Here I am again, sharing something new going on around Route. Purchasing ethically and having a closet with the least social and environmental impact is COMPLICATED and takes a lot of work and thought. I’ve been working on it for at least the last four years and I feel strongly like I have SO far to go.
So after all of this time I’ve learned a thing or two and I finally feel ready to share a little bit about my journey, how I dress now and some of my closet goals as I’m going forward.
A few things to know about me that might be helpful: I’m a (in some ways reluctant) stay at home mom. Getting dressed and putting a passable outfit together daily is just one little way that I stick it to this crazy season that keeps me home all day chasing children.
I consider clothing trends optional and classic Parisian style a closet must. I don’t wear one clear style, but mix it up and am always passionate about clothing that is flattering, well tailored and intricately designed (even if the finished product is simple).
Follow along on our instagram stories for more and if you like what I have on for any feature keep track of the “One Of” collection on our website. I will be featuring pieces that I’ve found for Route and after I style them will pack them away for you to purchase.
I hope this is helpful and fun for you and as always: Happy Ethical Shopping!
I am SO EXCITED to announce a little adventure that we are embarking on at Route. For a while we have been talking about how to make ethical fashion more accessible, but still stylish and fresh. I love shopping second hand and recognizing great finds, I love buying local from artisans and designers that are doing effective and creative things in my neighborhood and I love buying ethically. Bottom line, I just love shopping in alternative ways that make the mainstream seem boring and “basic”, and I’m passionate about putting together outfits from all of these different sources that are functional, beautiful, and classic.
Sometimes buying ethically can be hard–either the pieces are boring, or the fantastically designed ones are out of an average person’s budget. Here’s where I want to come in:
In all of my second hand shopping I often come across pieces that are LEGIT finds. Things that I cannot believe I have gotten my hands on, or pieces that are just so beautiful that I can’t leave behind. So instead of keeping them for myself, I’ve decided to start sharing them with you.
Stay tuned for more blog posts and our instagram changing over the coming weeks as we add new sections and styles mixing in ethical with secondhand.
The process of choosing which companies we will partner with and what products we will sell consumes so much of our work and conversation. This is not a small process. The goal is to put together a collection of well made, fashionable, well priced and deeply impactful products. We want to choose the best of the best for you. When you buy from Route, you can trust that these are pieces that people will compliment and ask you about.
When we start in on a new relationship (or in this case pick back up on an old one), we take that very seriously and approach it with care. Years ago, Starfish Project came to visit our shop in Columbia. We were thrilled about the work they were doing. Literally bringing women out of brothels and exploitation into every level of their business. Their goal is not just to teach women how to make jewelry. They put women quickly into training and education programs to teach them computer skills, management, logistics and a slew of other seriously marketable skills. These women will forever have careers that will safely keep them out of the situations that came from. All of this while housing, caring for and helping to heal each women.
We have chosen not to buy from them in the past because we did not think the jewelry they were making had a wide enough appeal or that the style was updated enough to sell on it’s own without the story. We are THRILLED that that has changed and recently found three gorgeous pieces to offer you from their current line.
Order one or two (scroll over image for link to purchase) knowing that the women behind these products are working hard to change the direction of their lives and you are helping to make that possible (and looking fabulous in the process).
So I throw things away compulsively, sometimes it’s a problem. When it comes to keeping my closet organized, it’s really helpful. I clean my closet out at least twice a year and have several different methods to approaching this project.
Sometimes I clean out just because it feels good to have less stuff, but more often I clean out with two goals in mind:
What do I need to get rid of?
Where are the holes in my wardrobe that would make styling and dressing easier and less stressful?
I don’t have a lot of time for clean so I try and make it quick and efficient. Here are five different approaches to cleaning out. There is definitely overlap between them, but they are a great place to start. Try one and let me know how it went.
Organize by Color – Everyone has their favorite colors to collect. Start by separating your clothing by color. Any outliers that you NEVER wear? Toss them. Do you have 8 black tops? If you wear them all, keep them, if not. See ya.
