This is a guest post from Beth Stewart, Strategic Director of Redress Raleigh.
There are so many things that people are expected to do as ‘eco-minded’ individuals – buy organic, not eat meat (or eat only certain kinds), ride a bike everywhere, take five minute showers, etc – it can be overwhelming. In addition, people are becoming more and more aware of the perils of fast fashion and the detrimental effects your purchasing choices can have on both humanity and the planet.
As I have mentioned before, there is also a substantial amount of greenwashing or mixed messaging being spread through the media about what “eco-fashion” is and who is doing it.
However, dressing responsibly and making responsible apparel choices may not be as complicated as you think. There are many different aspects to consider when picking out your outfits and accessories – from water usage to chemicals to human ethics to type of material to location of production … just to name a few. As with every industry, there are trade-offs within fashion and textiles as well.
Luckily there are more and more fantastic options popping up for the ecochic customer. Consider these categories the next time you are shopping for clothing and accessories:
- Made in USA
- Vintage or resale
- Natural dyes
- Fair trade
- Organic or eco-friendly fabrics
- Little to no-waste patternmaking
Honestly, the best approach is to ask yourself: “What matters to me the most?”
Is it using the least amount of resources?
Consider buying vintage, resale, upcycled, or products that are created using little to no-waste patternmaking. In addition to Goodwill, many communities have resale or consignment stores where you can find gently-used clothes at bargain prices. High-quality vintage sellers can be found in online shops. Raleigh Vintage is a personal favorite and they ship all over the country. Upcycled goods are often tagged on social media too and sites like Etsy lend themselves to more one-of-kind pieces. Zass Design is doing fantastic things with upcycled jewelry pieces.
Or perhaps you strongly believe in supporting the organic movement and avoiding chemicals that pollute waterways?
Consider looking for organic fabrics and natural dyes. Gaia Conceptions uses organic fabrics and natural or low impact dyes. And Patagonia continues to innovate both in recycled and new eco-friendly textiles and materials.
Or maybe you want to purchase items from a more-established standard that is working toward making sure people are treated fairly and receive decent wages for their work?
Then Fair Trade is a good option. Indigenous and Synergy Clothing incorporate both fair trade practices and organic fabrics in their designs. Symbology also works with artisans in India to create most of their textile designs.
Or is it that you delight in getting to know individual designers and supporting the local community?
Consider looking for handcrafted, Made in the USA items. Companies like Lumina and Appalatch produce their goods solely in the U.S. Lisa Stewart handcrafts gorgeous leather accessories. Many cities host periodic marketplaces like The Handmade Market, The Big Crafty, or Northern Grade featuring exclusively handcrafted and/or American-made goods. Find one in your city.
Regardless of what you decide, keep in mind that the industry is continuously striving to be and do better, just like you. Another way you can help move the industry forward is to continue asking questions and seeking information on who makes your clothes and what they’re made from.
Currently, there is no one perfect eco-fashion line out there. However, we are fortunate that there is an amazing variety of eco-chic fashions available! This allows us each to dress with our values and our style in mind.
“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” – Coco Chanel