More brands are committed to incorporating eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing efforts for their products than ever before in an effort to address a huge problem in the fashion industry. Just last year, Stella McCartney launched biodegradable stretch denim. Neiman Marcus Group recently outlined its strategy to be fur-free by 2023. This new level of social consciousness among big corporations and well-established brands can be attributed to the Gen Z population.
Consumers in this age group — born between the late 1990s and early 2000s — embody a combination of social responsibility and deftness in technology to back causes they believe in, such as climate change. Some may view Gen Z's willingness to take to social media to call out corporations as "cancel culture." Still, it's pushing brands across all industries to be transparent about how their business and production impact the earth. Problems in the fashion industry are well known. Sustainability is at the forefront, but health and safety conditions, low wages, animal cruelty loom as well. Some brands are offering more green products. But, here are some tips to make your wardrobe eco-minded as we wait for fashion to catch up completely.
Research and shopping are an odd pairing at first glance. It’s true — it may seem like a daunting process to research a brand's manufacturing practices. But most brands that are eco-friendly have included those efforts in their marketing strategy. For example, HanesBrands, the parent company of Hanes, Alternative Apparel, Champion, and others, has an entire section of their website explaining their sustainability efforts. Similarly, the French luxury group, Kering, made sure to announce that several of their brands had banned the use of fur. So if you're having trouble finding out whether or not a brand is socially conscious, it may be best to consider other options.
We've all been guilty of channeling our inner Zoey Johnson or Carrie Bradshaw at one point or another. We overspend on a clothing item that's only worn once — or worse — not at all. Livia Firth, the founder of Eco-Age, launched the #30Wears challenge in 2016. As she explained, “if we can all commit to wearing something a minimum of 30 times, then we can buy it." By being more pragmatic in our approach to shopping, the #30Wears challenge encourages consumers to invest in quality over quantity. Sustainability is a core problem in the fashion industry, so opt for clothing that can anchor your wardrobe for years.
Thrift shopping isn't just a fun way to find unique pieces to add to your closet; it's also a means of reducing your carbon footprint. As explained by YouTuber and blogger Verena Erin Polowy, "since the clothes already exist, it means no new resources and energy have to be used to create the garments." Vintage pieces have to stand the test of time, so durability isn't in question. If vintage isn't in your wheelhouse, renting clothes is another option. Subscription services like Rent The Runway and Nuuly give consumers the ability to rent modern, designer pieces for short periods.
When you finally decide to part with a piece of clothing, there’s no need to throw it away. There is a surplus of organizations that will accept used clothing donations. Goodwill, Dress For Success, and Free The Girls are just a few places that take a range of clothing items, including bras. In some areas, the local government provides options for clothing donations that are easily accessible to residents. New York City is one such city with the donateNYC program. Or if you’re interested in recouping value for money spent, alternate solutions include selling secondhand clothing on sites like Depop, Buffalo Exchange, and Wasteland.
One of the most damaging factors of our wardrobe is laundering. The combination of hot water usage and machine drying increases residential carbon dioxide emissions. Simply washing clothes in cold water and letting them hang dry is effective in reducing your carbon footprint. If you want to take it a step farther, use a sustainable, green-friendly detergent. Not only are biodegradable detergents better for the environment, but they're also better for your skin.
If you’re interested in learning more about problems in the fashion industry and possible solutions, sign up for our newsletter or head over to Yellowbrick’s Fashion Industry Essentials.