Side not: this is a great way to get an idea of what you may want to look for when you do your Spring purchasing this year. Some questions to help you decide what should go on your list and what should go: What colors do you have too much of? What colors do you love that you don’t wear enough?
Organize by Wear – Day/Night/Casual/Business – It’s helpful to do this and then ask yourself which clothes you spend the most time in. What pieces do you have that cross over? For me, my casual and business clothes often cross over. I try to dress up my casual and dress down my business look enough that I can combine those pieces. I find cross over from day to night difficult because I LOVE having really special tops or dresses when I go out (it doesn’t happen often). So I try and keep them updated and find that, I wear them infrequently and if I am careful to buy only what I love I keep them for years, often until they wear out.
Organize by Age – Speaking of keeping pieces for years. Sometimes we just love a piece to death and it is time to say goodbye. I nearly came to tears a few weeks ago when I bent over to pick up the baby off the floor and the back of my five year old black skinny jeans just ripped all the way up!
Other times, we have piles of clothing purchased years ago that aren’t relevant anymore. Maybe they were not well made to begin with or in a color that didn’t work for you, or a style that was really fast and looks odd now, so we just never wear them. My strategy is that if I did not wear it more than once the year before, I toss it.
Organize by Type – Start with each type of clothing. Shirts, pants, coats, etc… Look at the group of each and ask yourself: What do you wear often? What is outdated? What fits and what doesn’t? Keep everything out as you go through and use this strategy to create outfits. Sometimes older pieces in my wardrobe end up getting put into my rotation to wear because I take the time to find outfits for them during this process. Don’t hesitate to take pictures and keep them organized for inspiration when you dress in the morning!
Basic vs. Statement – The capsule wardrobe is an illusive goal in my life. I like wearing one-pieces, skirts and unusual tops that really only match one other piece or one pair of shoes. I’m hopeless. That being said, it is so much easier when the vast majority of my clothing can be mixed and matched to quickly throw on in the morning. When you are cleaning out to analyze how flexible your wardrobe is and find the holes in your wardrobe I would start by pulling out all of your basics. Consider each piece to decide if they work: Do you wear them all the time? Do they fit? Then clean out accordingly.
Ok, now I’m feeling ready to get started. Good luck and happy Spring cleaning!!
Ten years ago this month we had our first conversation about whether or not to start a nonprofit that would sell fair trade items to create employment in developing countries. Our goal was to alleviate poverty and we felt so strongly that employment could make that happen. As February starts and we take time to celebrate relationships and love and connection, I can’t help but take a few minutes to share what we have learned.
Employment isn’t enough. Economic development, a good job, lots of money and opportunity are not enough to end poverty and the emotional havoc that it wreaks. It’s the relationships, the connections between the maker, the designer, the supplier and the customer. Every person who carries a product carries love to another.
Three years ago when we were rebranding Route I read and at one point spoke (yikes!) on the essay “I, Pencil”. It’s a brief essay marveling on how supply chains are so complicated and really beautiful in their intricacy. In our world, supply chains are simple, but reflecting on that essay I have come to almost charish how are products are passed on. It is the passing from one person to another that creates the relationships that carry the love and the appreciation and the value. AND then, when we are able to return again and again to those same people for more product, (which of course means more economic support) we also return to them in friendship and support and encouragement.
In ethical fashion, these exchanges are more often than not done through women. So this year, at Route we are going to salute the women who are committed to supporting each other, encouraging each other and giving strength in community to do impossible things.
Thank you to the women in our community who dream with us and challenge and support us. Here is to each one of you, from maker to customer and every incredible person in between. We LOVE you and THANK YOU for carrying the love.
Happy New Year! I’ve been a little quiet the past few weeks. In between the holidays I’ve had a bit of work to catch up on. But I’m back and excited to share the first of many editions of Five Days, Five Ways.
So what is Five Days, Five Ways?
For five days I am taking one article of clothing and showing the versatility of our closets. Too often I want new things because, well, they are new and new is fun. But. And you know me, there is always a but. The closets we currently own hold so many possibilities. So for five days I styled one garment to meet all my weekday needs.
