This is a long one, friends. But please read it or bookmark it to read it later if you can’t right now. It’s important.
Over the weekend I watched The True Cost movie after many of you recommended it. The recommendations came after a post I did with Walmart last week that dredged up a lot of thoughts and feelings on fast fashion. I always knew that fast fashion was a problem but had no idea in how many ways, and how much of a problem it is. Maybe I didn’t want to learn more and turned a blind eye because I was scared of what I would find out. Shame on me for that! But now, I can never unsee what I saw. It has weighed heavy on my mind for days.
Today I’m going to recap the main takeaways I got from the movie, encourage you to watch it as well, share what my plan is going forward, and list the sustainable and ethical brands that I already love. This is a learning curve for me and probably for most of us so forgive me if I don’t have it all figured out yet. My eyes have just been opened and it’s going to take some time to navigate the world of fashion now that I know the things I know.
I’m going to make mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes. I’ll buy something and not know who made it. You’ll buy something and not know who made it. But we can be more educated together and we can all do better.
My hope is that you’ll take this information, make at least one change in the way you shop, and then educate one more person. That action might seem small, but the ripple effect will add up to a real change.
Takeaways from The True Cost
The environmental impact of the fashion industry is staggering. I come from a background in food and wellness, so I’ve read a lot about the environmental impact of the food industry. I had no idea that fashion surpasses it and is the second highest polluting industry globally (according to The True Cost). This occurs in all types of ways and starts with us.
We are consuming more than ever. If you’ve ever seen a video of Macy’s opening it’s doors on Black Friday, you know this is true. But hearing the numbers was shocking. The world consumes about 400% more clothing than we did two decades ago. According to the film, it’s 80 billion pieces of clothing per year. Not only are we buying more, but we’re throwing it away as we see clothing more and more as disposable.
“As new clothing comes into our lives, we also discard it at a shocking pace. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year.” (source)
There are also huge issues in the cotton industry. “Cotton represents nearly half of the total fiber used to make clothing today. More than 90% of that cotton is now genetically modified, using vast amounts of water as well as chemicals. Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use.” (source)
The documentary dives deeper into both of those topics as well as how the toxins used to process and dye leather are harming the people in the villages where these processes occur.
The problem involves far more brands than I thought. A quick Google search reveals that brands I’ve loved and worn (and posted about) for years are part of the problem. This includes Gap, Nike, Urban Outfitters, Old Navy, and more obvious ones like H&M, Forever21, and Zara. What’s interesting to me now is that I’ve worn, worked with, or promoted all of these brands in the past and not one person has said anything to me. But the second I worked with Walmart, it struck a nerve. What I see from this situation is that we all need to educate ourselves on how deep the problem lies. It’s not just one company. It’s not just a handful of companies. It’s many fashion brands that we love and shop at on a daily basis.
Many people can’t afford to not shop fast fashion. One of the most common requests I get here on Lemon Stripes is to post more affordable clothing. After even just a small amount of research over the last two days, I can see that it is really really hard to shop ethically when you don’t have a lot of money. This Fast Company article about how to shop ethically on a budget is a good resource with some smart ideas that include memberships like Rent the Runway and online consignment stores like ThredUP. But for mainstream fashion, it’s not easy. One of their tips is to buy more classic, durable clothing. But well-made, quality clothing often has a higher price tag that just isn’t financially possible for many Americans. I see that as a major problem.
Human capital is not worth the penny saved. 97% of our clothing is made overseas. Of course that 97% isn’t all bad, but we “consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world.” You’ve read sentences like that time and again but what does that mean exactly? The story that tugged on my heartstrings the most was the story of a factory worker in Bangladesh named Shima and her daughter, Nadia.
Shima works in a clothing factory and started a union with her coworkers to ask for better, more livable working conditions. She presented the union’s requests to management and as a response, they locked all of the female workers in a room and beat them up. Shima has a small daughter named Nadia who she often had to bring to the factory because she can’t afford childcare. The factory is full of chemicals that are harmful to children, so she ended up having to send Nadia to her parents’ home, far from the city so that they can raise her with a better life. She sees her daughter only a few times a year.
The other story that I somehow either blocked out of my head or never read about (is that possible?) was that of Rana Plaza, a garment factory that collapsed in 2013 that killed over 1,000 workers and injured 2,500 more. The workers had told management about cracks in the building the day before, but they ordered workers to come back the next day. The building collapsed that morning. That is one story out of hundreds where garment workers are spending their days in unsafe working conditions.
