Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Happy Earth Day Everyone!
It's been a while since I have written a blog post; for good reasons, however. After reflecting for some time, I'm writing a different post than usual because I want to address an important change I made - switching to a more sustainable lifestyle.
As some of you have seen before, I used to write about simple styling and fashion tips on my blog that I had barely started. However, I stopped posting for a while because I still felt like something was missing… and I wanted to change that.
What was wrong you might ask? For months, I would ask myself, what kind of content do I want to put out? What kinds of messages do I really want to give? What are my values? What advice can I give to my audience that would make an impact in the world? I felt like I was missing a purpose.
Then I found the answer I was searching for in the months where I was paralyzed by a lack of decisiveness and a lack of creativity. The answer was ethics and sustainability.
I decided to focus on sustainable fashion. Ethics is a life philosophy I deeply value, and I realized that sustainability is also a key aspect of it. Sustainable fashion blended two of my life essentials, ethics and style, into the perfect cocktail suitable to my taste. However, switching to sustainable fashion didn’t really happen all at once. It was more like a journey with detours that slowly led to me making more conscious choices along the way, not just about the clothes that I wore but about my own lifestyle as well.
It all started in my freshman year of college. I was sitting in my Sociology 101 class, and my professor scheduled for us to watch a documentary on the fast fashion industry. For people who may not be aware of what fast fashion is, fast fashion is the practice of clothing companies outsourcing from suppliers with unsafe labour conditions, unfair wages, and potentially use child labor in order to produce clothing at a cheaper cost, so they can sell their products at unbeatably low prices. I never heard of fast fashion before that class period, and it was the first time I realized how corrupt the fashion world was. Fashion is something I grew up with and knew as a beautiful dream world of glitz and glamour, but that day I realized it wasn’t. It was the first time I saw fashion as ugly. Someone in our class asked something along the lines of, “what can we do to change this?" or "should we stop buying from fast fashion chains?” Another person replied how because if we stopped buying from fast fashion chains, no one would pay the workers working for the unconscionable suppliers, and they would be out of jobs. My professor answered that there was probably nothing we could do. That we just have to live with it, so that the workers can still get paid, and so we can still afford clothes at the prices they offer. Otherwise clothing prices would be inflated if they stopped using fast fashion methods and paid their workers fairly. At that time I thought - that’s it? There’s nothing we can do I guess, and I lived with that thought for quite awhile.
Three years later I was a senior in college. My major was communication, so I took a class called the “Rhetoric of Science.” In that class, I wrote an analysis paper on the movie, Before the Flood, directed by Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie depicted how DiCaprio was appointed as the Messenger of Peace for global climate change, and it illustrated his journey around the world as he met climate change experts, policy makers, and individuals who are affected by climate change. During the movie, a few scenes appeared where islanders’ homes and crops were being destroyed due to rising sea levels. That’s when it really hit me how much climate change and how humans impact the environment directly affect us and those around us. This was the time when the idea of ethical clothing became no longer just about who made it, but what it was made out of. I realized that for clothing to be ethical, the process of making it meant less waste needed to be produced.
However, this realization still didn’t stop me completely. I still bought clothing from Forever 21 whenever I needed something because it was cute and affordable. The only thing that changed was that I felt guilty about buying it. I even worked for an Italian leather goods brand called Furla, which I thought was ironic, considering leather goods were made out of animal products and the use of animal products usually has a negative impact on the environment. It wasn’t until I left Furla that I finally decided I was done. I was done buying products I didn’t consider ethical, and I did. I actually stopped.
As I started looking more into ethical and sustainable fashion brands, I learned more about how detrimental the fashion industry was to the environment. The fashion industry is the second largest cause of pollution in the world. 1.5 trillion liters of water are used by the industry every single year, and 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textiles and treatment dying. Over 60% of our clothing made in the world is made from synthetic fibers, which are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. The average American citizen throws away approximately seventy pounds of clothing every year. Now, that’s a lot of waste.
I think what makes fashion so remarkable is that it allows people to express their creativity and find comfort in their own skin. However, the fashion industry itself isn't always as charming. There are still many unethical practices that are utilized throughout the industry to this day, and changes need to be made. Upon my research, I realized that it was difficult for me to truly feel beautiful when I knew that some of the clothing I wore was made from the hands of underpaid and mistreated workers, and that the process of making these clothes also heavily polluted the environment. I can't feel beautiful knowing that, so I decided to make a change to be more conscious of the items I purchase - and not just with clothing.
Being sustainable of course is a personal choice, so this is not to say that people who purchase clothes from fast fashion brands are awful people. I am aware that asking people to purchase products from sustainable brands (which most are expensive) when they cannot may scream a certain level of elitism, though being sustainable does not always have to require purchasing expensive clothing items; for me, it is a mindset that has permeated every aspect of my life for the better, and I can’t wait to share how employing a conscious mindset may benefit you as well, without breaking the bank. I know that if I can make a positive impact on even one person, that is enough for me.
The environment is where 7.8 billion people call it their home, including you and me. Because it is our home, it is our job to take care of it for ourselves and for our future generations. That is why I chose to make a change beginning with myself, and I hope to share some tips with you guys, so we can all join this journey of caring for our planet and our peopled together, and looking good doing so.
What are your thoughts on the fast fashion industry?
Let me know in the comments below!
With Lots of Love,
Edited by Jessica Lin and Michiko Hu
(“Environmental Impacts of the Fashion Industry.”Sustain Your Style, www.sustainyourstyle.org/old-environmental-impacts.).
(Thomas, Leah. “Is Vegan Leather A More Sustainable Option? The Answer Is Complicated.” The Good Trade, The Good Trade, 6 Aug. 2019, www.thegoodtrade.com/features/vegan-leather-vs-animal-leather).