Last week I was lucky enough to test out the Martina Bias Cut Skirt from Route! Partnering with Tonle to bring this perfect skirt from Cambodia I couldn’t imagine having the debut of Five Days, Five Ways be with anything else.
Since it arrived I have not taken it off.
Providing both structure and comfort I’ve easily transitioned this piece from corporate workday to casual evening in seconds. The material of the skirt is so soft and luxurious. It’s the one item I don’t strip off two steps into my front door as I do with other garments following a long day at the office. I would take naps in it if I wasn’t worried about wrinkles.
After a week of running all over town in this skirt I am excited to share with you the many ways it should be the next addition to your wardrobe.
Monday: Office Day in Corporate America
My day job is not glamorous. I’m a financial reporting manager spending most hours with accountants who still believe brown and black can never go together, tailoring is an unnecessary expense, and cardigans are the only way to pull an outfit together.
I stick out a bit.
Heading into the office I paired the Martina Skirt with a classic blush button down blouse (consignment store find a few years ago) and my favorite, take everywhere, Bartaile backpack for an effortlessly chic work outfit. Too often I feel constricted, physically and creatively, in corporate attire. Not with the Martina Skirt. With an elastic waistband on the backside there is plenty of comfort and room. This has been invaluable on the days that I gorge myself on the holiday gift baskets that continue to arrive by the truckload.
Tuesday: Cozy Winter Wear
Although winter hasn’t decided to fully show up in Denver we’ve still had a few chilly days. A skirt of this color is perfect as it can be worn in any season. I found it to be ideal with my over-sized knit sweater and over the knee boots. Spending a few hours in the coffee shop I was cozy while feeling stylish, what more could a girl ask for?
Wednesday: Ladies Night
I might look forward to Wednesday as much as I do Friday. Wednesday is ladies night. Middle of the week pick-me-up makes the first two days and last two days go a lot smoother. I, however, am usually running behind. Either a work meeting went long or my boss had a last second “emergency”. Being able to quickly transition my work clothes into going out clothes while feeling on point is important, it makes me feel good! Only having to change my top and throwing on a jacket makes the Martina skirt a definite go to.
Thursday: Sushi Thursday…Date Night
When Drew and I started dating three years ago I was working pretty hectic hours. Most nights we didn’t get to see each other. However, my team reserved Thursday nights as an early night in an effort to prepare for the upcoming weekend hours. Drew and I had multiple Thursdays that randomly ended up at Sushi restaurants, and so Sushi Thursday became a thing, our thing. We have tried to keep this tradition alive.
For Sushi Thursday this week I spiced things up a bit with a color block theme. My little red crop top and favorite lightweight jacket brought color blocking to a new level. The jewel tone of the jacket emphasized the richness of the skirt turning a simple outfit into a standout!
Friday: TGICF (Thank Gosh It’s Casual Friday)
My office doesn’t get much right in the fashion department, see Monday example, but casual Friday is something I will not argue with. Denim shirts are my go-to casual Friday look. The flowing femininity of this skirt paired with the structure of my denim shirt had me dancing my way into the weekend.
Our clothes are more than articles to cover our bodies. Our clothes should inspire us. Having staples in my wardrobe inspires me to be creative each day, to see how I can expand my options with what I have. I hope you’ve found some inspiration this week.
One of our favorite vendors; Tonle, is a company comprised of a caring group of Cambodians and Americans who work together to make a beautiful clothing line happen. Working intentionally in this war torn country, it is unique in its ethical business model as it has created a zero waste model of production. This means Tonle is as environmentally friendly as it is friendly in it’s production process. Tonle upcycles fabrics to make new clothing. ZERO waste. That means even the tags are scraps.
But make no mistake in thinking these pieces look recycled. The empowered artisans they employ celebrate the culture and beauty of Cambodia while making the latest chic fashion statements. The art of garment making is perfected and is demonstrated in the beauty of the clothing and also the care of the community in which it is made.
We are so excited to chat with the founder and creative director of Tonle, Rachel Faller, to get the inside scoop on what is happening this holiday season.
Your zero-waste business model is remarkable and completely different than any other model we’ve ever seen. How have you possibly managed to make this model sustainable?