Sadly, as an American, it is virtually impossible to shop 100% ethically unless you dedicate a lot of time and money to it. Things aren’t going to turn around overnight. I can’t make that big of a change in a day, and you probably can’t either. Unless you can, then more power to you! But if we all start to make small changes and we become more aware of what we’re buying and how it’s made, I really believe that we can shift the needle. This is what I plan to do in the short term as I learn more for the future. I commit to doing better in these ways:
How many wears? Clothing is more disposable than ever, and on The True Cost’s website, they have 5 tips for shopping smarter. The first tip is to ask yourself if you’ll wear something 30 times. I think it’s okay to take baby steps and bring that number lower, but the idea behind it is to be more intentional and ask yourself if you’ll wear something over and over. And that’s where I’m going to start. It’s an easy change for anyone to make, no matter where you’re shopping. If you need a dress for a special event (think prom, wedding, etc) consider renting or borrowing it, and if you buy it, donate it or give it to a friend to wear afterward.
Smart donations: One thing that I learned more about from the movie is that a huge percentage of the clothing we donate to places thrift shops like Goodwill get packaged up and sent to developing countries. There is such a surplus of clothing from the states that much of it ends up in landfills. I had heard about this a while ago so I stopped donating my used and unworn clothing there. Instead, I donate to local charities that I know will take and use the product. I like to work with organizations that help women and moms who really need them. I’m going to do a whole post on places where you can donate clothes after I do more research.
I’ve also sent a lot of product into ThredUp, a great online consignment store.
Using the good on you app: I downloaded the good on you app to discover more ethical brands and see where the brands I love measure up. I actually used the photo above for this post because I looked up every brand I’m wearing and they’re all in the “it’s a start” or “good” category. My shirt is lululemon (rating), my shorts are Levi’s (rating), and my sweater is Sail to Sable (not on the app but I know the founder and she told me that although her clothing is made overseas, she and her designer visit the factories and hold them to the highest standards).
It’s not going to be perfect. I’m going to try really hard to shop smarter going forward. I will not be perfect. I will make mistakes. I will continue to learn and grow. I’ll keep sharing “shop my closet” outfits to encourage you to re-wear pieces you already own. I will do my best. I ask you to try and do the same. But forgive yourself if you’re not perfect because it’s not going to be easy. I’ve seen friends and other bloggers try to commit to shopping only sustainably and they often ultimately fail not because they’re not trying but because the industry itself has made it so difficult for us as consumers to navigate it all.
Ethical Brands I Love
Luckily, there are a lot of brands out there doing things right! There is hope and there are people working to change the fashion world. This list of brands that I personally love is based on what I found on the internet in two days, but let me know if I missed anything or if any of these companies are, in fact, not ethical fashion brands. And if you have a favorite brand, share it below!
Cuyana: I was so happy to see that one of my all-time favorite brands was on many lists for ethical fashion. I feel like I never shut up about Cuyana but I love their product so much and their “fewer better things” message.
The coolest thing that they do, in my opinion, is their lean closet initiative where they have partnered with ThredUp Every time you place an online order at Cuyana, you’ll get a free Cuyana x thredUP shipping label. When you send in gently used clothes that you no longer use, you will earn Cuyana credit from the pieces they accept plus another 15% credit as a bonus. When you spend that credit, Cuyana donates 5% of it to H.E.A.R.T. I should note that on good on you, it’s rated not good enough because of a lack of information. If you know more about their practices, please let me know so I can post it here.
Rothy’s: I have three pairs of Rothy’s and love them a lot. They’re super comfortable and machine washable, but even better, they’re ethically-made from recycled materials (water bottles). The brand uses low-waste cutting techniques to minimize textile waste. You can read more about their process here. It is a very cool read. I also saw on their sustainability page that they’ve reused 29,342,356 bottles. I can hardly even fathom that number. Big thumbs up, Rothy’s!
Dudley Stephens: Did you know that my favorite fleece brand started by a close friend of mine and her sister makes their fleece from recycled water bottles too? I get asked all the time why their product is so expensive and a big part of that is because all of their clothing is made ethically and locally in Brooklyn and that is something that they won’t budge on. The sisters are dedicated to sustainability and keeping factory jobs right here in the US.
