Fast fashion brands dominate our feeds: Scroll through your TikTok "For You" page and you’re bound to see clothing hauls from SHEIN, Princess Polly, Abercrombie, and other retailers.
However, despite the industry's convenience (hello two-day shipping and low prices), the fast fashion industry comes with a high environmental and ethical cost. The industry is responsible for about one-third of all microplastics found in the ocean and is producing 20% of global water waste.
Plus, it's associated with unethical labor practices and high greenhouse gas emissions—about 10% of global emissions are a result of the apparel industry.
It's true that the world would be a dull place without the influence of fashion. To combat fast fashion's negative impacts, while still allowing consumers to express themselves, Garik Himebaugh founded Eco-Stylist—a platform that helps consumers navigate the fashion industry and find the most ethical brands to support.
In this week's episode of Good Together, Brightly's founder and CEO Laura Wittig sits down with Himebaugh to discuss the true meaning of sustainable fashion and how to build a wardrobe you love—with the planet in mind, of course.
What Is Sustainable Fashion?
According to Himebaugh, sustainable fashion has more than one definition and can be approached from several perspectives.
"I think it's really important to first start with the fact that we're not only talking about buying new," he says. "Sustainable fashion is a whole host of choices that we can make regarding our clothes that are more sustainable, starting with wearing what we have already, and maybe repairing or altering some of those things, so they fit us better."
And even though the most sustainable route to take is to not consume new products, it's true that many of us can't avoid shopping once in a while. Himebaugh says the definition of sustainable fashion extends to how we consume fashion—and which brands we choose to support.
That means taking into account whether we shop secondhand and whether we're shopping at brands that have sustainability at the forefront. To understand sustainable fashion, it's important to ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase.
"When it comes to defining a new brand—like what we're looking for when we say, 'Is this brand sustainable or ethical?'—we're looking for equal parts human and environment," Himebaugh explains. "What is the brand? Is the brand ensuring fair working conditions and fair wages for their workers—as well as on the environmental side, doing things like using more sustainable fabrics, incorporating circularity, and measuring and reducing waste, water, and CO2?"
However, to curate a more sustainable closet, the first step is breaking up with fast fashion.
How to Break Up With Fast Fashion
Despite the increase in eco-awareness and the increase in sustainable fashion trends, the fast fashion industry doesn't seem to be leaving us any time soon.
"We live in a really interesting time where, on the one hand, sustainable fashion is growing. And I think awareness about the negative impacts of fast fashion is growing. So we have all these positives, but simultaneously, fast fashion is growing," Himebaugh says. "This is largely due to the advent of what people are calling now ultra-fast fashion, which is SHEIN and Romwe and these new brands that are emerging in the landscape."
Himebaugh is right: The fast fashion industry is predicted to grow from $91.23 billion in 2021 to $99.23 billion in 2022. That means ditching fast fashion isn't easy—but it's not impossible.
Himebaugh says consumers can still express themselves through clothes and accessories. First, consumers can avoid falling into temporary fast fashion trends because they're unsustainable. Second, consumers can get creative.
"If simply slowing down or ignoring trends is maybe not appealing to you, because maybe you still want to be creative, I would just encourage people to think about how they can do it because [the] creative limitation is really powerful oftentimes," he says. "Having limits and then working around that with your creativity—you can come up with really cool and often better looks or better ideas."
Additionally, to be a more conscious consumer, it's important to recognize that sustainable fashion looks different for everyone. It can mean buying secondhand, upcycling clothes, or simply wearing what you already have. (Think: capsule wardrobes.)
So breaking up with fast fashion doesn't have to be cold turkey. Instead, you can do what you can to embrace a more eco-conscious lifestyle. And Himebaugh says you can support the companies that are "really doing the work" to be as eco-friendly and ethical as possible.
Conscious Consumerism Is In Your Future
Fortunately, sustainable fashion isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And with platforms like Brightly and Himebaugh's Eco-Stylist, consumers can easily research how sustainable and ethical brands really are.
Himebaugh says he's seeing several brands stepping up with eco-friendly innovations that embrace sustainability. Specifically, he mentions the innovations happening in the sustainable footwear game with brands like Beckett Simonon and Thousand Fell prioritizing ethical and circular fashion.
Plus, Himebaugh is excited to see consumers starting more conversations about sustainability in the industry. And he's excited to see change become a reality.
He says: "If all of us that care about conscious consumption and sustainable living, etcetera, if we all unite—instead of tearing each other apart over what we think is the right choice versus what they think is the right choice—and we put forth all of these good approaches, all these better approaches to a more stable lifestyle, then that's where all the change really happens."
To learn more about how to be a conscious consumer, check out this week's episode of Good Together.