WHY GIVING UP “FAST FASHION” IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I'VE DONE

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     Staying relevant in the fashion industry, while maintaining my ethics, was something that I grappled with a lot. As issues of sustainability and ethics became more important in my life, I began to question if “staying relevant” was really an issue at all. Was this just an insecurity that I developed after 15 years of advertising telling me I wasn’t good enough if I didn’t have the latest trend? I realized the questions I was having were actually masking an even deeper truth. I was unsure about who I was, and fast fashion only perpetuated that confusion. 

"I was unsure about who I was, and fast fashion only perpetuated that confusion."

     Beginning as a teenager, as most of us deal with issues of identity, I questioned who I was and how I wanted to present that person to the world. One year I felt goth and the next year hippie. As fast as I could throw out one identity (and the clothes that went along with it), I was replacing it with a new one. Stores like Hot Topic, Wet Seal, and Forever 21 provided trendy clothes at dirt cheap prices, and fueled my search with lots of wear and waste. Although I am thankful for these years of exploration, they lasted way too long, and far beyond my years of teenage angst.

     Throughout college, and into my career as a model, this confusion didn’t go away. With newer, more trendy stores like H&M and Zara, I never wanted to stop and think about my own personal style… the one that reflected who I am deep inside. I wanted to keep up with the trends and remained prey to the constant “Hot and Not” lists that advertisers and fast fashion CEOs count on. It wasn’t until graduating college, going vegan, and investigating the vast environmental issues facing us, that I started to even question who made my clothes. 

     A film premiere in New York of the documentary called True Cost was the catalyst for my journey. Released after the Rana Plaza disaster on April 24, 2013, it highlights the astonishing inequality that garment workers are subjected to across the globe. It shows the horror of the 1,134 people who were killed and the over 2,500 that were injured in Dhaka, Bangladesh when the complex collapsed. Despite earning my degree in Biology, the massive affect of the clothing we wear on the environment hadn't occurred to me. True Cost demonstrates how and why the fashion industry is one of the largest polluter on Earth, perhaps less damaging than the oil industry alone.** Fast fashion being the main culprit. This film was not only an eye-opener but it also marked a huge turning point in my life.

     I knew something had to change and that my mindless consumption of fast fashion had to stop. My true identity, no longer a question of outward appearance but something deep within, was finally able to take shape. Limiting my purchases to consciously manufactured pieces and consuming only that which I truly need, each item of clothing that I would own from that day forward needed to truly reflect the person that I am. My clothing also needed to last, which meant I had to be comfortable with that identity for a long period of time.

     For the first time I was forced to really ask myself, "Who am I?" and "How will I present this person to the World?". Although it was difficult at first, with practice and time I have been able to curate a wardrobe I feel confident in wearing over and over again. I have pieces that are sustainable and ethically made that all fit together. I have formed a unique capsule collection of clothing that confidently reflects my true self. 

"Limiting my purchases to consciously manufactured pieces and consuming only that which I truly need, each item of clothing that I would own from that day forward needed to truly reflect the person that I am."

     I now know that the clothing choices I make have a huge impact. “80 billion pieces of clothing are bought each year, and on average we only wear 20% of the clothes in our closet. The average American also throws away 82 pounds of textiles each year, adding to 11 million tons of textile waste in the U.S. alone." Giving up fast fashion therefore reduces huge amounts of toxic waste in landfills. Without much effort on the part of consumers, buying less and choosing well, also reduces the degradation of Earth’s waterways and ecosystems.

     Climate change is real. We are using up the Earth’s resources at a rate that compares to no other time in history. In order to sustain life in the way that humans are living now, we would need SEVEN planet Earths. The little things that we, as individuals, do everyday all add up to combat climate change. Ask the question, “Who made my Clothes?”, and stop supporting brands that exploit their labor. Investigate the environmental affects that our clothing has. Fashion Revolution and one of my favorite brands, Zady, both have vast amounts of information on their websites available for free. If you haven't seen the movie, True Cost is available for viewing via their website, Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I cannot recommend it enough.

     Giving up fast fashion has not only been an inspiring and fun journey for me with my clothes, but also helped me find confidence in how I present myself to the world. Never underestimate the power of small, daily actions that all add up to be a huge reduction in our carbon footprint. Not only will you be supporting our fellow humans and the planet, but you may even find out more about yourself. 

