sustainable fashion

Sustainable Fashion Bloggers and Influencers

Most of us who are fashion lovers have our favorite bloggers and influencers who we love to follow and read. There are bloggers for all kinds of styles and subcultures, and recently there have been a lot of these influencers that are using their platforms to promote how to shop sustainably and fashionably. We’re going to highlight some of our favorite sustainability-minded bloggers and influencers, but first, what is the difference between a blogger and influencer?

First, there two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. An influencer is someone who has the power to affect the buying choices of a group of people because they have a reputation of knowledge on a certain subject or niche, and have a following. This person can also be a blogger, but doesn’t have to be.

They say that with great power comes great responsibility, and this is true. Many bloggers have used their following to promote smart and sustainable shopping, or have gained their following because they promote these things. One influencer we really love at Consign Couture is Whitney Bauck (@unwrinkling) on Instagram. She’s an editor at Fashionista and creates great content about living sustainably and how to be sustainable and fashionable. She also posts about sustainable fashion news and is very much in the loop with what’s going on in the industry.

Images via instagram.com/unwrinkling

Another great influencer and author we love at Consign Couture is Elizabeth Cline (@elizabethlcline). She’s a journalist and wrote the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” which dives into the effects of the fast fashion industry and evaluates wastefulness of that industry. In addition, she has great posts on her Instagram about workers rights and sustainable fashion. Her book is a great read whether you’re a sustainable fashion newbie or a tried-and-true sustainability advocate.

Images via instagram.com/elizabethlcline

Mary Alice Duff (@maryalice_duff) is a fashion designer with a focus on ethical fashion with inclusive sizing. Her posts often feature fashion inspo, updates about her fashion line, and some posts about sustainability as well. She’s a really great example of sustainability and inclusivity in action with her clothing line that walks the walk and talks the talk. Her styles use fun colors and silhouettes, and she uses models of all shapes and sizes on her website. Plus, she offers styles through a size 4X.

Images via instagram.com/maryalice_duff and alicealexander.co

Alex, a blogger and instragrammer (@distilmystyle) is UK-based and posts great thrift store fashion inspo and sustainability tips. On his blog, he posts about sustainable and ethical men’s fashion and other style tips - such as how to wear and take care of linen for men. There aren’t nearly as many fashion bloggers for men as there are for women, so it’s great to see a men’s fashion blogger that is also sustainability-minded.

Images via instagram.com/distilmystyle

But why is it so important that bloggers promote sustainability? Many bloggers and influencers have audiences of thousands, so they have a huge platform that they can use to show just how detrimental the fast fashion industry will be. Many followers of these influencers will take their advice at least into consideration. “Sustainable fashion” can still carry a stereotype of being drab, boring, sack-like clothes, but the truth is there is a ton of great and stylish sustainable clothing options available at a range of price points in a plethora of styles.

For me, I didn’t realize just how bad the fast fashion industry was until I saw posts from some bloggers about the facts and statistics of the damages and impacts. We as western consumers really aren’t confronted with the impacts of our buying choices. We go into the store, pick out some things, pay, and leave. We don’t see the dye runoff from clothing dyes in our rivers. We don’t see the wasted fabric on cutting room floors. We don’t see the heaps and heaps of thrown-away clothing on a daily basis. Because we’re not confronted with the effects of our clothing consumption, sometimes it takes someone else showing us just how bad it is, and influencers have the power to do that.








Sustainable Brands

Shopping sustainably is more important than ever as the effects of climate change are worsening. Here are a few brands that are environmentally-friendly and produce their clothing ethically.

Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher is a great example of sustainability and style. They use plenty of organic natural fibers such as cotton and linen, and they use responsible wool (wool that can be traced back to exactly where it comes from. In addition Eileen Fisher is Fair Trade Certified, a certified B-Corp, a member of Social Accountability International since 1997, and all their factories follow SA8000 comprehensive workplace standards. Also, there is Eileen Fisher Renew which takes worn and used Eileen Fisher garments and mends, repairs, remakes, and resells those garments in an effort to create more of a closed-loop system. Eileen Fisher also offers inclusive sizing.

