The fashion industry is a big and complex industry. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making any garment or accessories. Even with the most simplistic garment there is a lot to think about.
We live in an age of fashion where the industry and the consumer are both aware that the system is flawed. Within them, there are many steps in the fashion supply chain up until it is in the possession of the consumer. There is a wide range of issues that include human rights issues, environmental issues, and the list goes on.
It is a good thing that we understand that these issues are happening, but it is also a problem when brands are not following through on these promises and make false claims to the consumer.
Fashion is very much a consumer driven market. This means that the majority of companies are focused on serving the consumer. We must shop not solely based on money but based on morals as well. I want people to think about the how and why when it comes to the product that they are thinking about purchasing. Ask why is it your favorite brand and how is it possible for the price to be so low? These are important questions to ask when thinking about supporting a company.
In this article we will look at ways to be an active Fashion Consumer.
How to be a Wholesome Fashion Consumer
What is a Wholesome Fashion Consumer you might ask? Being a Wholesome Fashion Consumer means that you are an active consumer, and you want to support a brand not just because they are trendy but for what they stand for. It is really taking the time to research brands and looking at the overall picture and not just the finished goods.
Making sure throughout the whole process that the people in the supply chain are taking care of, that the garments are made ethically, and that is not just a gimmick to get your money. It is important to be sure that they are doing these activities. Being aware is probably the most important thing to get you start in being a Wholesome Fashion Consumer. Once you are aware, you dictate where values align with when you wear/shop that brand.
How to find/shop brands that align with your values as a Fashion Consumer
Previously stated, being aware is the most important step forward in becoming a good Fashion Consumer. We live in a world where if we want an answer to a question, we can just search it up online in a matter of seconds. Doing research has never been easier. With social media, we have a constant flow of information every second that is fresh and new. When it comes to finding new brands or news about brands, it is fairly easy.
Researching brands using social media
When looking for information about, I like to first look at Instagram to get a feeling of the brand. Then, I hit up the website to see their brand’s mission and what they are offering to consumers. I like to look at YouTube as well to get consumer feedback, and to see if the brand has been featured on any news outlet.
Another good tool to staying up to date, is signing up for a newsletter and attending events rooted in fashion. By signing up for newsletters from publications, you have current information on brands, and you stay updated on what is going on in the industry. It is a little different from your social media outlet, you use it because it gives a more in-depth coverage of what is going on.
A plus that came from the pandemic, is the shift of how brands run events. You no longer must be in person to connect with people. By brands running these events online, it makes it more accessible to people to attend and learn about what is going on in the industry. A platform like FASHINNOVATION NYC gives people access to industry professionals and to stay connected.
The best thing to do is be adventurous, open minded and think about the future for our planet and the people that we share it with. Remember, find brands that resonate with you and that you think that are cool.
Sustainable Fashion Consumer habits
People say it is hard to stay fashionable and to be a good Fashion Consumer. Which if you told me five years ago, I would have agreed, but in this climate sustainable products have become more accessible to the mass consumer markets. In the same breath, I think a lot of brands are falling short of understanding the concept of what it means to be truly sustainable. Just saying something is sustainable, does not mean it is.
What is Fast Fashion ?
Let us look at Fast Fashion. For the readers who are unsure of what Fast Fashion is, it is “when the design, manufacturing, and marketing method is focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing.” (STANTON, n.d.). The opposite of that is called slow fashion. This means the brand follows the traditional fashion calendar.
Issues with Fast Fast Fashion
Both slow and fast fashion have their problems. These problems include mistreated labor force throughout the fashion process, cheap materials that result in shorter garment lifespan, chemicals/ materials that are used that have a harmful effect on people and the environment, etc. Both sides possess these problems, but the biggest problem arises with Fast Fashion because it amplifies these issues to a higher scale.
Not so Green to Me
When I hear these Fast Fashion brands are being green, to me it is very contradicting. By producing cheap items on such a mass scale, there is not enough offsetting that you can do to fix the issues that they cause. They are one of the biggest leading factors of our consumerist problems that we have in society.
On the flip side, there are big brands that are not fast fashion brands, that are doing their part to leave a positive impression on the globe. They are using better materials for their garments, have buy back/ recycling programs, and offer other services beyond just products to educate their consumers.
Debunking Sustainable Fashion Consumer Myths
Being a Sustainable Fashion Consumer is not hard. A lot of people make excuses to not be a Sustainable Fashion Consumer because it takes effort to be more thoughtful. In this section I am going to debunk some of the “challenges” that people associate with sustainability.
Shopping on a Sale and on the Second hand market
A big argument that people make about being sustainable is that it costs a lot of money. People think that price equals quality. This is not true, luxury brands put out cheaply made items as well. The brands that are making the change, such as Patagonia, are just maybe way too expensive for people. You can obtain items from brands like Patagonia through sales and even on the secondhand market. This is a good way to wear brands that are doing good for people.
Renting Your Wardrobe
A way to also be sustainable is by renting your wardrobe. This allows people to keep a fresh rotating closet without contributing to the waste that fashion creates. It also lets people be more expressive at a fraction of the cost of buying new clothes that would just end up in donation or trash.
You must be creative and think outside of the box. People and brands must think beyond the bottom line.
There are a lot of ways of being a thoughtful Fashion Consumer. I think the best thing to keep in mind is to find issues that resonate with you. Every definition of sustainability is different. You must find yours and be fluid in your ideas to change with the times. It is important to have a balanced and healthy consumer habits that fits your lifestyle. There is no gold standard to being a good consumer. Lastly, do not let people shame you because of your ideas of what it means to be a thoughtful Fashion Consumer.
* By Luciano DiGiorgio