-Renee Peters


Want to get involved?

“Take two very simple actions that we perform every single day: getting dressed and eating. Now start a journey backwards – to where your food and your clothes come from. At the other end, you will rarely find happy people, treated with dignity and respect. Human beings working at the bottom of any supply chain are often treated like slaves, without reference to our common humanity. So ‘fashion’ – i.e. what we wear every single day, has huge relevance and huge consequences on human, social and environmental capital.”     - Liva Firth, Eco Age
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***2018 UPDATE: A report conducted by Quantis and Climate Works, released in February of 2018, now shows that, "Combined, the global apparel and footwear industries account for an estimated 8% of the world ́s greenhouse gas emissions." Read the full report here --> Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study

 

Q&A WITH MELISSA CANTOR OF ETHICA

Tell me a bit about yourself.

     My name is Melissa Cantor. I'm originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras (which is part of what sparked my interest in commerce as a tool for international development and positive social impact). I started my career as a magazine editor in Miami; later worked on digital media launches for companies like NBC, AOL and Fox; and most recently spent a couple of years working on web and social content at Tiffany & Co. and L'Oreal.
     I'm the co-founder and editor of Ethica, which I launched with my sister and husband in 2012, as well as an occasional freelance writer whose work has been published by CNN and New York magazine, among others.

What is Ethica?

     Ethica opened its virtual doors in September 2012 with a pioneering proposition: to make it simple and, above all, exciting to support ethical and sustainable fashion. Our brands range from buzzy up-and-comers to industry pioneers to tiny artisan outfits. In 2015, we expanded our selection to include a small selection of change-makers in the world of clean beauty as well.

What does “Sustainable Fashion" mean to you?

     It's timeless, high-quality clothing made with respect for people, the planet and other living beings. On a personal level, for me it's come to mean understanding the story behind a garment and falling in love with that aspect of it, in addition to the way it looks and feels. When I receive a compliment on an ethically made or sustainable item, I always have something I could share about it (though of course I don't always do so!), whether it's the fact that it's made of reclaimed materials, made in one of the few knitwear factories remaining in the U.S., etc. It adds a layer of enjoyment to it for me.
     From an industry perspective, I really like this question because it underscores the fact that ethical and sustainable are broad and subjective terms. From day one at Ethica, we have spelled out on every product page exactly why we consider an item ethical and sustainable, so that the shopper doesn't have to rely on our definition and can make her own decision. We hope that this translates into more empowered and informed consumers all around, not just when they are shopping with us.

Does the sustainable design trend we are currently seeing in fashion reinvigorate your passion for the industry?

     Yes, absolutely. I left my career as a fashion writer to launch Ethica precisely because I no longer wanted to be part of the status quo, and it's very encouraging to see how many people have embraced this movement in the past few years, from all aspects of the industry – you're a great example of this! I love meeting people who are contributing different sets of talents toward this common goal. For me as a writer and communicator, the creative and anthropological aspects of fashion are what have always been appealing, and both of these are magnified in sustainable fashion. There is so much creativity in terms of use of materials, designing for longevity, using commerce to make a positive impact, and so many takeaways when you look at this movement from a social and cultural perspectives. So yes, I'm really encouraged by everything I see, and it's so fulfilling to be able to create awareness about these issues and also offer people a platform where they can turn that knowledge into action.

Do you think an on-trend / contemporary wardrobe is possible, while maintaining our ethics?

     100 percent. Ethics aside, I don't think cheaply made, trend-driven clothing is the foundation of a good wardrobe. Deliberately investing in well-designed, well-made pieces over time is much more likely to lead to a strong wardrobe, so I think ethics and style go hand in hand.
Returning to the idea of story, when you have a personal connection to the things that you purchase, and when your closet is full of things that you want to keep over the years (instead of picking something up and going, "What was I thinking when I bought this?"), your wardrobe becomes an aspect of your personal narrative, and isn't that ultimately what style is?

The average consumer doesn't believe that they have the extra income required to pay the true cost of their clothing. Many seem to believe more sustainable options are too expensive or simply unavailable. How do you respond to this claim?

