Four Micro-influencers Share How They Shop Sustainably

Brooke Richardson aka @brookelaryn

Where do you shop for sustainable fashion?

Brooke Richardson: When looking for sustainable pieces, I always love to roll up my sleeves and hit the thrift/consignment stores. I have found some of my best staple pieces there and even a few designer goods as well! I also love shopping at local, small businesses with ethical fabrics, production, and manufacturing. My favorite sustainable store right now is @Maddypageknitwear on Depop. Maddy sources deadstock fabric and reuses the materials to create one of a kind tops!

What does sustainable/ethical fashion mean to you?

B.R. Sustainable and ethical fashion mean to me that businesses and consumers are taking the time to stop and think about where their products are coming from and how it’s affecting the environment/those around us. Fast fashion is a major cause of pollution worldwide. It’s time we as consumers question these large corporations and understand how harmful their practices are. Social media has implemented the mindset of “wear it once for the ‘gram” but we must stop and think about how destructive this is. I suggest investing more money into higher quality, timeless pieces. Trends change, but good quality basics are forever! 

When and why did you start shopping sustainably?

B.R. I became more aware of sustainability while in college, studying as a design student. I was introduced to the life-cycles of clothing manufacturing and given a deeper understanding of how fast fashion hurts the industry. During my time in college, I was still shopping for lots of fast fashion (broke college student…not ideal but it was all I could afford). In the last few years, however, I have slowly changed my outlook and shifted more towards quality, long-lasting and sustainable pieces. While I do shop fast fashion here and there (mainly if it’s on sale or super discounted), I have proudly transitioned most of my everyday pieces to sustainable and ethical brands. Shopping sustainably can be more costly, but I encourage everyone to really do some research on their favorite fast fashion brands and ask if you are okay with supporting these practices. The transition towards shopping more sustainably can start small! Slowly transition your wardrobe little by little, thrift, and reuse garments or fabrics! 

Jenna Phipps aka @jennaphipps

Where do you shop for sustainable fashion?

Jenna Phipps: When I am shopping for sustainable fashion, I like to always try and purchase second-hand first before I buy anything brand new. The majority of my wardrobe is bought second-hand from local and online thrift stores. Although, I can’t buy everything second-hand. If I do buy something new, I love buying from online sustainable brands such as Paloma Wool, Lisa Says Gah, or House of Sunny. I also try and find sustainable fabric and sew my own clothes. 

What does sustainable/ethical fashion mean to you?

J.P. It’s clothes made in small batches, from natural or recycled fabric, and in ethical and safe workspaces with the environment in mind.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is my world. Every day I try to challenge myself to create a trendy wardrobe from second-hand clothes. I do this to prove to everyone, and myself, that you don’t need to buy from those cheap fast-fashion companies to get those affordable trendy clothes. It’s amazing the items you can find at your local thrift store or the clothes you can rework from those used clothes. As someone who has a YouTube channel focused around second-hand fashion, it’s incredible the number of people who have said they’ve changed over to buying their clothes second-hand now, just by watching my videos. It honestly means the world to read everyone one of those comments.

I believe sustainable/ethical fashion is going to continue to grow year over year and eventually be the primary way in which people purchase their clothes. 

When and why did you start shopping sustainably?

J.P. I have always been super conscious when it comes to being kind to our planet, by recycling everything I can, buying less plastic, using re-usable tote bags, containers, water bottles, etc. Eco-friendliness has always been important to be me. I grew up going to the thrift stores every once and while with my mom but it wasn’t till college where I focused on buying the majority of my clothes secondhand. This is when my passion for sustainable fashion began to flourish as it opened my eyes to the number of unique clothes you can find at your local thrift stores. Buying my clothes second-hand allows for me to be sustainable, which is so important to me, but also have a wardrobe that no one else has.

Daniela Hernandez aka @lifeofdani.jpg

Where do you shop for sustainable fashion?

Daniela Hernandez: 99% of the time I shop for second-hand items at thrift stores. My favorite is GoodWill, although I also enjoy finding unique shops when thrift hopping (exploring different thrift stores throughout towns and cities). In the Miami area, I particularly appreciate Out The Closet, which also assists the community through providing free STD testing and donating profits to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Every so often I get lucky on the Poshmark app- mostly when I’m searching for a specific item, like a certain pair of jeans that are no longer made. 

What does sustainable/ethical fashion mean to you?

D.H. Sustainable/ethical fashion means community to me, in more ways than one. In one aspect, participating in sustainable/ethical fashion I think creates community by connecting people who are all interested in participating, for one reason or another, and ultimately all contribute to a purpose greater than themselves- the wellbeing of our society and environment as a whole.

When and why did you start shopping sustainably?

D.H. I first entered the world of sustainable fashion almost by accident, as I was quite unaware of it at the time. It was back in high school, either Sophomore or Junior year. I remember my Junior homecoming dress was a gorgeous Bebe mini dress that I purchased at a second-hand store for $15 and had altered for another few. My mom could afford to give me only $20 a week at the time for expenses (I wasn’t able to work) and I was always thankful and determined to make the most of it- and I did. I’d use most of it on food- usually breakfast, snacks, or a bottled frappuccino. At the end of the week, however, whenever I could, I’d see what I could afford to add to my wardrobe to feed my style bug. While at the time I also avidly roamed sales racks, I think I owe most of my creativity with style at the time and today to my community thrift stores. I’d always, and still do, become inspired to get creative with the unique pieces full of character-  the same way I did with my limited budget.