Patagonia: Patagonia has been a long-time leader in sustainability and creating environmentally-friendly products. They're one of the few brands of its size that has been very successful at being sustainable. Patagonia has a Worn Wear site where they take back used Patagonia items and repair and resell them. Plus, Worn Wear offers in-depth guides on how to properly care for Patagonia garments. 1% of their sales goes towards supporting environmental organizations and they donate grants of $2500 to $15,000 to hundreds of causes and grassroots organizations. On Patagonia’s website you can see all of their mills, factories, and farms - you can see what is produced at every location and you can read specific information about each location. Very few brands are as transparent as Patagonia. In addition, they are Fair Trade Certified and they keep tabs on what their factories pay their workers to ensure that they’re earning a minimum wage, and Patagonia is taking steps to ensure that their workers are paid not only a minimum wage, but a living wage. This is barely scratching the surface of what Patagonia does, and I encourage you to check out their website to see what other great things they’re doing.

Reformation: This brand creates quality, trendy clothing while still being sustainability-minded. Reformation releases quarterly sustainability reports and they have a “RefScale” that tracks their environmental impact - it tracks CO2 emissions, water usage, and generated waste, then calculates how Reformation’s products help reduce these impacts. A RefScale rating is given to every garment on their website.

Everlane: Everlane focuses on creating classic pieces that will last through many wears. They’re transparent about quite a bit of their manufacturing and sustainability efforts - from their factories to cost of labor to production methods. They also donate a portion of their Black Friday profits to better the lives of their factory workers.

People Tree: This brand creates trendy and quality clothing that is produced and sourced sustainably and ethically. They work with Fair Trade Cotton farmers and uses upwards of 80% organic cotton. In addition, People Tree uses Global Organic Certified Organic Cotton. People Tree also sources their wool from New Zealand which has an Animal Welfare Act which ensures that the animals are treated well. People Tree also is Fair Trade Certified and is accredited by the Soil Association.

Alternative Apparel: This brand focuses on quality basics and knitwear for men and women. 80% of their garments are made with sustainable materials and processes, and all their factories they contract with adhere to Fair Labor Association guidelines and workplace codes of conduct. Also, 88,000 pounds of organic cotton is used in place of standard cotton. In some of Alternative Apparel’s garments that include polyester, they use some that is recycled and made from post-consumer water bottles.

Thought Clothing: This brand creates women’s and men’s clothing that are meant to be worn for years, not just a season. Their mantra is “wear me, love me, mend me, pass me on.” Thought Clothing uses a lot of organic bamboo, hemp, cotton, and wool in their garments and they make each piece of each collection in the same place to reduce the environmental impact caused by shipping and transportation. In addition, they founded the Common Objective, which is a non-profit network that champions ethical production.

Prana: Prana is a brand that is Fair Trade Certified, uses organic cotton and hemp, and is well known for its athletic wear and knits. They also use recycled wool and responsible down in their garments. Prana was also the first North American apparel brand to be Fair Trade Certified.

EcoVibe Apparel: This brand is local to Portland, OR and has a store on Alberta Street. They use mainly sustainability-minded materials such as tencel, modal, bamboo, linen, cork, vegan leather, recycled polyester, rayon, and organic cotton. EcoVibe also donates 1% of their profits to 1% For the Planet.

Why Should You Shop in Your Community?

Now more than ever, online shopping is easy, convenient, and quick thanks to retailers like Amazon. Millions of products are able to be shipped to you in a matter of days; from technology and furniture, to cosmetics and food. You can do all your shopping in one place - and stay in your pajamas at home. This transition from brick-and-mortar shopping has been a great convenience but what are the social, environmental, and ethical implications of shopping online only?

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First, let’s start by what is means to shop local. Shopping local means shopping at small, locally-owned businesses in your community. This could be boutiques, coffee shops, vintage stores, and more. This is different from shopping locally which means shopping at any store in your community, for example shopping at a nearby Walmart or Bestbuy. We’re just going to be talking about shopping local, at small businesses. When you buy from local makers and business owners, you’re directly supporting the livelihood of your neighbors and community members. You know that the money you’re spending is going to stay in your community and support those nearby. On the other hand, when you shop at a large retailer, such as Walmart, Target, and others similar, you don’t really know where your money goes, and only a small percentage stays in the community or pays local employees. And even further removed from local economies is the online retail industry.

A few weeks ago I got to attend a Sustainable Fashion Forum event during Portland Textile Month where a panel of a few local small business owners got together to answer questions about fashion and sustainability. One of the answers that really stuck with me was about how we can truly make the fashion industry more sustainable and what that would look like. L.A. Caldwell, owner and creator of Minnie + George, a local handmade leather goods business, talked about how we need to return to buying products from local economies and makers instead of huge conglomerate retailers. Businesses that produce goods on a much smaller scale tend to be sustainable at least by default. Of course, today it would be near impossible for most people to switch to buying only local, but relying mainly on local businesses to buy goods would be an effective change. If less companies, especially fashion brands, weren’t focused on selling in such a huge, global, manner, there would be much less waste and environmental impact.