Persifor: One of my best girlfriends started Persifor six years ago and not only makes her clothes in the US, but donates extra fabric to a local organization for refugees learning how to sew.
Rent the Runway: Renting is recycling. Instead of buying a dress to wear once for an occasion, rent it! That’s a lot more sustainable. The company is very dedicated to sustainability, using responsible dry cleaning, only faux fur, and environmentally-friendly packaging. Go RTR!
Everlane: I read a bunch of articles about how Everlane is a dedicated ethical fashion brand but the good on you rating was not great. But I found this article explaining why. I think this rabbit hole I went down shows that you don’t really ever have a solid answer and as consumers, it’s harder than you think to find the truth. If you know more about Everlane, please share your knowledge. I love their product and hope that it measures up. That said, they have an incredibly transparent page on their website highlighting their factories around the world.
Allbirds: The brand isn’t on the app yet but I found it on multiple lists about sustainable brands. Their laces are made from recycled water bottles, their packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard, and the wool on their sneakers is made from sheep that live a good life. You can read more about their sustainability commitments here. They are also going carbon neutral this year. I wear my Allbirds almost every day and I can safely say that they are the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever owned.
Summersalt: Summersalt bathing suits are super flattering and their one-pieces were all I felt comfortable in post-partum. I was so excited to see them on this Fast Company guide to buying ethically on a budget. My favorite suit is this one. They are also size-inclusive and having worked with them in the past, I can say that everyone I’ve spoken to at the company has been so kind and supportive.
M.Gemi: You know by now that I’m ride or die for M.Gemi. The brand isn’t on the good on you app but I read in multiple places that their shoes are made in small, family-owned workshops in Italy. They sell their product directly to the consumer which cuts on cost and makes the price to quality ratio unbeatable.
lululemon: We are a big lululemon family. Anel is an ambassador for the brand and pretty much exclusively wears their clothing for work. When I was searching for them in the good on you app, I was praying that they are an ethical brand and, alas, they are doing a good job.
Reformation: I only have one dress from Reformation, but I love their clothing. Now I have a good excuse to shop there. Based on everything I saw, they have by far the most transparent page about their factories on their website. Their good on you rating is good too.
Patagonia: Out of all the brands listed here, Patagonia had the highest rating on the app. I’ve been a long-time brand fan so knew some of what they were doing, but they go above in beyond in more ways that I can list here. Their company mission is this: We’re in business to save our home planet. That’s a pretty powerful mission for a clothing company! Read this page on their site about environmental impact and this one about their supply chain.
Will you commit to watching The True Cost if you haven’t already? Because I know that if you see it, you will think differently about the fashion industry. There is no way that you can’t. If you have seen it, or don’t have time to catch it soon, I’m going to ask you to commit to making at least one change going forward. Whether it’s renting outfits for events, donating your used items in a smarter way, or shopping at stores like the ones I listed above, let’s do something.
Hey your post on fast fashion is awesome. Great read and comprehensive. In the last year I started shopping at a local second hand store for both myself and my 2yo and find that to be a great alternative to the more ethical brands that come w a higher price tag (understandably). Thanks for sharing. By the way I also shop at Walmart too – like you said we’re not all perfect and have to do what we need to do sometimes !!
Hi Julia – love this post and thank you for writing about it. You raise so many great points but I wanted to add another that most people don’t think of – microfiber/microplastic pollution. I read a statistic the other that that approximately 35% of microplastic pollution in the ocean is caused by people washing their clothing and the fibers that come off. This is from polyester/spandex and other clothing made using plastic materials. Because of this, I’ve really tried to stop buying clothes made of these material or at least buy clothes using recycled polyester. In my opinion, if a company is using these materials heavily in their clothing, despite having good working conditions they are not ethical. I’ve also bought a “guppy bag” from Patagonia that you put your polyester etc. clothes in while washing and it catches the micro fibers so you can throw them away instead of them going with the water and eventually out to sea.
Thanks again for your post!
Thanks for the Guppy Bag rec! Never heard of it!
That is another issue I struggle with, companies (like Dudley Stephens, which I LOVE), but label themselves as “green” or environmentally friendly, but still have huge issues, like microplastics leaching off the clothing every time it is washed.
I commend Julie for even bringing this to everyone’s attention!
I noticed you outlined your shopping changes and brands, but do you plan on changing your approach shopping for Amalia as well?
