June 25, 2024

Apparel Creations Workshop

Crafting Fashion Trends

Fashion education for when the world reopens | Arts

4 min read


I don’t know about you, but I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands and an itch to do something productive. I decided to dive even deeper into the world of sustainable fashion. 

I won’t be adventuring out onto the Ave or to Fremont and Capitol Hill like I planned. Instead, I’ll be writing about how to be ethical and sustainably fashionable from the comfort of your own home. This week, I made a watch list of videos about the fashion industry and the concept of sustainable fashion. 

To start off, it’s important to remember why eco-fashion matters. According to the New Standard Institute, an organization dedicated to collecting data and pushing sustainable fashion forward, “if the industry continues on its current path, by 2050 it could use more than 26% of the total global carbon budget.” 

It’s also important to clear up some facts and definitions. What does it mean to be sustainable in the fashion industry? There are two sides: the brand or producer of the clothes has a responsibility to produce environmentally friendly items and the consumer has a responsibility to research and decide which brands do that best. 

There are tons of terms tossed around when people talk about sustainable fashion. The clothing is ethically sourced, biodegradable, organic, upcycled, and so on. It can be confusing and overwhelming to research and learn about, as I’ve discovered over the last few months. 

Cosmopolitan magazine has a short, informative article summarizing the different terms used in the sustainable fashion industry. The article clears up the differences between ethically sourced, which is “an umbrella term that essentially means the people who worked on an item were treated safely and fairly paid,” and eco-friendly, which means “stuff is made with minimal damage to the planet.” Having a clear distinction between different terms helps when doing research about sustainable fashion and keeps you from getting bogged down in the language researchers use. 

If you want to laugh while being told depressing facts about the relationship between fashion and the environment, I recommend John Oliver’s segment on fashion, or Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” about fast fashion. In fact, the “Patriot Act” segment is the video that inspired this column.  

Both Oliver and Minhaj do a fantastic job explaining the issue, and both videos are engaging and fun to watch. I love the “Patriot Act” episode in particular because it brings in real people who aren’t knowledgeable about the topic of fast fashion at all and tries to teach them in a pop-up shop. 

TEDx has multiple videos about sustainable fashion as well. These videos are more academic, but remain engaging to watch or listen to. Clara Vuletich, a designer, researcher, educator, and consultant, has an informative talk about how you as a consumer can connect with clothes and feel like you have become part of the cycle of clothing. 

Her lecture, “How to Engage with Ethical Fashion,” includes workers rights as well. I recommend this video if you want to figure out how to take steps to being sustainable yourself. 

Leslie Johnston, a board member on multiple international sustainable fashion networks, is another wonderful TEDx lecturer. Her talk “Why Recycling Our Clothes Won’t Save The World” goes into detail about the reality of what happens when consumers recycle their clothes. It’s not a cheerful video, but it’s an important lesson to learn; we can’t just recycle clothes and then feel like we solved fast fashion. I recommend this video to people who are ready to hear some hard truths about fashion and our role in the current cycle of textile waste.  

The Economist also has a series of films about fast fashion. In their video collection “In Fashion,” the magazine features interviews with innovators and activists in the fashion industry. Each video is about seven minutes long and dives deep into one aspect of sustainable fashion. I would recommend this series to people who don’t have time to dedicate 20 to 30 minutes on one video. The information presented by The Economist gives me hope for the future of fashion, especially the interviews with up-and-coming sustainable designers. 

It’s important to stay educated on the effects of fast fashion and what you can do as a consumer. Since you can’t currently go out and shop, sell, or recycle your clothes, it’s the perfect time to stop and reflect about your personal buying habits and how you can change them to put pressure on large companies to become more sustainable. Do I miss going to Goodwill? Of course. But I have a lot of videos to keep me reminded about how much I love thrift shopping and why eco-fashion matters so much. 

Reach writer Zoe Schenk at [email protected]. Twitter: @schenk_zoe

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