When most people think of fashion, sustainability is not the first thing that comes to mind. In general, people’s priority—and as a shopping-obsessed college student on a budget, myself included—is to get as many new styles as possible, for as cheap as possible. However, the growing impact of the fast fashion industry is incredibly problematic. According to Greenpeace, three out of every four pieces of clothing produced will end up in landfill, and textile dying is the second largest polluter of clean water. Despite these jarring statistics, the fashion industry is often left out of discussions about global warming and social change. There is little pressure on retailers to shift to more sustainable practices, including emitting waste and treating factory workers in an ethical way through living wages and safe practices.
While the fashion industry still has a lot of progress to make, many trendy brands are finally starting to use sustainable practices and raise awareness for the need for change. Companies are aiming to erase the stigma that shopping sustainably requires sacrificing style. In 2001, Stella McCartney became one of the first designers to introduce sustainability into the fashion world by creating the first vegetarian luxury brand, and working to create new environmentally conscious ways of producing garments. More affordable retailers are now focused on producing stylish pieces and have started to adopt business models similar to Stella McCartney’s.
One brand that has revolutionized the ready-to-wear sustainable fashion industry is Reformation. Their endless collection of printed and silky dresses, detailed blouses, and funky jeans proves that you don’t have to sacrifice staying on trend to shop sustainably. Worn by celebrities including Selena Gomez, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid, Reformation works to reduce their environmental footprint by using eco-friendly production practices. In exchange for the emissions they do produce, they plant forests and purchase landfill gas offsets. Additionally, for every item on their website, they list the amount of carbon dioxide, water, and waste saved from their production, compared to that of other brands.
Much like Reformation, Everlane is a newer brand with a focus on sustainability. They sell a range of simple but trendy basics using what they call “Radical Transparency.” They provide information on the labor standards and processes at each of their factories, and for every item on their website they list the “true cost” (exactly how much it costs to make), broken into materials, hardware, labor, and duties. Rather than marking products up five to six times like most retailers do, they only sell products for two to three times more than the true cost, and also offer a selection of items where the customer can choose how much to pay from a couple options. This feature makes Everlane the perfect place for college students on a budget to buy a new pair of jeans or a comfy sweater.
Next time you’re about to make a purchase, consider researching the company practices first, and think about the impact you want your purchase to have on the world. While sustainable shopping can be more expensive than fast fashion, ultimately, if enough consumers protest companies with unethical practices, the fashion industry will be forced to shift its focus. Plus, knowing you’re supporting a sustainable retailer that gives back can provide the perfect justification for a trendy impulse buy!
COVER PHOTO: Stella McCartney