OH and tip for clothes you may donate, i chop them up and use them as rags instead of paper towels!
I know! It can feel so hopeless sometimes! I am trying to figure out how to shop smarter for Amalia and spending my day looking into that. Will report back when I have more info. Stay tuned!
I’m interested in trying this out. https://coraball.com/products/cora-ball
I think you are the best. It’s just that simple.
The rising cost of quality sustainable fashion has limited my purchases in the last couple years. I’ve always tended towards wearing classics, which has no doubt rescued me from fashion disaster. I’ll continue to do my part extending the wear of my existing wardrobe. Thank you for the uplifting read!
Thank you for the honest post.
I have to admit that I was surprised to read that you hadn’t at least heard of what happened with Rana Park, as you do work with the fashion/clothing industry in much of your work. (It was all over in mainstream news sources at the time.) And that you weren’t familiar with how controversial Wal-Mart is (they have been controversial for decades).
But I think it is courageous that you dug into the subject when there was criticism (I have to admit I was shocked to see Wal-Mart clothing because it seemed out of character), and admitted that you had things to learn, and are sharing this info so maybe there will be some changes in behaviors, shopping, etc.
One comment that I have is many retailers don’t make things to last the way that they used to. For example, I have shopped Lands’ End (a 2 out of 5 from the GoodOnYou app) since the late 1990s. My style tends to be rather classic, so a basic fine gauge cardigan is a staple item for me. They used to be all-cotton, and the material was thicker, and they lasted. Now the same style is only partly cotton– they have mixed some synthetics in, and the material is thinner and they don’t seem to last as long. I would rather be able to keep my things and be less ‘trendy’ (but maybe making the classic things current with different accessories), but so often it seems like I have to replace things that just aren’t lasting as long. Gap, Marks & Spencer, Boden, Victoria’s Secret and L.L. Bean are also offenders of not making things as well as they used to.
Another thing: Often it seems that people are ashamed to rewear, be seen in the same thing too often, etc. I think this attitude needs to go away.
It does cost more to have a quality piece. Personally I would rather have one nice thing than a bag of ‘cheap’ things that fall apart after only a few washes.
How did J Crew measure up? It seems like one of your favorites… mine too.
You can read about it here: https://goodonyou.eco/how-ethical-is-j-crew/
They don’t share enough information about their labor practices for it to get a good rating. While they’re working hard on environmental impact, the app doesn’t know a lot about their labor practices. If you learn anything else, let me know!
Does this mean that you will stop shopping at J Crew in this case?
Hi Holly! Based on what I’ve read, J.Crew is taking steps to be more ethical and sustainable and I will continue to support brands that are trying to make a change. Many brands are starting to wake up and make changes and I do believe that all of these small changes will add up to make a difference. This is a good read from Forbes if you want more information: https://www.forbes.com/sites/eshachhabra/2019/01/30/big-retail-brands-are-waking-up-to-ethical-fashion/#cb3cba14826b
This is a fantastic post!! Thank you for all of the information and please, revisit this topic as you learn more. I have been trying to make small changes but it really is difficult.
Great post! Another thing we can do with worn clothes is bring them to textile recycling. In NYC the have bins at farmers markets in the parks. I bring things that are ripped and stained that I would not want to donate. They also take old shoes- I think a lot of stores are starting to have bins as well. Nike takes old sneakers in their stores.
It doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps decrease the number of clothes in landfills.
I love this post. This a topic I have been thinking about for a while now. I have realized I’m very conscious when it comes to waste and environmental impact in so many areas of my life, but not in my fashion choices. I also have been getting frustrated with the cycle of bringing in new things, then needing to clean out my closet (again), and creating so much waste. I love your “shop my closet” series and would love to see more posts like that. And secondly, thanks for being willing to invite us on this journey/process with you. As you said, it’s a learning curve and it’s not going to be perfect. I learned a new phrase this week and that I have been leaning on heavily lately- “I haven’t learned that yet”- thought maybe you would enjoy it too!