In short, it is always a challenge! And each time we create a new collection, we have fabrics that we have to recycle from the previous collections. Some people have commented that our products should be cheaper because we pay so little for the materials. And it is true that the materials are cheaper because they come to us in smaller pieces that other companies consider not usable. However in reality it is much more expensive to produce this way because we have to take time to first of all pick out the materials, hand cut them, sort them, and then process all the small scraps. Of course, hand knitting and weaving new fabrics is tedious. What we love about the process is in the end much more of the final price goes to the artisans than to material costs. Big win! But it doesn’t mean it is cheap!
Would you say consumers are enticed more by the zero waste aspect or the fair employment aspect of the business? Does one hold more weight than the other?
It’s hard to say which is more important to people, but I will say that the zero-waste aspect of our business gets quite a bit of attention because it is quite unique. There are few companies in the world doing what we are doing in that regard so I think that really stands out to people, and it piques their curiosity – they want to know more about the process and learn what zero-waste means to us. Personally speaking, I think they are both very important, because first of all I know all the people who make our products and how much this work means to them; they are like family to me as well. At the end of the day though, our environmental mission and social mission go hand-in-hand; people who live in places that are deeply affected by pollution from the garment industry, like Cambodia, can testify to that.
Tell us about your exciting local partnership that is helping produce the new line this holiday season?
Weaves of Cambodia! We send them the smallest scraps left from our production and they hand-cut them into new yarn, and weave them into new fabrics. The whole process is quite tedious but the products are uniquely beautiful. Many of the weavers have disabilities from landmine accidents, as this region of the country has been war torn until the late 1990’s. Landmine clearance has really just begun in the last 15 years. This work creates not only a vital revenue stream for them but they say that the work and the community is really important and meaningful as well. The weaving is integrated in most all our products, however some of the new line statements which show the handwoven work is the sol triangle tote, srey crop top , srey long vest. and the phnom scarf.
What are your plans to grow and keep things going?
Thinking about growth is very interesting because as a zero-waste company – we don’t want our growth to come at the cost of the planet. But at the same time, growth of companies like tonlé mean that more artisans are employed with fair and livable wages, and hopefully reducing the number of toxic products that are produced. So we continue to think about growth with all the caveats attached regarding staying true to our principals and mission.
The week of Black Friday is here. Millions of consumers will leave their warm cozy beds to stand in line, plow over each other, and race through aisles all in the pursuit of getting a great ‘deal.’
What if this year is different? What if we embrace the true meaning of the holiday season: giving to others?
Today I am sharing sustainable and ethical gift giving ideas that give twofold: both to your loved ones as well as the individuals who work so hard to craft them!
For the Animal Lover
These whimsical t-shirts will definitely up the casual outfit game and are perfect for any animal lover. Last year, I bought myself (oops!) and my animal loving family members shirts from A is for Animals. Never have I worn a T-shirt so many times. They are styled to pair perfectly with a casual Saturday outfit or disguised under a blazer for the workday. With a percentage of each sale benefiting different animal organizations it’s hard to go wrong.
Another wonderful option for the animal lover on your list is the Orphans’ Project. The Orphans’ Project, developed and run by DSWT (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn as well as the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation, and drought.
Pair an adoption with an E is for Elephants t-shirt for a uniquely thoughtful gift!
For the Minimalist Female Dresser
Capsule wardrobes have been a minimalist dresser’s best friend for years. Compiling a capsule wardrobe however takes time, patience, and hunting down well-designed pieces.
Finding a garment that is multifunctional, stylish, and comfortable is a tall order. Enter the Jessie Utility Jacket. Worn as a long staple, short and edgy, or a lightweight vest the Jessie Utility Jacket does it all and is a capsule wardrobe dream. This season give your minimalist friend the piece her closet has been missing.
For the Fashionable Mother/Mother-in-Law/Sister/Friend
For decades French women have embodied effortlessly chic style. There are many elements Parisian women have perfected but none so better than the scarf. An outfit can go from drab to elegant with the addition of a gorgeous scarf. For the ladies of your life that have overflowing closets or styles that you just can’t put your finger on there is the Natalie Scarf. Made of the softest alpaca you ever did feel the Natalie scarf adds style to any outfit as well as cozy warmth for the upcoming winter months.
