Sustainable clothing paves way for clothing businesses

Fashion is something that we all have in our daily lives, whether we know it or not. We all get dressed, choose an outfit and wear it throughout the day. But how these clothes are manufactured has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. People are buying clothes for the wrong reasons, and not thinking long term about the impact the rapid turnover in clothing impacts the planet.

Clothing used to be made to last for years, now “fast fashion” has taken over. Fast fashion is the making of inexpensive clothing produced by mass-market retailers responding to the latest trends. As those trends die off, the clothing is thrown away. 

These types of businesses are running the fashion industry and have taken over companies everywhere. The practice of making an investment in a quality piece of clothing for the long term has changed, and poorly crafted and cheap clothing is the norm.

A Forever 21 storefront in the International Mall Miami. Photo courtesy at creative commons of Flickr.com

The dyes used to make these clothes produce toxic chemicals that can get into our waterways and leach into the ground. Making these also clothes creates toxic gasses which contributes to the greenhouse gas issue. And after these short-life spanned clothes end up in our landfills, they take years to decompose. In fact, these thrown away garments take longer to decompose in landfills than they ever spent in a person’s wardrobe

Forever 21, a multi-billion dollar clothing conglomerate and one of the United States’ most popular retailers, has grown their entire business from this model.  At its peak, Forever 21 made 4.14 billion dollars in revenue.

They are known for their what the company refers to as “fun” styles in an abundance of colors and sizes and can be found in just about every shopping mall in America. Unfortunately, how they manufacture their products is extremely damaging to our environment. 

Forever 21 isn’t the only fast fashion business that is thriving right now, others are Zara, H&M and Boohoo.

There are many ways that we as consumers can start to slow down the effects of fast fashion and its impact on the environment. For example, thrift shopping or buying clothing second-hand is a great alternative. Not only does it help with the fast fashion issue, but as a seller, it is also a great way to make or save money. Even if you are just donating your old clothes to Goodwill, or Salvation Army tax write offs are a benefit of making clothing donations. Giving these clothes a second chance is better than it winding up in a landfill. These are just a few donation stores to name off of a very long list.

“I think that it is good that people are branching out, but it does add a bit more of traffic to thrift shopping,” said Sophia Hall, a junior at Gull Lake.

The Salvation Army logo and drop off area. Photo courtesy of creative commons of Flickr.com

Donation stores have been around for a long time and not only accept clothes, but just about anything you have to offer.

In addition to donation centers, there are also many online resources consumers can leverage to buy and sell used clothing.  These online services include ThreadUp, Depop, Poshmark, The Real Real. User-based platforms allow anyone to buy or sell clothes casually, or do it professionally.

These websites allow for anyone to sell clothes which in-turn promotes sustainable fashion. Pieces are passed down from person to person getting many wears by different styles and people all around the world. 

This allows for people to add their own flair to their clothes, like adding a fun pattern, or drawing something on your jeans. Making their outfit one-of-a-kind, which fast-fashion retailers could never do.

“I like to make my own tshirt designs or graphic tees from thrifted t shirts,” Hall said. “There is something special about finding a pair of jeans that fit just right, and customizing them to make them something no one else has. One of my favorite pairs of jeans I found for $6.99 at a Goodwill in Florida.”

There is nothing that will stop these fast-fashion stores, but changing where and how we shop is the first crucial step to changing these retailers’ approach buyers.

Designer brands are something that we see as well. Gucci, founded in 1921, by Guccio Gucci, Louis Vuitton in 1854 and Burberry in 1856. Their business model was entirely different from today’s fast-fashion retailers.  Their emphasis is on style and quality and many of their pieces become family heirlooms handed down from generation to generation. The runways for Fashion Week in New York, Paris and Milan are packed with these types of designers showing off their latest lines.

A Gucci storefront in the Aria Casino. Photo courtesy creative commons of Flickr.com

These designer clothes are produced using the highest quality standards, are limited in number and are incredibly expensive. They are something that all can look up to and take inspiration from, but only some can buy. 

“Designer clothing I think is silly to me, the designs aren’t very functional and they are overpriced,” Hall said. “I like something that is versatile for ‘everyday’ where although I do like some of the fun shoes.”

There are clothing retailers that have started to make high-end sustainable fashion. This is a stride to see since the public would have an option other than purchasing somewhere such Goodwill. Instead it would be a step up to a brand called Reformation.

Founded in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, was a side-gig for her job. She wanted to create a sustainable store, and clothing that was all very eco-friendly.

Reformation is widely known in the sustainable fashion suite, but there are others like Rag & Bone, Stella McCartney and Dôen, just to name a few.

All of these brands stay away from using animal furs and testing on animals, try to use recycled and natural fabrics as much as possible, and sustainable packaging and branding.

While all of these brands are all making leaps for the sustainable clothing, they aren’t very budget-friendly.

To learn more about fashion visit the Green Hub Online.

Molly Clark

Molly Clark

Hi! My name is Molly Clark and I'm a junior at Gull Lake High School. I enjoy writing, taking pictures and traveling. I would like to pursue writing and turn it into my profession.

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