Hi Julia, Thank you for this post. As a fashion blogger literally just starting out this is a real eye opener for me too. I need to watch the movie. I appreciate all the research you put into this post and it gave me a lot of things to already think about before I can watch the movie. One big thing that I took away from your post is being more knowledgeable and careful about how I donate clothes! I have 3 daughters ages 10, 9, and 6. So we have a lot of clothes in our household lol. I save a lot of the older girls’ outgrown clothes to pass onto my youngest but for the ones that are too worn to pass on or just for all the ones my 6 year old outgrows what can I do! I was donating them to Vietnam Veterans. But now I am wondering if a local charity like Person to Person in Darien might be a much better choice! A lot resonated with your post but that was a big thinking/starting point for me. Also wanted to say I think you are BRAVE to address this issue after the negative responses from the Walmart post – I admire that ☺️ You have a large following and will reach a lot of people with this post – you should be proud!! Another reason your blog is one of my inspirations ☺️ xx, Melissa
You are quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers, for this post and others, but for keeping in real in general! Yes we will all likely still continue to shop at Target or WalMart for clothing every once in awhile, but this post is another great reminder of why we have to think twice. I also found an article randomly shared by a friend on Facebook last night that lists many of the companies mentioned but includes a lot of others as well:
Also would love to know where JCrew ranked! And Athleta! I know Gap didn’t fare well, but Athleta seems to focus on sustainability and fair trade practices? These two brands make up the majority of my closest! And although pricey I have started to buy Cuyana and Dudley Stephens. Although I do not always practice the model, I truly do believe in the philosophy of one better piece for longer.
Athleta is actually a certified B Corp which means it overall has great business practices. The B Corp website explains it all. (Would be nice if the rest of Gap Inc followed suit).
Patagonia is such a great company, and a good website where you can buy their items used is called wornwearPatagonia.com. They have everything from kids to adults. I’ve purchased a couple items off here, mostly coats for my toddlers, at a fraction of the cost of the item at full price. Most of them I can’t tell are used at all. It’s super handy with great search parameters.
I’ve also had great luck on eBay, but sometimes it’s hit or miss and the prices vary quite a bit
Thanks so much for this post, it’s very eye-opening. If we can all do just one tiny thing think how much it will add up to!
Truly inspiring. I went on a “spending diet” for 3 months at the beginning of the year for clothes and shoes, surprisingly I survived. When my spending diet ended I wanted to put more thought into what I ended up buying, where it was from and how many times did I think I would wear it. So far I’ve been doing well with reducing the number of items I buy. I work in fashion and it’s tough sometimes to not buy something off of all the sites I am on for work. I haven’t watched the True Cost Doc but I have read ‘Overdressed’ by Elizabeth Cline and I hope that your post inspires others to think about what they’re doing. You’re right about how a lot of us care so much about what we put in our bodies but we also need to care about what we put on it. Whether it’s beauty products(whole separate issue) or apparel.
As you go further in your journey do you think you will start buying ethical for your daughter as well? If you do could you share children’s apparel brands you find and love. I always try to give really nice and ethical gifts to friends and family members children in hopes that makes a small impact too.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! And with how open you have been lately, I am so happy to follow you on your journey.
Thank you for writing and posting this! I watched the documentary over the weekend after seeing it on your stories, and I was shocked. It is mind blowing how much we don’t know about the fashion industry’s effects on people around the world. I know I have bought a lot of fast fashion, especially in college (those prices!), but have made a commitment to make every effort to buy from brands I know produce their clothing in a sustainable manner going forward, and this post is incredibly helpful for this! Thank you!!
Do you by chance know what ThreadUp does with the clothes they don’t accept? I normally always donate to Goodwill but am rethinking that after reading your post. Thanks!
They donate clothes to different charity partners. You can see a list here: https://www.thredup.com/cleanout/donate-clothes
Thank you so much for this post! I watched The True Cost earlier this year and it has stuck with me and really affected my shopping habits. I’m purchasing way less and trying to style what I already have in new and creative ways. It’s hard, but also fun.
A great ethical fashion brand to check out is ABLE. They are working to end generational poverty by paying women around the world a living wage. Everything is amazing quality and worth the higher price tag in my opinion!
I’m glad you took the time to educate yourself on the practices behind Fashion that have cast a much larger shadow on the world. One small callout — fast fashion is a term that applies to a group of brands that follow practices to get from the runway to store in a very compressed timeline than the typical fashion cycle (hence the term, fast fashion). So brands like Zara, H&M, Forever 21 would fit here as their business model is focused on taking trends and runway items and bringing them to the masses quickly and cheaply.