     I say that supporting ethical and sustainable fashion doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. That creates such a barrier to entry, mentally, and it turns it into something that people will do "someday." If you can't afford to buy ethical and sustainable fashion exclusively, that's ok. But there's surely a step that you can take, like maybe giving up shopping at one fast fashion store. Or buying just some things ethically. I know someone who's very committed to ethical fashion and sustainability, but who makes an exception for shoes because she can't find affordable options. I think that's perfectly reasonable, and it doesn't minimize her support for sustainable brands in other categories. It's about taking the first step, and then the next one, instead of thinking of it as this big, restrictive, expensive lifestyle. The more that you explore the field, the more options you'll find. There are a lot of great, affordable brands out there, along with plenty of sales and secondhand options. 

Is sustainable fashion able to reach everyday consumers who may shop in "fast fashion" now?

     It's certainly available to anyone with an interest in it. The bigger challenge, in my view, is creating that interest. Some people just don't want to engage in these issues, even if you tell them that the fashion industry is nearly as bad as the oil industry, or that a lifetime of wearing formaldehyde-soaked clothes might give them cancer someday. And I understand that, because that's not exactly an uplifting message. That's why good design is so important, because it's a way of attracting people through something positive, and once they have a positive experience, they can hopefully start to outgrow fast fashion.

What does "green living" mean to you? How do you incorporate green living into your life?

     It means to tread lightly, and to try to at least not leave anything worse than I found it–whether that's a person on the other side of the world who is affected by my choices, or whether it's a more direct environmental impact. I've always thought of myself as someone who cares for and about the environment, but giving up single-use plastic and aspiring to zero-waste living in recent years has absolutely blown my mind. I'm not zero-waste yet (or even close), but I work toward these goals every day.
     When people ask me how or where to start on a journey to sustainability, I suggest seeing how long they can go without buying something that's made in China or how long they can do without single-use plastic bottles, bags or straws. It's really eye-opening as to how pervasive these things are.

Q&A WITH FREEDOM OF ANIMALS FOUNDER MORGAN BOGLE

Freedom of Animals is one of my favorite accessory brands.

Beautiful Handbags, including Clutches, Totes, Cross-Body Purses, Backpacks, and Day Bags for work that transition to night, are some of the staples of the current collection.  

The founder, Morgan Bogle, designs her bags with a complete understanding of the modern aesthetic that women desire in a handbag today.  Freedom Of Animals has been featured in many contemporary fashion publications, is completely vegan, and is as sustainability sourced as possible.

Morgan uses her social media as a platform to spread awareness about the issues closest to her heart; from Pitbull rescue and adoption, to the anti-Ivory trade movement, to the importance of volunteering for everyone. 

See a capture from her Instagram below:

A screenshot from the Freedom Of Animals Instagram account.

Sustainable Fashion is moving beyond the trend now. 

Morgan is such an inspiration to me, because F.O.A. not only fills a much-needed void in the accessories market, but she also uses her place in the spotlight to highlight greater issues. She is an avid animal-rights activist, and donates a part of every purchase to wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Values such as Morgan's are so important to be highlighted. I hope you enjoy the interview, that they have inspired, below:


Q&A with Morgan Bogle

What is your name, Where were you born/ where do you currently call home, and what is your occupation?

Morgan Bogle. Portland Maine, but I grew up on a sailboat in the Caribbean. I call the East Village, NYC my home. I am the  founder of Freedom of Animals

Please describe your company, Freedom Of Animals

Freedom of Animals is a sustainable and cruelty free bag line that is made in the USA. We use the most eco friendly materials that don't harm any people or animals and support a local economy. Additionally we partner with conservation organizations and big retailers to spread the message of the importance of conscious consumption.
 Morgan Bogle wearing the "Melia" bag from 2013.

Morgan Bogle wearing the "Melia" bag from 2013.

What does “Sustainable Fashion" mean to you?

As a designer it means using materials that are post consumer, have low chemical content and are made locally. As a consumer it is being aware of where the products come from, what they are made of and who was impacted during production.
Do you think more local/ sustainable fashion is possible? Totally. There is incredible craftsmanship in the USA and a plethora of sustainable and technologically advanced materials on the market. I am not against supporting communities world wide but having one element of your product being eco friendly is important to me.


What does "green living" mean to you? 

Being mindful of our actions. Daily reminders such as recycling and using less energy is always important but bigger picture decisions are even more important and that is being consciously aware of everything that you are consuming from fashion to transportation to food to living arrangements. 

How can a green message reach a broader audience??

