As a college student, most of my friends purchase their clothing with budget, personal style and, most importantly, current fashion trends in mind. I have seen firsthand how popular trends drive early twenty-somethings to purchase specific pieces, even ones with high price tags. White sneakers, off-the-shoulder tops, flowy rompers, lace up sandals – you name it. Once these have made their way onto social media, young women quickly pick up these must-have items. Additionally, large clothing companies like Free People, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21 make it easy, and relatively inexpensive, for women my age to buy into the popular trends. This pattern is common among young women and has influenced how these brands market to their customers.
Unfortunately, quickly changing fashion trends, coupled with large, inexpensive brands, makes fast fashion possible, and popular, among my peers. I can confidently say most people my age do not consider where their clothing is made or what fabric it is made of. Ethical and sustainable fashion is a topic that is rarely discussed, and therefore not implemented, among young women.
My wardrobe, however, has become more sustainable within the past 2 years simply because personal style shifted. I strayed away from fast trends and popular, cheap brands in favor of fewer, well-made pieces that built a solid foundation for my wardrobe. I have focused my energy on purchasing quality over quantity. I describe my style as simple, feminine, and slightly preppy. My favorite brands are J. Crew and Anne Taylor, and I could spend hours in Nordstrom. I know that these stores are not the epitome of ethical fashion, however their pieces have a higher quality and outlast fast trends with their basic items and simple silhouettes. It was interesting to read J. Crew’s ethical report card, which confirmed my perception. I am happy that I have taken this first step into building an ethical closet by minimizing my purchases to pieces that will last longer and all work together to curate my personal style.
Through my own research, and my new internship with Route, I have realized the other ways I can advance my ethical wardrobe. First, I plan focus my attention on the fabric my clothing is made of. Choosing fabrics that are better for the environment is simple, and something I can implement at the stores I already shop at. I was excited to see the popular fashion and lifestyle blog, Man Repeller, write an extensive feature about sustainable fabrics. I hope that this is the first of many articles that introduce sustainable fashion to more women. Second, my long term goal is to incorporate ethically produced clothing into my wardrobe. I plan to research the working conditions and wages of employees, to educate myself about various brands, and ensure that my money is going to companies that are making a difference in ethical and sustainable fashion.
Zoe is a business student with a concentration in marketing at the University of Richmond and Route’s summer intern.