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.
I began this journey, as I talked about last week, with a very brief education. However, I am ashamed to admit, the first few months following my passion I was not practicing what I was learning. I was still lured in by sales at H&M, Aldo, and Nordstrom with the thought that once I found brands that were “sustainable” I would stop shopping at these fast fashion behemoths and start practicing my newfound knowledge. I was living two lives, the life of sustainable education, that aligned so seamlessly with my morals, and the life of the deal hunting fashionista who was tempted by 50% off.
Everything negative I was reading I was still embodying.
How was it that I had found something I was so passionate about–everything I was reading and talking about was focused on it–yet I was not changing my behavior? I dug deep into the psychological aspect of consumer buying habits with the help of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. Shell eloquently explains that as consumers we are wired to focus on the dollars saved not the dollars spent.
This is due to the phenomenon of ‘earned savings.’
As consumers we believe that when we find a good savings deal we have earned that deal, we worked hard to track it down, maybe driving many miles to the outlet store or sifting endlessly through the sale racks at our favorite store. This mindset allows us to disregard how much we spent on an item and focus solely on how much we saved forgetting that dollars had still left our pockets.
I realized while reading Shell’s words that I was afraid of losing out on the deal, on my earned savings. I believe this is a hurdle for many others as well. As consumers, we have associated deals with earning savings without question to the quality of the purchase because why would we? We found a good deal and can do the same tomorrow if the garment falls apart. It’s this mindset that I believe needs to be changed and can be changed. Getting a good deal should not be focused on price but on quality.
Our preoccupation with low price makes it easy to forget that every penny we save on markdowns must be taken from someone else or, failing that, extracted from the value of the object of our desire. In discount nation, what once was solid, permanent, and dependable has become disposable, ephemeral, and dicey.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Ellen Ruppel Shell
So how do we change what is fundamentally wired into us as consumers to seek out the best deal? We start by changing our relationship with our clothes. We stop seeing our wardrobes as revolving doors, a constant stream of in and out, and realize that our cheap fashion purchases are not a cost savings but a constant drain on our wallets and our environment.
As an experiment, I went back over the last year and added up all the wardrobe purchases I had made, the ones that I bragged about getting such a great deal on. The cost SHOCKED me. For every dollar I ‘saved’ I had actually spent $15! Rather than having earned any savings I had spent and spent and spent.
Merchants have programmed us to expect sales. Our culture of sales has trained us to think that if merchants can profit on a 50% off sale then us consumers paying full price must be fools. Today an item that doesn’t sell in four or five weeks–or even sooner–may be relegated to the markdown bin, Shell writes, thus hastening the cycle of fast fashion. Merchants want their products out the door and consumers want to earn their savings–leaving us in a cycle of overproduction and waste.
I write all this because I realize there is a significant hurdle to overcome when shifting our shopping habits to sustainability.
Making the switch can seem scary or even overwhelming. Not knowing where to start or who to support.
I asked Christina, Route’s founder and director about this and this was her response:
“Start with us. Try out Route, even for one item, our goal is for you to not just like what you purchased, but to love it, wear it regularly and feel deeply connected to the process that that item took to get to you. So much love was put into every step. It’s a risk to try a new boutique and trust that you’ll like the item when it is in your hand and not on Instagram, but we want to do everything we can to make it worth the risk for you.”
Try out their new fall line here to explore their incredible pieces!
Buying sustainable does not mean giving up current fashion trends or putting a big dent into your shopping budget. Buying sustainable does not mean only wearing hemp clothing and other recycled goods.
Buying sustainable means purchasing quality products, made by individuals who are trying to overcome challenges in our oftentimes oppressive world. Buying sustainable means empowering designers and producers in our world to earn a living wage. Buying sustainable means taking an enormous weight off our environment. Buying sustainable means making a difference.
It is difficult to fully trade deal-hunting desires for the desire to improve our world through fashion. But it’s a worthwhile journey that I’m on and inviting you to join.
Chat next week. With love.
“She was dressing herself before she could walk,” has been my parents’ favorite way to describe my stubbornness and love of style for as long I can remember. From the beginning, the battle my mama bear would never win was attempting to get me to change my mind about what I was going to wear. Until recently this has rang all too true. I love clothes and I love style but I had no idea where my clothes came from, who made them, or how much the textile worker was paid.
I didn’t know the route.
Hi! I’m Jasmin, a lover of style, interested in all things sustainable, and striving every day to leave the world better than when I found it. Through a most serendipitous introduction I became connected to Route and the lovely Christina. I knew I had to be involved from the moment I learned about Route.
Luckily for me Christina was willing to take a chance—on a friend of a friend—and allow me the privilege of guest blogging for Route! I’ll be here weekly to share my ideas, research, and opinions regarding my continued journey toward ethical and sustainable fashion. I’ll also highlight the incredible steps Route is taking to bring this important movement mainstream and ways for you, our lovely supporters, to join the movement!
