Beginner's Guide to Sustainable Fashion
It can be quite overwhelming to start a journey of making more earth-conscious decisions and habits. To help you with this journey, we have answered some of most asked asked questions around the topic of sustainable fashion. As Boise’s leading fashion experts, we are here to help you realize that you don’t need to over consume to have good style.
What exactly is sustainable fashion and how is it different from ethical fashion or slow fashion?
Sustainable fashion refers to the processes involved in the production of a garment and how these processes affect the environment. This can include anything from using recycled fabrics, naturally sourced materials and dyes to using low-waste packaging. The list of ways a fashion brand can be more sustainable is endless.
Ethical fashion is similar to sustainable fashion in that it encompasses the environmental effects from the production of the garments, but the difference is that ethical fashion also encompasses human rights issues, meaning ethical brands prioritize fair treatment, wages, and safety of the workers who made the clothes.
Slow fashion refers to the style, design, quality, and lifetime of a garment, rather than the processes involved in producing it. This type of fashion encourages the avoidance of fluctuating trends and places an emphasis on buying durable garments that you can see yourself wearing for years to come.
Why sustainable fashion?
The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to the environmental problems that face our planet. Because nowadays fashion trends come and go in the blink of an eye, Americans have doubled the volume of clothing thrown away each year in the last 20 years (from 7 million to 14 million tons). Most commonly used textiles can take over 200 years to decompose in landfills.
While some may argue that making individual changes can't make difference on a global scale, I would argue that the small changes that individuals make are essential to making a difference. Think about it, if consumers make these small changes businesses will begin to make necessary adjustments to their processes because they know consumers are making more conscious buying choices.
Can sustainable fashion be affordable?
It might be tempting in the moment to purchase trendy and affordable pieces from fast fashion brands, but in the long run it’s much more affordable to shop sustainably. Slow fashion is typically more expensive, but when you shop with the intention to expand a garment’s life to the fullest, it's easy to get your money's worth.
The best way to start this journey is to go through what you already have and upcycle or donate any clothes you don’t wear anymore. Marie Kondo has an amazing book and Netflix show on decluttering your things and getting rid of items that no longer spark joy in your life. This is also a helpful concept when you're shopping and deciding what to buy. A good rule of thumb when shopping is to ask yourself if you see yourself wearing the item more than 30 times. If not, you probably don't need it.
Once you’ve gotten rid of what no longer sparks joy, start looking in your mom's, grandma's or any relative's closets for some vintage hand-me-downs. You can also look into local clothing rental services so you can test out styles without making the investment.
One way to make the most of what you have is to put together a capsule wardrobe, where you can create countless outfits only using a few staple pieces. This way you can make the most of what you have and also be prepared for any trip. There are many different variations of capsule wardrobes but here is an example of one for you to get an idea:
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 skirt
- 1 pair of jeans
- 2 button ups
- 1 sweater
- 1 dress
- 2 purses
- 4 pairs of shoes
With only these items, you should be able to put together at least 25 unique outfits.
Sustainable fashion near me?
Try to prioritize buying vintage and used clothes before looking for anything new. However, if you're going to buy new clothes, here are some brands that have made significant efforts to consciously reduce their environmental impact, and some of them are even shops in downtown Boise.
Voxn is a fast growing women's activewear brand and local Boise boutique that offers products that are produced and designed in Boise and made from materials sourced in the US. Some of the products are more sustainably sourced such as these leggings that are made from 90% recycled polyester. This women's clothing store also carry's other brands such as O'Neill that have made significant efforts to reduce their environmental and social impact.
It's difficult these days to find sustainable and ethical clothing that offers inclusive sizing for all body types. This store's size inclusivity is what makes them special, and not to mention their clothes are produced using recycled water bottles, fishing nets and other waste.
This jeans brand you may have heard of has to committed to their mission of changing the clothing industry for good. You can find Levi's at some retail stores, but they also have an online clothing store. Some people may be surprised by the fact that shopping online is actually a more sustainable way to shop.
Hayes Company is another local Boise boutique that opened in July of 2020, offering products from brands that practice sustainability and give back to the community.
The fashion industry is the best place to start when switching to a more sustainable lifestyle, as it has the most impact on the planet. Remember to not be so hard on yourself if you have to go with a less sustainable option. Environmental activism doesn't have to be perfect, but what's important is that you know you're making a conscious effort to imperfectly reduce your impact.
Rachel Brown, "The Environmental Crisis Caused by Textile Waste," Roadrunner Waste Management, January 8, 2021, accessed July 13th, 2021, https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/textile-waste-environmental-crisis