I have styled this scarf to keep warm on my walk to work and with ease transitioned it to pull together my otherwise bland black work dress. The colors complement and bring to life neutral wardrobes and can be paired year-round. It has also been wonderful for holiday travel this week, keeping me stylish and warm during long airport stays.
For the Style Icon
If a scarf doesn’t push an outfit to full chic completeness a hat certainly will. As a society we have moved away from hats, and I think this is a shame. The history and craftsmanship of hats is as fundamental to fashion as Coco Chanel. This gift giving season if you find yourself wondering what to get that oh-so-stylish loved one in your life then look no further than Yellow 108. Yellow 108’s hats represent authentic American heritage with quality and timeless aesthetics. Crafted with skill and using salvaged and recycled materials these hats have earned the title of sustainable fashion!
For the Significant Other
Whether it’s a new relationship or one that has years of love, buying for the individual closest to you can be a challenge. Too often advertisements tell us we must gift the perfect material item. This holiday season why not focus on a shared experience?
Pack up and Go is a group of world travelers who wish to share their passion for travel with others. By filling out a brief survey of dates, ideal vacation type, and other tidbits, Pack Up and Go will craft the perfect three day/two-night itinerary to a surprise destination. Travel packages are focused around your budget making this gift of travel one for all to enjoy!
This surprise travel gift pairs wonderfully with an Everlane weekender. A gift within a gift!
For the Father/Father-in-Law/Brother/Friend
With all the gadgets on the market these days and all the cords that go along with them it’s a challenge to not end up with a big ol’ knot. This is Ground has solved this problem with men in mind. Based in Downtown Los Angeles, This is Ground believes that “the craftsman needs to own their own business” keeping all production in L.A and empowering workers. My favorite for this holiday season is the Cordito which effortlessly organizes and stores all the cords we seem to need in our daily routines.
If tech gadgets aren’t a winner for the men on your list or you’re looking for something to show you care then the classic, yet sustainable, beanie is a must. At their core Krochet Kids believes valuing “sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth” is important. Need I say more?
For the Comfort-Enthusiast
“Turns out the world’s most comfortable shoes are made of wool!” Allbirds are changing the shoe game in a huge way! Founder Tim Brown realized that wool holds all the perfect properties for shoes: minimizes odor, regulates temperature, and wicks moisture, however no one was using this sustainable resource. Allbirds are stylishly designed, comfortable beyond words, and make the perfect gift for those who like to enjoy comfort in style!
For the Skincare Guru
With the sustainable fashion revolution at the forefront of my posts it’s easy to forget that organic skincare is also having a big moment. As our largest organ treating our skin with love and respect is of the utmost importance. For the skincare guru on your list this year give them a One Love Organics 3-2-1 Fantastic Facial Kit. One Love Organics is cruelty-free, eco-cert, and is a Gold Certified Business from Green America. Wow!
As skincare products can be very personal I love the travel size of the 3-2-1 Fantastic Facial Kit. It allows for the trial of a new product without the long commitment. The products smell incredible, feel incredible, and are produced in the U.S at a sustainable manufacturing plant!
For the Holiday Hostess
With the holiday season comes holiday parties. Deciding what to bring a gracious host/hostess can be challenging, especially if you’re like me and want to venture outside a bottle of wine. I have always found candles and lotion to be crowd pleasers, especially when they are thoughtfully made. Route has teamed up with Larkskin Care putting together the ideal combination of a Route inspiration candle and a Larkskin Care lotion bar. This natural and ethically made pair will take all the guesswork out of what to bring your hard working hostesses this holiday season.
Happy sustainable shopping and the happiest of holidays to you!
It’s been a week and I’m back with part two of my buying sustainable process guide.
During our week apart I indulged myself a little with my favorite type of sustainable buying, recycled! While visiting home, my sister and I disappeared into the wonderful world of consignment fashion, at our local spot. After multiple arm loads to the dressing room, a few laughs, one moment of almost getting stuck in a pair of corduroy pants, I exited with some amazing finds.
