in the fashion world. With fast fashion quickly monopolizing a large portion of the industry, many people wonder if sustainable fashion is an accessible option for both businesses and consumers. Luckily, there are several routes to sustainable fashion practices that don’t require breaking the bank on cost-ineffective sustainable clothing options. But before we get into those, here’s a little crash course on sustainability!
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion, sometimes called ethical fashion, is defined as any clothing item that has been manufactured, marketed and sold in the most ethical and environmentally-friendly manner possible. For clothing manufacturers, this means using ethically sourced or secondhand materials, intuitive design, ethical manufacturing, and careful use of resources in every step to ensure that the product is made and presented in a way that is not harmful to the environment or any workers involved in the process. The move towards sustainable fashion makes sense: the effects of climate change are being felt globally, and any move to be more eco-friendly is a good one. In addition, increased awareness of socio-economic issues makes consumers more likely to buy items that they know were produced ethically. Unfortunately, we live in a world where taking sustainability and ethics into account in production is rare, and for the companies that specialize in it, their production cost can skyrocket, causing the hefty price tag often associated with sustainable fashion. However, there are several ways that the average consumer can start inching away from fast fashion and towards sustainable fashion without hurting their wallet.
Thrifting, or shopping at secondhand stores, is a great way to introduce sustainable fashion into your routine without breaking the bank. Although the clothes sold in secondhand stores may not have been produced sustainably, it’s great for the environment to re-use old products rather than manufacturing new ones. What’s great about secondhand clothing is that you can find stores that cater to every taste and budget imaginable. For the person looking to spend the least amount of cash, non-profit thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army offer secondhand items for as low as mere cents. For the vintage lover, antique shops and vintage boutiques offer one-of-a-kind gems from the past. And for those with expensive taste, consignment shops offer vintage designer finds, often for significantly cheaper than retail. Secondhand shopping is thriving online as well: websites like depop.com and thredup.com are becoming increasingly popular. Without stores like these, old clothes would become waste, meaning that secondhand shopping is one of the most eco-friendly and cost effective ways to dress sustainably.
For those with a DIY spirit, upcycling is a great way to practice sustainability using items from your own closet. Upcycling is the process of taking old clothes and making them into something new, whether that be through using the fabric to create something different, or even just taking a pair of scissors or some fabric dye to an old shirt you don’t wear anymore and turning it into a new closet staple. There’s a million ways to upcycle, and if you don’t know where to start, consult YouTube!
Another great way to get acquainted with sustainable fashion is to swap old clothes with someone else! As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and you never know what gems you’ll find in another person’s closet. For the online shopper, clothing swap websites like swapsociety.com and rehashclothes.com allow users to list their old clothing items on the website and find other users to swap items with. You can even swap with your friends—host a swap party where everyone brings clothing items they no longer wear, and reduce waste while finding some brand-new (to you!) clothes to rock your wardrobe.
Sustainability doesn’t have to be inaccessible. There are ways to be eco-friendly and budget-friendly at the same time. If you’re willing to put in the time, it’s feasible to fully transition into ethical fashion practices in your daily life—and believe it or not, you might even find yourself saving some money along the way.