A year ago I started my clothing education journey, completely unaware of the impact it would have on my life and the lives of my loved ones. (Thanks for allowing me to get on a soapbox regularly dear loved ones!)
So where did it all begin? Where else but the spot where countless hours, by countless women, have been spent standing in front of an overflowing closet wondering what to wear and yelling “I have nothing to wear!” I was frustrated, exhausted and downright over it when I began questioning why this happens. Why, on a weekly basis I was running late to work, or appointments, or to meet friends? Not getting up early enough? Probably. But also because of an irrational thought that I have ‘nothing to wear’ even in the midst of an overflowing closet of options. I pondered on this notion for days and finally landed on one overarching question I continue to come back to, which is more important: Style or Fashion?
Fashion has evolved from a predictable four season cycle to a revolving door of 52 yearly changes. Style on the other hand is specific to an individual, one who embraces the idea of pushing ever changing fashion trends behind and embarking on a journey that forces the question, “who am I, what makes ME feel good, and what face do I want to present to the world?” What we oftentimes forget is how impactful clothes are to our mood, first impressions and social success, not to even mention the environmental impact.
Style is an identity that does not change week to week but instead is yours and yours alone. This is not to say stylish people are not fashionable, quite the opposite actually, stylish people are the most fashionable, the only difference is, they do not follow trends because they are the trends, they invest in pieces that are flattering on their figures, in line with their personal design, and above all else make them happy!
This important realization gave life to my current clothing education journey.
Right as I found myself exhausted from trying to keep my closet filled with the most on trend looks, I was introduced to The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black, which was conveniently on my family’s coffee table during a weekend visit. I would later learn that my sister had taken an interest in the book at the library and before I knew it I was devouring page after page. My desire to move away from rotating fashion trends, all for very selfish reasons; physical, mental and financial exhaustion, turned into a passion to create social awareness and change surrounding an issue that impacts each and every one of us. I realized my personal style is minimal chic and smothered in sustainability!
I began checking labels, I began asking…
What if we reevaluated our closets? What if we asked where things come from and who made them? What if we started investing in lasting items and did away with weekly shopping? What if we learned the Route?
To these what if’s I say: it’s a worthwhile challenge. But it is a challenge nonetheless. I have embarked on this journey to answer these questions, to change my relationship with clothes, and to share my newfound passion with others.
All the while let’s remember we are human and we will falter in our efforts to eliminate cheap fashion. We will be tempted by low prices and new fashion trends and occasionally we will cave to a deal too good to pass up.
What is important is when we care about where our products are made and of what quality and what textile, we are making a difference. We are supporting living wages, safe working conditions, and a respect for our environment. If, as often as we can, we know the Route our products have taken to our closets we are already making a difference. We are creating the change we want to see in the world.
Chat next week. With love.
I often have clothing I no longer wear and struggle with what to do with it. I never mind donating things to resellers, but have read so many accounts over the years of clothing that gets donated being thrown away. Somehow between consumers and businesses, in the U. S. alone, we dispose of 15 million tons of clothing waste a year. Most of which is synthetic and synthetic fibers take 100s of years to decompose. Only 15% of consumer pre-used clothing is recycled or reused, the rest of what we give away ends up in a landfill.
So, let’s buy less, buy recycled (Tonle, one of our partner groups works with only recycled fabrics), buy natural fibers AND on Sunday, SWAP what we don’t want anymore for something someone else has that we do want.
While we are at it, we’ll make it a party and offer some new clothing to purchase to pair with what is used. Hopefully, this will be really fun way to move our wardrobes and our clothing garbage in a more conscious direction. Link for event details and tickets is here.
Here is how it will work:
- Choose 5 to 10 pieces from your closet that you want to get rid of, any size, any season, but only women’s clothing, jewelry or accessories.
- Bring all of them to the Clothing Swap
- When you arrive you will be asked to put a label with your name on any clothing that you would want returned when you are done. If you have items that you’d like us to dispose of, we will do that in the most ethical way that we can find.
- We will organize your clothing by size on our racks.
- The swapping will begin 45 minutes after our event starts (so at 4:45). While you wait please feel free to shop our vendors that are joining us.
- At 4:45 you are welcome to walk around and choose 5-10 pieces of your own to take home with you.
We will be “shopping” on the honors system. If you see something and want it, take it but please do not take more than the number of items you brought. If someone is holding something, it is off limits. Let’s abide by some basic rules, treat each other the way you would be treated and know that this is just for fun to find a new happy home for our stuff and hopefully get a great piece or two that we will wear in return.
Can’t wait to see you there and talk about swapping, reselling and all things ethical fashion.