Bhavini Patel aka @bhavpat

Where do you shop for sustainable fashion?

Bhavini Patel: As you can guess, the thrift stores have my heart. I can spend hours and hours in a thrift store looking through every single rack in every aisle trying to find the hidden treasures that spark my creativity. I feel like my mind is a super speedy machine that can glance at a piece for a microsecond and instantly come up with all the ways I could style it with both my current wardrobe or my thrift wish list items that I haven’t found yet. This makes it super easy to flip through as many clothes as I can and access which ones have potential or not. But honestly, the thrill of finding gems is more fun for me than actually buying all that I find— since thrifting should NEVER be an alternative for fast fashion. Overconsumption of secondhand clothing is still unsustainable! So, I’m extremely conscious of what I am actually buying when I thrift.

However, as a result of COVID-19, my hobby of thrifting was taken away. Simultaneously, I became aware of how some popular sustainable fashion brands were racist and how little POC were represented in the sustainability movement I so cared for. Living low on waste is something that I have been very passionate about for several years, but I kept it to myself because I never knew how to share it. But suddenly I realized how crucial it was to see myself represented, and therefore, I wanted to create that space for myself, and people who look like me and care about the things I do, by leading with example. So, I began deep diving into finding sustainable and ethical fashion brands that were transparent and lead with a shared ethos. I’m still discovering all my favorite brands, but it’s important to note that while we may be used to finding everything we want/need to wear (i.g. underwear, basics, fancy dresses, jeans, jackets, shoes, etc) all in one big fast fashion shop,

it isn’t the same shopping experience when you’re shopping consciously and sustainably. There are specific brands that specialize in one type of garment and make it exceptionally; so you have to find that one trusted, sustainable brand for your needs. This might seem like a turn-off for shopping sustainably, but I think this is what will allow us to shop consciously because we really need to look into what we need and what a brand is all about. Some of my favorite sustainable brands thus far are, SheRhymesWithOranges (for shopping influencer’s closets and thrifting their gently worn trendy name brand pieces), Wolven (for activewear), Christy Dawn (for dresses), Mate The Label (for basics and loungewear), Parade (for underwear), and Hara the Label (for intimates and loungewear). But, as I said, I’m discovering new sustainable brands literally daily because I know how hard it can be to find a brand that you can trust, so follow along with me on Instagram for the sustainable/ethical brands I find and test out.

What does sustainable/ethical fashion mean to you?

B.P. For me, everything I do in my life, including how I shop for fashion, comes down to empathy and compassion. I frankly want to minimize as much harm and pain as I can from the world and only spread love and empowerment. Sustainable fashion means consciously consuming clothes that are secondhand or made from recycled or biodegradable natural organic fabrics that have a low impact on the planet so my future kid’s generation and their kid’s generations to come can live in a world where they can enjoy summers, winters, majestic and kind ocean animals, California and Australia forests, and all that nature has to offer with a decreased threat of climate change. Slow, conscious fashion means clothing that is made internationally with love that celebrates the labor that goes into a garment and preserves the centuries of artisan craft. Ethical fashion means treating the people who create out clothes like human beings with dignity, respect and care instead of slaves working to make corporation money— which means giving them a living wage and safe, sanitized work environments, especially during this pandemic. I don’t want to see people wearing hypocritical fast fashion “empowered” T-shirts that are actually made by women in third world sweatshops who are far from empowered— especially considering how abusive sweatshops are for women. Instead, ethical fashion is empowering women and people in low-income countries by paying them fairly for their craftsmanship, giving them safety, and allowing the money they make to catalyze positive change for the community. So, all in all, sustainable and ethical fashion is about creating an ootd that doesn’t cause any harm to our planet or the people creating our clothes. It’s about realizing that the decisions I make every day have a profound impact on others and the world, so my actions must consciously stay aligned with the ethics I value. Mother Nature or garment workers shouldn’t suffer for me to look cute.

When and why did you start shopping sustainably?

B.P. I actually accidentally started shopping sustainably in middle school as a means of necessity. Consignment and thrift stores were a means for me too, for example, get a good winter coat on my back— one that wouldn’t make me the target of bullying. Being in a financially vulnerable position while being at a very young age where girls can be rather cruel, it was really hard for me to fit in especially since up until then I was in private schooling with uniforms. Now, while my peers wore expensive name brands, I’d buy cheap knock offs that I would get made fun of for. For a stretch of time, I didn’t wear a coat at all (not smart when you live in the North East) because my $20 fake north face made me a target for bullies. Yet, I couldn’t purchase a $60-$80 grey-peacoat-from-Delia’s-that-would-go-with-everything either because it wasn’t something my parents could financially take on. So, buying secondhand allowed me to finally dress warm, purchase good quality clothes that were practical to wear all the time and would silence mean girls, and also develop my own personal style. 

Today’s day and age are really different because of how mainstream thrifting has become but back in the early 2010s, wearing used clothes was perceived as dirty— especially by Asians. For a long, long time, I was silent about where I bought my clothes, even to my closest confidants, because of this taboo and how they seemed to respond when I’d bring up the idea of “secondhand shopping”. Years later, in 2015, I came across the Netflix documentary “The True Cost”, which proved to me that my love for thrifting was actually the best thing I could be doing as a consumer from a sustainable and ethical standpoint. It isn’t just a way to save money or find unique pieces, but it is a rebellious act against traditional fast fashion models and a way to make a profound impact on helping the survival of the planet and those most vulnerable.

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