Why I am committed to eco fashion

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Sustainable fashion has been NOW something that has been top of mind as I become older. I am much more aware now than I was when I was younger.

When I think far back as to when I was a kid, I remember growing up with women who worked in sweatshops. My mom, both of my grandmas, and their female friends worked there. And, I didn’t much of it early on besides the pretty dresses that they would bring for us on birthdays. I thought I was so lucky to have these leading ladies who could design dresses in my life! Though, I learnt the bitter truth of it one day where my mom, siblings, and I had to go in to her work for a little.

They were exposed to small working spaces/harsh conditions, breathing in chemicals, limited breaks (if not at all), and very little pay (without benefits). On top of that and in order to make ends meet with an immigrant family, my family and I would often help make laundry bags in the back of our garage. Each box was then sold to someone and we made a bit of profit from that. I hated it, sometimes I even refused to do it. Though, whenever I threw a fit; I always felt horrible afterward for being an inconsiderate brat.

I didn’t want to believe this was what we were living in.

Eventually I started to grow up and eventually, I started being able to make money for myself. I began to purchase my own clothes but I didn’t have any much money nor any fashion sense. Like many, I was then exposed to fast fashion. Purchasing from places like forever 21, h&m, zara, and the list goes on… all in order to be chic and in fit in.

As much as I thought it was easy and accessible to choose pieces like these, I started to learn about about “capitalism” and “globalism” in my classes. All of this made me reflect back onto my own consumer tendencies. What was I doing? Why was I supporting companies who put women, children, men and similarly to my loved ones in harsh working conditions and barely paid them squat?

None of us think sweatshops are a good thing, but most of us feel like actually changing our shopping habits is an impossible task. The most frequent comment I hear about ethical fashion is that it’s all very well for wealthy people to preach about it, but most people can’t afford to live that way. NOT TRUE. The truth is that ethical clothes generally have a higher price point than their cheaper sweatshop-produced alternatives. Though, ethically produced items are better made and will last longer, requiring less replacement, and therefore more beneficial financially. There are plenty of ways we can take better care of our clothes to make them last longer, too.

There are ways to make our shopping habits better while still being affordable for any lifestyle. No matter our income, we all have a role to play in what we choose to consume.

If you are interested in positive buying, which broadly defined means favoring ethical products, be they fair trade, cruelty-free, organic, recycled, reused, or produced locally. The first step toward guilt-free fashion comes from believing that slow fashion (not fast fashion) really matters, that we have the power to do something about fast fashion, and choosing to live as if we do. Then, ask yourself the question “Where—and how—was this made?”

As consumers, we have to ask ourselves: Would I still consume this if I knew someone was needlessly harmed in the process of its production? Would food be as appetizing to me if I knew it came from a place with low standards? So too, I hope products and services that are unethically sourced continue to be less appetizing to the public as awareness grows.

The next step can be to start with “reused.” Ask your friends that you are looking for a few pieces that fit your style - you may be surprised with what they have available to you in their unused closets. Clothing swaps are a growing way to help. I personally even use a clothing swap option such as thrift shops (Crossroads in the SF Bay Area allow you to trade in your unwanted clothes for cash or credit for other clothes). Rent the Runway, a subscription service for the eco-conscious fashion-seeking women who wants to be a little more mindful in what they are doing works as an option too.

There are also plenty of socially conscious brands that are becoming quite popular these days too. And when you read up about how they do things, that’s when you realize the true value of the clothes you’re buying, and a higher price point starts to make sense.

Everlane is committed to total transparency in its supply chain and breaks down the cost of each garment for you so that you can understand what the logic behind the pricing is. Everlane has some lovely silk shirts, sweaters, shoes, and denim for different price points. These are just a few examples of the many wonderful brands working to end cycles of poverty and abuse in the fashion industry.

I’m committed to changing my ways because I can’t in good conscience continue to support inhumane business practices for the sake of an affordable outfit. Thus is the reason why I now aim for sustainable and slow fashion pieces in my closet.

LIFESTYLEAlice Chen