17 Nov Can Fashion Still Be Fun?
I recently saw an Instagram post from a sustainable fashion influencer touting her #ootd’s sustainability credentials. Her sweater was thrifted. Her jeans were swapped. Her bag was locally produced from vegan leather. And even her mask was made from deadstock fabric. This outfit sounded like the stuff of sustainable fashion dreams. But in reality, the accompanying image showcased one of the most uninspiring outfits I’ve ever seen. Even with my passion for sustainable fashion, I was left questioning my commitment to the cause. Does a pledge to shop sustainably have to look like this? If we want to be responsible with our wardrobe, can fashion still be fun?
What is it about fashion that makes it fun? I believe it’s both the garments and the experience. First, the pieces themselves can be incredibly fun. The duo of fabric and form are continuously being reimagined by designers to create new, exciting variations. My favourite wardrobe staple, denim, has been modified and remixed so many times. I love that each variation of denim can completely change your look. Second, the experience of shopping can be addictively fun. It’s thrilling to find a piece well-suited to your style. This is one of the reasons I love my job as a personal stylist so much. I get to spend my day scouring the racks on behalf of my clients. It’s almost as satisfying as finding something for myself. Almost. 😉
Now, perhaps the sustainable fashion influencer I spotted would have created an equally un-inspiring look with non-sustainable garments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter. After seeing her post, I was left with the impression that because she was dressing sustainably, fashion for her was no longer any fun. Instead of new and exciting silhouettes, her outfit was made up of terribly conventional pieces. Instead of a thrilling hunt for the perfect piece, her sourcing was labored and restrictive. In short, no fun! This is a problem. In fact, I believe this may be the biggest problem sustainable fashion faces.
After seeing her post, I was left with the impression that because she was dressing sustainably, fashion for her was no longer any fun. This is a problem.
Sustainable fashion is currently only a niche market within the fashion industry. At every stage of the fashion supply chain, including raw fiber, manufacturing, production, sales, and consumption, sustainable fashion is a very small component. For example, less than 1% of all the cotton grown worldwide is organic. To reduce the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry, we need to dramatically increase sustainability’s slice of the pie within each step of the supply chain. One way to achieve the necessary growth is through increased consumer demand. More consumers simply need to seek-out and purchase sustainable garments. Obviously, if sustainable fashion is perceived as a poor second choice to conventional fashion, consumers will not be motivated to do this.
The misperceptions about sustainable fashion not only influence a consumer’s interest in the cause, they also impact a brand’s participation. Each season, brand reps travel to our store to teach us about the inspiration and craftsmanship behind their new collection. I love attending these product knowledge (pk) sessions. One pk for WWAKE jewelry has always stood out for me. I was so impressed by their sustainability credentials but confused why I hadn’t known about them until then. I spoke with the rep and was surprised to learn they intentionally don’t market or promote themselves as sustainable. They didn’t want to be categorized as a “sustainable jewelry” brand for fear consumers would assume their products weren’t fashionable. For sustainable fashion to shake its stigma, brands must be forthcoming about their sustainability efforts. This will help consumers understand sustainable fashion can still be fun.
I feel like sustainable fashion just needs a makeover to update its image. Cue Cher and Dion, my favourite cinematic duo to assist! Let’s start this makeover by expanding our definition of what’s fun about fashion. Yes, fashion is fun because there are always new shapes and styles of garments to try. Yes, fashion is fun because your next can’t-live-without-it piece may be just one rack away. But I also think fashion is fun when it’s worry-free. I don’t want to worry my t-shirt was made by someone working long hours for very little pay. I don’t want to worry the dye used was illegally dumped and polluted the local drinking water. “Ugh, as if!” What’s fun about that? As I wrote in my “A Little Harmless Shopping” post, there are, in fact, many ways to shop more sustainably and still have fun with fashion.
I don’t consider myself a sustainable fashion influencer, but as a sustainable fashion enthusiast I’m committed to helping shift the perception about sustainable fashion through fun, inspiring looks. I believe we can have our cape and wear it too!