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The truth is, it’s very difficult for local businesses to compete with the large ones. Large corporations have a plethora of money and therefore resources; whereas local business don’t have that. A real, and disappointing, example of this is Bleecker street in New York City. In the late 1980’s small businesses began popping up all over Bleecker street, from cupcake shops like Magnolia Bakery, to small boutiques like Arleen Bowman. All the shops were unique, with their own atmosphere and vibe that couldn’t be found anywhere else. In 2000, there was a turning point for Bleecker street - Magnolia Bakery was featured on an episode of Sex and the City. Even though the bakery was just on the show for 30 seconds, it completely changed Bleecker street. Soon after the episode was aired, the bakery was written about in British Vogue, and people flocked to the bakery and Bleecker street as a whole.

Now that Bleecker had a much larger presence and much more foot traffic, more people began to take notice of the value of the street. One of those people was the president of Marc Jacobs, who outbid other businesses to open a shop on Bleecker. This was the tipping point. Once Marc Jacobs opened, other luxury retailers followed suit, such as Ralph Lauren, Cynthia Rowley, Coach, Jimmy Choo, and more. Because there was such a high demand for retail space in this five block area, many landlords converted ground level apartments into retail spaces because they’d be much more profitable with the demand for them at the time.

Everything was pretty great for the upscale brands and proprietors for a while. There was still a lot of foot traffic and celebrities shopping there that heightened Bleecker street’s popularity, plus tourists made it a must-see while they were in town. But that could only last so long. The rentals that used to be around $75 per square foot quickly skyrocketed to $300 by the mid 2000’s. This spike in rent made it impossible for the original small businesses to stay. How could a small business afford to re-sign a lease when the price of rent jumped from $7,000 to $45,000? By the early 2010’s barely any original small businesses remained. But soon, the large luxury retailers couldn’t afford to open shop there either. The many people and tourists who perused the streets were there to take in the atmosphere and possibly spot a celeb - not to buy a $3,000 handbag. Bleecker street had become more of a “vanity location;” a place that wasn’t about sales but more about image. Having a shop in a “vanity location” would have been fine - if it wasn’t for a huge takeoff in online shopping at this time. Because of the increase in online traffic, having “vanity locations” became much less important and luxury retailers gradually stopped renewing their Bleecker street leases.

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Now, Bleecker street is full of vacancies and empty storefronts as landlords and proprietors are holding out for more companies to pay their sky-high rent. Some foreign brands will open temporary pop-up shops on Bleecker to gain awareness for their brand in the United States, but finding long-term tenants has been a challenge. What was once a street where someone could cross off everything on their shopping list in one trip, is now a half-empty luxury retail street where a bustling local shopping district used to be.

Bleecker street is a sad story of the gradual gentrification of a district that used to support local business owners and makers, and offered the community unique goods and necessary items. But the truth is, there are many other locations all over the USA who have a similar story to tell. Small businesses need strong community support now more than ever, with the rise of retail giant Amazon, and other global retailers. Small businesses just can’t compete on the same level as these huge companies.

But we all know that bigger doesn’t always equal better. The perks of shopping small and local can easily outweigh the convenience of shopping large and online. By shopping small you can interact with and get to know the individuals you’re supporting, plus you know where your good and products are coming from. I couldn’t tell you where the last three things I ordered off Amazon came from, or who benefitted from my purchase. What I hope to impress upon you is that shopping small does real, honest good for your community, and it’s really not that hard, it just requires a bit of thoughtfulness and willingness. It can be as easy as skipping the Starbucks drive-through and opting to head into your local cafe instead, or closing the Nordstrom app and browsing local boutiques. So this holiday season, and any season, think of your buying power and the impact your purchases create.






Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/fashion/bleecker-street-shopping-empty-storefronts.html

https://ny.curbed.com/2017/6/1/15725494/bleecker-street-vacancies-hoylman-legislation

http://metropolitangardens.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-hawthorne-district-in-portland.html

https://www.hotelvintage-portland.com/downtown-portland-oregon/

http://pechluck.com/inside-look-at-portland-night-market/