When asked to choose a local nonprofit to support for our July Good. Works. Wednesday efforts, Carly did not hesitate. Read why she picked The DC Sustainable Fashion Collective, and be sure to shop on July 6 to support the cause!
The following is written by our lovely team member, Carly:
Has a book club ever changed your life?
In the summer of 2020, I participated in a book club with a fashion and textile museum I worked at during my graduate program. The book that changed my life was Dana Thomas’ Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. Before reading, I had never seriously thought about how a t-shirt transforms from a staple of cotton into a full-fledged garment. There are an impressive amount of steps – growing natural fibers, spinning the fibers into yarn, weaving, cutting, and dying the fabric, sewing and embellishing, shipping the product to vendors, all before it reaches my eager hands.
That is one t-shirt. Multiple that by a billion, because that is how many garments the fashion industry produces each year. That’s 14 garments for every human on the planet. An even more alarming fact is that, consumers are wearing these clothes less than ever before, on average a mere 7 times before discarding them. This cycle of buying clothing only to dispose of it within a few months has larger consequences outside of our own wardrobes. It is negatively impacting the livelihoods of garment workers around the world, 75% of whom are women. It also contributes to a substantial amount of global pollution, and our trashed garments seep their way into our global waste streams.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Something about Fashionopolis stirred something in me, and I have become obsessed with altering my shopping and consumption habits since reading. I learned there are so many simple, but impactful ways you can reduce your individual role in this system of consumption.
- Wear the clothes you already own more and buy for longevity, not for endlessly alternating trends. To repeat is chic!
- Create new looks from garments you already own. Social media can be a great resource for inspiration on styling old garments in new ways. Changing up accessories like belts, scarves, and jewelry can go a long way in finding new go-to outfits.
- Shop second-hand and vintage.
- You can take up a new hobby and learn how to mend the clothes you do own to give them new lives.
- You can research the brands you are buying from and inquire into their supply chains. Are their garment workers paid a living wage? Are they transparent about the production of their clothes? Are they unnecessarily producing garments in bulk?
We simply do not need all the garments the industry is churning out. Bonus: It actually feels really empowering to go against the status quo and be more informed about the veiled fast fashion industry. The more you learn, the more you care. And caring is cool.
Here are a few ways I am rebelling against the fast fashion industry.
- Shopping second-hand and vintage
- I’ve been shopping at thrift stores since I was in high school, but now shopping second-hand feels like an act of resistance. Knowing that these items are one-of-a-kind makes me cherish them more than that $15 rock band graphic tee that I picked up on a whim, convinced that it would give me an edgy and mysterious allure. Some of my thrifted garments have been hanging in my closet for close to 10 years and I have many memories with them, which makes them all the more special.
Above, a photo of my favorite thrifted finds: my go-to suede leather jacket, a fun 80s metallic shirt that is great for concerts, and a skirt that instantly gives any outfit a breezy, springtime feel.
- Mending instead of trashing
- I also have taken my crafting to a new level and have begun mending my clothes and adding embellishments to items that just needed an extra umph. I have added patches and visibly mended holes in my jeans, decorated a basic bralette with some fun floral embroidery, mended tears in my duvet comforter using the Japanese sashiko mending technique, and even made my own facemask from textiles I had lying around my apartment. One thing I’ve learned from mending is that the options are endless. Once you start, you will begin to see new ways to add value and durability to loads of garments in your wardrobe and in your house.
Above, a photo of some pieces I have mended or embellished with details to make them more exciting.
Above, an in-process project where I am using embroidery and patchwork to upcycle a plastic bag.
When small tears formed in my duvet comforter from too many washes with bleach, instead of trashing it, I used a simple sashiko visible mending technique to patch it up!
For those of you who are looking to learn more about these issues and how you can take control of your closet and your consumption, the DC Sustainable Fashion Collective is a fabulous resource. They organize conferences, retail opportunities, and provide resources for average consumers on how they can be more conscious about their clothing. They have a very useful interactive map clueing you into sustainable, local shops that care about their impact on the community and the world.
If you shop at Penny Post and/or Red Barn Mercantile on July 6th, 20% of non-custom sales will be donated to the DC Sustainable Fashion Collective. I encourage you to shop, donate, or visit their website to learn more about this organization.
“Waste and pollution,” Fashion’s Problems, Clean Clothes Campaign, accessed June, 17, 2022, https://cleanclothes.org/fashions-problems/waste-and-pollution.
“Garment Worker Sector Focus,” 16 Days Campaign, Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Rutgers University, accessed June 17, 2022. https://16dayscampaign.org/campaigns/garment-worker-sector-focus/#:~:text=There%20are%20currently%2060%E2%80%9370,worldwide%3B%2075%25%20are%20women.