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Climate change is one of the defining issues of this generation. If not mitigated, it could have devastating effects on life as we know it, leading to natural disasters (think wildfires, hurricanes, flooding) and ultimately extinction. The impending catastrophe has several industries on alert, fashion included. As it stands, the apparel business is one of the major polluting industries in the world. Consider the fact that a major cause behind global warming is the increase in greenhouse gases, and more than 8% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are produced by the apparel and footwear industries.
In an effort to reduce the industry’s overall carbon footprint, fashion editors have become increasingly vocal about being more sustainable, from eliminating polyester to denouncing wasteful packaging. But how do they reconcile their desire to be more sustainable with jobs that revolve around indulgence, disposability, and newness?
For many, the first step is to stop shopping fast-fashion brands. Below, we talked to seven fashion editors about the moment in their lives when they decided to quit fast fashion. Some recognize the privilege that allows them to disavow fast fashion in the first place, while others acknowledge their role in bringing awareness to the issue. Here, they share how they shop for clothing, their relationship with fast fashion, how they approach their job, and why they look for fabrics made from TENCEL™ branded fibers that retain softness and color without wreaking havoc on the planet.
Naomi Elizée, Associate Market Editor at Vogue
“I stopped wanting to buy fast fashion because I saw firsthand the impact it made on our environment and how unnecessary it truly was. I remember after learning about the processes and the chemicals used to make our clothes, I just wanted to take my clothes off because it scared me so much! To think, formaldehyde could have been used in the dyeing process of the jeans you are wearing right now, it makes me so uneasy. When looking at sustainable materials, I look for reclaimed/recycled fibers and fabrics. I make sure I research and are aware of sustainable brands so that when we do have an editorial coming up I could recommend that brand, should it fit the story of course!”
Danielle Prescod, Style Director at BET
“It was not hard for me to quit shopping [fast fashion] at all. It really only required me to be more mindful. I only shop consignment retailers or sustainable brands now. I recycle via various clothing recycle programs.”
“A lot of people’s commitment to sustainability is driven solely by their wallet. Even for myself, I wasn’t able to fully cut off brands that are not sustainable until my income allowed me to. More than anything, it is on brands to make sure that they are doing the most environmentally responsible things. Of course, not only consumers should start making a change in their purchasing behavior, so much good can also be done by corporations making even tiny changes to how clothing and accessories are manufactured, produced, packaged, and shipped.”
Chelsea Peng, Fashion Editor, Refinery29
“As a reluctant shopper, I buy clothes less frequently now. I still love fashion and clicking through the latest season’s shows, but instead of immediately trying to replicate these looks, I have a stronger vision of what works for me. I know there’s always a vintage or secondhand version of the latest trend that’s probably better constructed and potentially cheaper, and now, I enjoy taking the time to seek this out (versus buying a shoddy version from a high-street retailer). This means I rarely purchase new clothing, unless I know it’s got quality construction in a style I can wear for a long time. If a purchase is new, and unless it’s a very, very special piece, it has to be made from sustainable materials. I’ve not had much luck with vintage denim, for example, nor the patience to try on endless pairs, so I do sometimes buy new, but these are almost always made from TENCEL™ branded fibers — a type of cellulose fiber produced from wood pulp from sustainably managed sources, a renewable resource.”
Whitney Bauck, Associate Editor at Fashionista
“I bought some sunglasses from [a fast fashion brand] in Ireland when I was studying there in 2013, and a week later, the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which was the worst accident in garment industry history, happened. The fast fashion brand was one of the brands that had been producing in that factory. Even though that fast fashion purchase was far from my norm, it really shook me to feel like my purchase was implicated in that tragedy. It wasn’t hard to stop buying fast fashion after that because I was already so much more of a vintage shopper, but it was sobering to come to terms with the way that Western consumption habits contribute to suffering in the rest of the world. We can’t buy our way out of this problem: we need to be willing to change not just where we’re buying from, but how much we’re buying in the first place. Most of the people reading this probably don’t actually need any new clothes, and won’t for years. Myself included. If I am buying new — which happens less and less frequently these days — I gravitate towards things that are made from recycled materials, materials that are regeneratively farmed or organic.”
Callia Hargrove, Contributor at CD Denim
“My shopping habits over the past few years have done a total 180. Now I approach shopping via a three-pronged system. Everything I buy is: made sustainably/ethically, an investment that has a high cost per wear, or pre-owned. Each season, I put together Pinterest boards with inspirational images that I use to think through what I want to buy. Then I pin the exact items I plan to buy on a separate board so I know where my money is going and I can budget. Most seasons I buy one high-end investment item and a few sustainable/ethically produced basics, along with some trend-based thrift buys.
When it comes to new clothes, I try my hardest only to shop with brands that are not only sustainable, but also employ ethical business practices. On the materials front, I definitely have a lot to learn. I’m a big fan of TENCEL™ because they use a sustainable closed loop production process, which is so important. And they are way ahead of the trend when it comes to textile fibers: they transform wood pulp into biodegradable fibers, all with a really low environmental impact.”
Alyssa Hardy, Senior News Editor at InStyle
“It’s actually difficult for me, at times, to reconcile my job with my beliefs. On the one hand, I have extremely strong feelings about many of these brands and their practices, and on the other, I feel that everyone has the right to afford cute clothing. So when I’m writing about a trend or a sale, I make sure I’m giving the most quality options available, information about how to get the trend in other ways, and which brands offer transparent manufacturing. Also, I think fashion editors are in a unique position where we have a direct line to these companies, so I’m always giving feedback about sustainability and trying to hold them accountable when I can. It’s really important to remember that you have a voice in this movement. You can tell brands what you want to see from them and let them know when you feel there is a problem.”
Faith Cummings, Contributing Writer at Bustle
“We should all try to shop less. Honestly, do we really need more clothes? I know it’s super hard because clothes and accessories are so beautiful and they really do have the power to boost your mood and make you feel equipped to take on the world. But you probably have enough already. Look all you want, but be more selective with what you buy. I’m completely aware that a lot of these fast-fashion stores allow people with less disposable income and curvy people who can’t always find their sizes in traditional stores have access to fashion that makes them look and feel good. So I think that’s another major problem we need to tackle. People of all socioeconomic backgrounds and sizes need affordable clothes that won’t fall apart after one wash and hurt the planet in the process.”
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