Every year I take an annual trip with a good friend of mine, to my favorite St. Louis spot: Value Village. We made it our tradition to hit up our favorite thrift stores when he comes to visit. I didn’t start thrifting until about 10 years ago when I was in college and now it’s a love affair that has easily turned into one of my favorite creative outlets.
At the beginning, though, I developed a bad habit. Thrifting is definitely a socially responsible way to shop, but when the items are so cheap, it can keep you from thinking about the ultimate need. Whereas purchasing a pair of shoes that are over $500 is giving a lot more consideration due to the financial investment. My careless shopping habit was further enforced due to places like H&M, Forever21, and Zara; there I’d find trendy items for ridiculously cheap prices so I didn’t have to feel guilty about the money spent since it was so little.
Never thinking once about how those clothes made it to the store, how they were made, and even their effect on my skin from the chemicals used in the dyes, I just kept shopping and growing my closet.
So many options. A plethora of style variations. It was awesome! Or so I thought.
Eventually, I became overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had in my closet. Things that I loved never lasted long enough. Shoes became uncomfortable and started to lack the support and comfort that I yearned for. As I got deeper into my career, the pressure to perform at my best was heavier than ever, and the last thing I needed was to feel an annoying pang in my feet.
Not sure why it took so long for me to gain an interest in sustainable, fair trade, eco-friendly fashion. Looking back, I wish I had explored more about the industry. What was actually going on? I always had a naïveté about me, but the guilt of knowing how my ignorance had added to the negative impact on the environment, people’s lives, and continued encouragement of negatively treating animals was too much to bare.
The final straw was when I watched The True Cost. I felt like a piece of garbage. ‘What the f$@k have I been doing?!!’ I thought. Not to mention the money I was dumping into crappy clothes, shoes, and accessories! They were absolute CRAP!
*pause for a brief mental breakdown*
Ok, what to do? I jumped in feet first and with this new year, I encourage you to do the same.
Where to begin?
First I assessed myself so I could get a real grasp on my personal style at that very moment. Coming to terms with the fact that sequins were no longer my thing was hard. I didn’t want to let go of that part of myself, but I realized they had done their job in my life and it was time to offer them a new life so they could bring someone else the joy they brought to me.
I got rid of EVERYTHING. If I wasn’t in love with the item and didn’t see it fitting with what my current and forward evolving style was going to be, I donated it.
So the first step is…
Drop off unwanted items at your local thrift stores, Goodwill, Saver’s, Salvation Army, or Family Thrift, just to name a few. Now you can even go to an H&M anywhere, and they will recycle your clothes. Cecilia Brännsten, H&M’s sustainable business expert said:
“For us, the way forward is to create a closed loop for textiles where clothes that are no longer wanted can be turned into new ones, and we don’t see old textiles as waste, but rather a resource”
Along with donations, consider re-gifting! The act of giving doesn’t, and in my opinion shouldn’t be about spending money. Side note: If that’s what the person who is receiving the gift expects then they don’t deserve your thoughtfulness to begin with.
A lot of companies are becoming more and more transparent about the “who-what-where” of their products. Reformation is a great example of a brand that straight-up puts how their clothes come to fruition on their website, and Everlane introduced us to “Radical Transparency”.
Companies are also joining Non-Governmental Organizations to work toward finding a standardized way of responsible supply chain management through the encouragement of system-wide collaboration, even developing pioneering assessment tools along with much more.
A great resource is the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. One member, Kering, just so happens to be the fashion conglomerate that supports the development of Stella McCartney, the only fair-trade, cruelty-free luxury brand.
3. SHOP LOCAL
First off, why not?!! It’s a great way to support the community you’re inhabiting. Free inspiration. Hell yea! I am currently a St. Louis local, and these are my favorite places to visit:
But most of all, it is a personal and tactile experience. We live in a world where it is as simple as a google search to find local boutiques.
Along with brick and mortar stores, there are websites that have created an awesome digital community for designers and creatives to make a living doing what they love, while also giving them the opportunity to global exposure.
If you are going to be donating clothes that have tags or look brand new, take them to an exchange store. Places like Plato’s Closet, Avalon Exchange, and Beacon’s Closet will buy your clothes for cash, and most of the time, give you even more bang for your buck via store credit. Put cash back into your pocket or basically trade out your old clothes for nearly new ones for almost nothing!
Recycle your own textiles and create something brand new from the fabric. Sometimes this takes a sewing machine and a little practice, but the skill can save you a lot of money in the long run, AND you’ll be rocking one-of-a-kind items.
If learning how to sew isn’t your thing, no worries, because that’s what a tailor is for. Next time you think about getting rid of an item because there’s a hole in a seam, beads have fallen off, buttons are too loose, maybe you just aren’t diggin’ the fit anymore? Go to a tailor. Some dry cleaners even offer repair services, too.
At the end of the day, all of these steps are really just ways to shift perspective. We don’t have to blindly consume anymore. We get to hold brands accountable. We have the power to make a change and look badass while doing it.
I hope this year brings you happiness, but most importantly, my wish is that we all work together to continue growing a community of conscious consumers.
Cheers to you and yours in 2017!
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Kasper Woldtvedt - Fashion Engagement Manager, Hanger.io Kasper leads fashion engagement and fashion-related business development initiatives for Hanger. She attends events all around the world, ready to pick the brains of fashionistas, creatives, entrepreneurs, and business owners to see how the Hanger platform can support their efforts. In her free time you can find her at a local music venue or eating a burrito.
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