It will take time but social media, inspiring marketing and coming up against not having much of a choice anymore will start to change peoples perspective.


I truly believe that living an AMAZING, ABUNDANT, FUN, and FASHIONABLE LIFE does not have to be in opposition with living green and sustainably. 

...Do you have any tips for like-minded companies/ bloggers/ designers to help better reach the young women and men (teens-twenties) that are the audience for current magazine and television marketing?

I spent a year researching what I could do to be a part of the betterment of the world and I think it is everyone's responsibility to do the same. It is now more available than ever so my suggestion would be to research how we can all be a little bit more mindful on a day to day basis.

     The values that designers like Morgan are building around their businesses, are not only necessary for our earth and future generations, but can also inspire beautiful design for fashion-conscious consumers. Please visit the LABELS I LOVE page, featuring FREEDOM OF ANIMALS for more info. Also please be sure to check out Morgan's Instagram and follow the Freedom of Animals website to shop and see updates! 

Thank you for reading!

 
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Q&A WITH ALDEN WICKER OF ECOCULT

Tell me a bit about yourself?

My name is Alden Wicker. I was born in New Jersey, grew up in North Carolina and Maryland, and now call New York City home! I am a freelance journalist and founder of EcoCult

What is EcoCult?

EcoCult is a lifestyle website about all things sustainable in NYC and beyond, including fashion, beauty, food, design, and events. It's my attempt to showcase all the beautiful things you can buy and do and eat today, while staying true to your own values. I'm proving that you can live the good life while looking flawless and having fun!

What does Sustainable Fashion mean to you? 

Sustainable fashion to me is items that are made in a way that does as little damage to the planet as possible. That can mean a variety of things, including natural materials, upcycled or reused materials, local production, low-carbon production, non-toxic and low-impact dyes, and quality craftsmanship so that items last a long time. 

Do you think incorporating sustainable fashion into people's everyday wardrobe is possible?

Absolutely! The market is growing all the time and there are so many beautiful things, but I would love to see all fashion be sustainable and ethical, not just niche brands. 

What does green living mean to you? 

Green living to me means living healthfully, authentically, and thoughtfully in a way that considers the environment both near and far. It's being well-read about the impact of our choices, and thinking critically about each purchase and whether it will actually improve your life, or detract from it, and how it will affect other people and animals as well. These things are not in opposition to each other! We can purchase things that will make us happier, and improve other people's lives as well, always. 

How can a green message reach a broader audience?

I think there are two ways in which this message can reach more young women: 1. When founding your green brand, remember that it needs to be so beautiful and well-made, that someone would buy it even if they didn't care at all about sustainability. You need to prove that you can run with the big dogs, and not rely on pity purchasing to keep you in business! 2. We need to teach young women to be critical thinkers, and to question the advertising that they see. They should understand how photoshop works, that advertising slogans are meaningless and manipulative, and that promises made by brands are often empty and broken. Every consumer should only buy from brands that they truly trust and vibe with! 
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 Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Voting with your dollar for the world you want to see is an essential component of living a beautiful and authentic life. But you should also get involved with political action as well! That's where the real change will come from. 
 

      Refinery 29, one of fashion's hottest information sources, shows great bravura in publishing this article on "Fast Fashion". Written by EcoCult's Alden Wicker, check out the article by clicking the photo above.


check out the Ecocult Instagram


Thanks as always for reading!

Comment

Renee Peters

Renee Peters is a NYC-based model, blogger, and advocate of mindful, sustainable living. She strives to be a role model by using her platform for positive change. Through her blog, Model4GreenLiving, Peters seeks to reshape the way people think about environmental issues and provide practical tips and everyday actions for readers.  Peters uses social media to promote that same message, as well as one of self-love and body-positivity. She also volunteers, is an environmental activist, and is an avid learner of anything relating to the planet and its health. For booking inquires visit Muse Models NYC or Nomad Management Miami.

AN INTERVIEW WITH CORA HILTS AT RÊVE EN VERT

Cora Hilts and her company Rêve En Vert, are such inspirations.

