Our world likes to push a narrative that life plays out in black and white. This is simply not true. While the fashion industry as a whole remains incredibly problematic, there’s a reason we all continue to buy into the concept. At its best, fashion is a creative force for self-expression and progress. At its worst, fashion is a monster striking down everything in its path. Those of us invested in changing the industry focus a lot of our energy on the reasons the fashion industry is evil, however, I believe it’s possible to love fashion and want to fight for a better system at the same time. Through thoughtful purchases, creativity, and individuality, we can push for a fairer fashion industry while looking as good as we feel.
What you chose to buy or leave at the store matters. While we’ve learned that our everyday moves don’t necessarily change the world, our purchases do have an impact. The fashion industry only continues to function if consumers continue to buy clothing. To be clear, I’m not arguing for abstaining from shopping altogether. What I am suggesting, includes using your money to invest in companies that are choosing to value the employees along their supply chain, utilize natural materials, or are committed to improvement. If filling your wardrobe top-to-bottom with sustainable fashion is simply not an option for you, there are still ways to shop intentionally! Yes, you can look into secondhand clothing or vintage, though you also have the option to shop at traditional retailers. Use these purchases as an opportunity to then speak up to the brand as an actual customer, not an aggressive outsider. I agree that the system needs an overhaul, yet brands will take individuals much more seriously if they know they are customers too. Be thoughtful about what you buy and hold brands accountable that you are purchasing from. You don’t have to choose between loving a company and wanting it to do better.
Take Back Your Power
By cultivating a personal style, we can take back power from the fashion industry. Large brands and industry leaders alike constantly tell us how we should be dressing, what we should buy, and who is allowed to wear what. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the unspoken rules being feed to us through media, though it is much more powerful to resist them. The industry can only sustain itself if we all subscribe to its guidelines. Finding your individual personal style doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by trends or excited by what designers are creating. However, it’s important to alter those looks to match who you are. Not only is being a carbon copy of everyone else incredibly boring, but it also keeps us buying more from the wasteful industry we are on a mission to change. It can seem daunting to discover what style is right for you, though it doesn’t have to happen overnight. I suggest adopting a trial and error approach (the cliché “it’s about the journey, not the destination” comes to mind.) Once we stop listening to the made-up rules of the fashion industry, they have no choice but to pay attention to what lies behind those glossy ad campaigns.
Not all of us have the time or interest in taking a DIY approach to our wardrobes. Up-cycling is undoubtedly a good time if you’re able to do so, although learning just a few tricks can produce a similar effect. Do you feel guilty because you’ve been loving the most recent runway looks? Thankfully, fashion is cyclical. Head over to your local secondhand or vintage shop and find items to make those looks your own. It is possible to make trends fit your personal style, as well as your sustainable fashion commitment. Or, go for the crafty approach and find some garments which can be altered slightly to emulate the designs you’re inspired by. This industry thrives on the false narrative that style is unattainable but it’s surprising how much you can do with a bit of fabric and thread. This could mean hemming pieces, adding trim, or even finding a simple strip of fabric to define your waist.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance content creator and manager. Audrey is incredibly passionate about conscious fashion and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.