A German made sweater, of 100% wool, the softest black and white sweater made of “baby alpaca” and a brand new, tags still on, hat that is made by a USA based sustainable company. I hit the jackpot in the world of sustainable shopping. What makes it all so exciting, is this can happen 9 times out of 10, if you’re willing to dig for it.
So without further ado, part two!
Recycle: When I say recycle I do not mean buying shoes that are made of recycled rubber or purses made of recycled plastic, although these are wonderful recycled options. When I say recycle I am talking about, of course, consignment stores or other secondhand clothing options.
Some may cringe at this thought. Wearing something preloved can be a hurdle but I’m here to preach, again, that it is not only good for your wallet and the planet but it can do incredible things for your style.
The pieces I get the most compliments on have come from consignment stores or thrift shops. For every item bought recycled one less item enters the consumption loop, which in turns decreases the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. For every American, 68 pounds of textiles end up in landfills each year according to research found in Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. The number is only increasing, recycled can help.
Consignment shopping can be overwhelming, I will admit that. Racks are not usually sorted by size but more often color and when you find something you like but not in your size you don’t have the privilege of asking the sales associate to locate what you need. This, I believe, is the beauty of consignment shops. When you find a piece that fits just right and is unique to you the excitement is like nothing felt in the dressing-room of a cookie cutter shop where ten others may be trying on the same piece.
My recommendation to tackling consignment shops? Grab a friend, or a sister, make a day of it and go experiment with a style that is uniquely your own!
Repair: How often does the rubber on the bottom of your heal fall off? The zipper on a favorite pair of jeans bust open because of one too many cookies? In our world of disposable fashion when this occurs we throw the garment away because “heck, I only spent $50 on these shoes so I might as well just go get a new pair”. Clothing has never been as disposable as it is today and that needs to change.
I have come to love repairing shoes, clothes and everything in between. There is something special about the way I feel in my favorite pair of jeans. If the zipper blows out during the holiday season, yes this has definitely happened (a couple times), I don’t want to replace them, I want to repair them.
It is easy to question why repairing something that was so cheap to begin with has any sound logic. So why not invest in higher quality items and ask yourself, before making the purchase, can I repair this item if it wears out? If the answer is no, maybe it’s not of high quality or maybe it won’t be true to your individual style for long enough to wear out, therefore maybe it’s not the right purchase.
Throughout my adolescent years, okay and even sometimes still today, Carrie Bradshaw was living my New York dream. Although we would disagree on her constant over consumption there is one thing she got right, shoe repair. In season three episode fifteen Carrie learns that her trusted cobbler has been replaced with a comic book store. She is devastated because for Carrie throwing away a $500 pair of Manolo’s is not only ludicrous but financially irresponsible. By no means am I advocating to spend unnecessary amounts of money on designer goods, I sure never have, but $150 for a quality shoe is not unreasonable and if repaired regularly will last for decades.
Repurpose: This one just barely made the list. It has only come into my life in the last few months. What I love about repurpose is it was forced upon me. As soon as I stopped shopping at cheap fashion stores and started reevaluating my closet I realized I needed to repurpose items I already owned. Without this change in attitude I would have become frustrated with my wardrobe and probably given in to supporting an industry I adamantly write against.
Repurposing is no easy task. I am fortunate enough to have a very stylish boyfriend, if I do say so myself, and I have been able to incorporate some of his pieces into my rotation, such as a classic destroyed denim jacket (it also works in my favor that the 90’s are back so too then are over-sized pieces). I understand sharing a wardrobe is not a luxury for most women but there are many other options.
Repurposing your wardrobe takes time and creativity which is the best part. I have rediscovered my style without spending a dime. I’ve taken sweaters that are too low cut in the front and worn them backwards, creating a completely unique and new look.
The age old saying “out of sight, out of mind” can be applied to wardrobes. There is something really wonderful about the change in season and pulling out all those long lost garments that have been stored away for months. If you don’t yet do this, give it a try. Pack away your summer clothes, “out of sight, out of mind” and when the ground begins to thaw pulling them out will feel like having an entirely new closet.