Founded in 2013, Rêve En Vert has established itself as the premier online retailer of sustainable luxury. To us, sustainable luxury is quality fashion made from a place of consciousness, and we hold our designers to three tenants of production: independent, local and ethical. At Rêve En Vert we don’t sacrifice style for ethics. We are committed to driving awareness of how consumers think about the fashion industry. Rêve En Vert exclusively features designers who operate their businesses with respect for people and the planet. Our highly-curated collections deliver long-lasting fashion you can feel good about.
— http://revenvert.com/ethos/

Read my interview with Cora Hilts below:

Please describe Rêv En Vert

     In the simplest terms, Rêve En Vert is the sustainable version of Net a Porter. We wanted to create the premiere online retailer of luxury sustainable fashion.

What does “Sustainable Fashion" mean to you?

     Our motto is sustainable luxury fashion, which to us means quality fashion made from a place of consciousness. We use three main tenants -ethical, local and independent - to define how we look at our designers, and they all have to check two of those boxes.

Why is the Paris Climate Conference of 2015 so important to Rêve En Vert?

     Between the 30th of November and the 11th of December, all eyes will be on Paris as the United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place for the twenty-first time. This year sees the conference take place at perhaps its most critical conjuncture as far as the global conversation over climate change is concerned. The focus this year rests specifically on the discussion of cutting global CO2 emissions. The goal for Paris in December is pretty clear-cut: to achieve a legally binding agreement, with universal participation among all nations, to keep global warming below what most scientists say is the critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
     This is really pivotal moment for not only the climate, but the time to change the way humankind is going to deal with the environment and the way we treat our planet moving forward. What the delegates to this Summit decide to do at this time will conceivably change industry, create different sorts of innovation and resource, and set the tone for what we all have to do to preserve the planet. We really wanted to help create awareness so people would lend a voice to their support of proactive steps. 
Do you think more sustainable, on-trend/ contemporary fashion is possible?
     Definitely I believe that or I wouldn’t have started Rêve En Vert! I think now you see a definite rise in a more conscious consumer-we want to eat organic food, we think of organic beauty products, we go on wellness retreats to re-collect with nature, etc., yet this woman still has no place to shop for high-end fashion that is sustainably and ethically produced. I think if that were an easy and luxurious option for her, she would always choose to purchase fashion that is produced with respect. 
...Is it able to reach everyday consumers who may shop in "fast fashion"? Many people don't have the extra income required to pay the "true cost" of their clothing, and seem to believe that more sustainable options are too expensive/  simply unavailable?
     I think that is always a factor because we have come to expect our fashion to be so cheaply produced and so quickly-it’s a really bad expectation to have but we think they way to fight this is through education. We have an editorial section at revenvert.com that we curate to provide people information about where their clothes come from, why it’s better to shop sustainably and to have them understand the process of considered production. I know this won’t change everyone’s shopping habits over night but I do think it creates a good start-we want people even if they can’t afford to shop all sustainably to start making the decision to buy one well-made sweater that perhaps costs a bit more but will last for years to come rather than 6 or 7 badly made ones that they will throw away at the end of the season.
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What does "green living" mean to you? How do you live green?
     Green living means making the most conscious decisions possible and to maintaining a real connection with nature. I eat as locally and seasonably as possible, I always am trying to reduce my plastic usage (getting rid of those plastic bottles or bags!), and most definitely consuming less but of more quality. When I was younger I used to consider going to the mall a treat, now I think of going to a yoga class the same way. I think that being more mindful automatically leads to a greater awareness of our surroundings and wanting to protect them, and I hope we are able to do that more widely though our work with Rêve En Vert.

     Rêve En Vert is running a VIP influencer campaign throughout the month to create awareness for the U.N. Climate Change Conference happening in Paris (COP21). Below is some information about the campaign:

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It’s not only politicians and state leaders that will be there meeting and flying the flag for environmentalists. Many famous people have been out lending their voices to the cause, including model Cameron Russell who is organising a “Models Who March” protest up to Paris. Many people from the world of fashion will be making their mark by joining those in Paris assembling for the summit later on this month. All of us will be affected by the effects of climate change so this event will be critical in framing the international response in preserving our planet.
— http://revenvert.com/paris-climate-change-summit/

   Photo of Cotillard Marion courtesy of R.E.V.

  Photo of Cotillard Marion courtesy of R.E.V.

Thank you as always for reading! Check out the Rêve En Vert website and Instagram at @revenvert to see what’s happening, and search the hashtags #sustainablestylist & #COP21.

 
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HAPPY EARTHDAY FROM ME AND #XOWILHELMINA