If you’ve been keeping up with the fashion world lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about the sustainability movement. There’s a huge, immeasurable push for eco-friendly, ethical clothing. Millennial and Gen-Z consumers are holding brands accountable, and we’re more aware of the wider effects of our purchases than ever before. We’re turning away from companies that don’t promote diversity, fairness, and cost-effectiveness. Whether you’re a fashion expert or are new to the movement, sustainability can be a rewarding (though complicated) experience.
For the average person, there’s a lot of guilt surrounding affordability. Eco-friendly lines aren’t exactly cheap—you get what you pay for, after all. Brands make sustainable clothes from low-impact crops, creating 50% less waste than fast fashion. Sounds like a good deal, right? But that sort of price tag just isn’t accessible to most consumers, including those who’ve fought the hardest for change. How does a debt-ridden college student cut cheap clothes out of their budget? Should underpaid, marginalized young people hold themselves accountable for every brand name in their closet? No one should have to throw out their entire closet for Reformation dresses and vintage Levi’s; it’s okay if your brand rep isn’t perfect. Choosing high-quality “staple” basics whenever possible is just as good.
Thrifting is a much easier way to be environmentally conscious. Trendy second-hand clothing has exploded on social media; if you prefer to rock a retro-inspired indie vibe, there’s no better place to look than your local thrift store. But the demographics for cute, flattering finds aren’t evenly spread out. If you live in LA, you’re more likely to find a good deal than a kid in rural Georgia. Affluent neighborhoods tend to produce thrift stores with more well-made, unique clothes. Although it’s a great way to add more eco-consciousness to your closet, it can be difficult to find pieces that fit right. Plus-sized clothing is notoriously hard to thrift, a problem made worse by influencers who buy these pieces in bulk and alter them. Still, thrift carefully, and check the racks every few weeks; you never know what you might find.
Despite making steps in the right direction, luxury fashion hasn’t caught up. Sometimes high-end brands create change within the industry—Fenty, Stella McCartney, Rag & Bone—but more often than not the causes we fight for are hollowed out. The products are strictly status symbols instead of solutions to problems that must be solved. Someday we’d like to afford recycled denim instead of pre-ripped jeans from from the mall. Someday we’d like to buy eco-friendly Mongolian cashmere instead of non-ethical sweaters. Really, being informed is the best thing we can do for the environment. Raising awareness on social media is just as valuable as your hard-earned money; it’s just as important for you to feel secure, comfortable, and conscious of a bigger picture. Even though our eco-friendly options aren’t extensive, more and more are cropping up every day. Soon, it’ll be a lot easier to be sustainable—without emptying your bank account.