It was not long ago that I shopped at fast fashion stores. It was not long ago that I didn’t even consider checking labels before making a purchase and it wasn’t long ago that I stood before an overflowing closet whining “I have nothing to wear” (although that last one still happens from time to time). This process continues to evolve for me.
Over the past few months I have learned a lot about our world and about myself. It is exciting to feel grounded in who I am and in my style more than ever before. This has occurred because I forced myself to reevaluate my shopping habits and my wardrobe. I now work every day to refine my style. To challenge myself. It’s been a wonderfully empowering and creative process that I hope encourages you to give it a try.
Here we are, two weeks in and I have thrown out the term sustainable fashion over and over again. But what truly defines sustainable fashion? How does one begin the process of buying sustainable? How much will I be giving up to only shop sustainable? I started by asking myself these questions, along with many others.
Sustainable, per Webster, is of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.
Fashion, per Webster, is defined as a prevailing custom, usage, or style.
Put together, sustainable fashion is the method of using a style textile so that the textile is not depleted or permanently damaged. This definition, that I word scrambled together, is not the end all be all, however, I have found myself needing a broad definition.
Determining this broad definition was a challenge. What has been more of a challenge is determining how and where to buy sustainable. What are the requirements needed to meet the title “sustainable”? Do products have to meet every requirement for me to feel confident in making a purchase?
Sustainable means something different to every individual pursuing this journey. Some take it 100% at face value, buying goods that are only made of organically grown materials, in which resource depletion does not occur. Others believe sustainable is paying a fair, living wage and yet still others believe sustainable is only buying recycled, re-purposed or reused products.
There are so many ways to go about this process and all are great.
I’ve broken sustainable purchasing into a few categories. I strive to base, almost, all my purchases with these categories in mind. It’s impossible to buy completely sustainable 100% of the time, in my life and the life of many others, it’s just not realistic. And that’s okay.
My categories are: ethical, organic, recycle, repair, and repurpose.
But what does this all mean…
Ethical: Ethically made goods are ones in which the individuals in the product chain are paid a living wage, do not work in hazardous environments and are afforded basic human rights.
In China, officially $42.3 million people live in poverty, reported Ellen Ruppel Shell in her book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. This was 2009. The Chinese population has only grown since then thus has the number living under the poverty level. What many don’t know is in China the official poverty line is drawn at $156 a year, versus the World Bank poverty limit of $456 a year writes Shell. This translates to millions more living at or well below the poverty level, many of whom work in the factories that make all the cheap goods Americans have come to rely on.
Before learning these heartbreaking details I knew of the sweatshops of many third world countries, of the deaths that occurred, the hours that were worked, and the lost childhoods, all so that I could wear a $5 shirt from Forever 21. Now, knowing more, it is even more important to me to purchase goods that make a difference in the life of the individual who made it.
Luckily, in today’s educated society finding companies that carry these products does not hold the challenge that ethical shoppers use to face. Where we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars matters, so chose to spend on products that support and empower workers.
Organic: This category has been more of a search for me. Many companies have begun using organic cotton or other natural fibers but it is still an adventure finding these products. Organic and other natural fibers hold such importance as the process of growing, processing and disposing of them does not deplete resources, as well as chemicals are not used throughout the process. Cotton and other cellulose fabrics are durable and if they make the unfortunate trip to the landfill they do not contribute to methane secretion which causes greenhouse gas buildup.
As clothing interacts with our body all day everyday it is important to remember that our skin, our largest organ, is absorbing aspects of these fibers. Dozens of chemicals are used during the process of harvesting, treating and dying cotton, which then enter our integument system. Research is still in process to pin point the numerous negative impacts of our constant interaction with these chemicals but is it really a chance worth taking?
Give organic a try, treat your body and earth with some respect, our generation and the next generation will thank you.
With the hope of keeping you wanting more, and to not overwhelm with information, I am going to leave recycle (my favorite), repair and repurpose for next week!
No matter how you chose to start the process of buying sustainable remember, it is a process and the best part of any process is all you need to do is start.