The impact and true cost of fashion goes well beyond the subset of fast fashion (though they are huge contributors, especially b/c at their price point, many people consider them throwaway items that they can wear just a few times and discard). However, since you seemed to refer to many brands, including WalMart, Under the umbrella of fast fashion, I thought it was an important clarification to make as WalMart’s business model is very different (no better but they are not in the business of taking a runway trend and bringing it to market in 6-8 weeks). They are in the business of trying to offer cheap clothes (and offering them at the lowest cost so they make a huge margin) and are trying to up their fashion quotient.
And on WalMart, since your post notes they were the first that generated such criticism while other brands are less than stellar. I think you need to remember that much of this criticism was lobbed because walMart is simply not on brand for you and, in the era where readers crave more authenticity, felt the exact opposite. In all truthfulness, your positioning to me has never been about ethical fashion and, as an “influencer”, there is a lot of consumerism, material emphasis to what is posted so the practices of WalMart were less bothersome to me against the backdrop of your online person b/c I don’t see social causes as a meaningful part of your platform. This is not meant as criticism but as an observation and I get it, you need to make money.
Agreed. My initial response was to featuring Walmart because of its long history of underpaying its workers, busting up any efforts to unionize, running smaller businesses out of business in small towns, horrific environmental practices, etc. Their sins go far beyond “fast fashion”.
This was my reaction, too, and part of why this partnership didn’t feel quite on brand for me. I really admire and appreciate Julia’s efforts to feature more affordable clothing options (especially as a student with a tight budget!) but I’ve been very surprised to see so many influencers partnering with Walmart lately. Their business practices are poor on so many levels.
Last week was Fashion Revolution Week, so this is a very timely post! You should check out Fount, a leather goods company out of Cleveland that advocates for sustainable fashion and ethical practices. They regularly highlight other sustainable brands on their Instagram and also give us a glimpse into their production process.
I get what you’re trying to do here, but the whole post seems like a moot point. You, as an influencer, receive a large amount of free product from many unethical companies, especially from JCrew who’s rated “not good enough.” It’s your livelihood – I get it. Most people don’t receive the sheer volume of product you get. We won’t even talk about the damage shipping all that stuff does to the environment.
I just find it odd that an “influencer” tells us to do better while at the same time she receives so much free product, more than any single person could ever use (which you admit to donating). The environmental footprint online shopping leaves is immense in terms of carbon emissions. If you’re not an influencer that only wears/accepts fully sustainable clothing then I think this whole post is pointless. I think the whole influencer “job” creates more harm than good, and for most influencers wanting to make changes when it comes to fast fashion, it’s impossible. They should probably reflect on the fact that being an influencer is an ethically unsustainable job.
KT I 100% agree and that is something that I need to figure out. Most often, the clothes show up and I don’t even know they’re coming. My next step for this process is to reach out to PR companies and brands and ask them to always email me before sending product so that excess isn’t sent my way.
Please also remember that I’m just learning all of this too. I’m trying to do better myself and this is one step in that direction. There is a lot in my job that is ethically unsustainable but I’m going to try my best to use my voice to make a change. Bare with me as I try and help me spread this message in a positive way!
I have to know….if brands are sending you things out of the blue, how do they know your address?!? Do they look you up in the white pages? So curious….
Based on what I know, PR firms can get your address from a directory that they all share. Another way is that if I work with one brand through a PR firm, they might send me another brand they represent without asking. Beyond that, I have no idea how they find me but I think it’s mostly those two ways.
This is such an inspiring, eye opening and well written post, can’t wait to watch the documentary. I have tried to make an effort to buy clothing items that are made locally (in Canada where I live) but it is definitely more expensive and sometimes you just want to try a fast fashion trend (any fashion lover has to be guilty of that). Your post though reminds me though to continue to be more conscientious about my buying habits. One thing I was wondering about was about kids clothing. Again, I do try to support small local brands but with how quickly kids grow and how hard they are on their clothes I still find I am filling my sons closet with Gap, H&M and Zara. If you do any followup posts on this topic I would love to hear about more kids fashion as well. Again, what a great post!
I find it really hard to believe that as someone who works in fashion, you didn’t know even some of this already before posting your Walmart blog. I applaud you for looking into the topic further, but I’m not sure I believe that any of this didn’t cross your mind before accepting the offer from them. I was really starting to like this blog and now I just feel put off by the whole thing.
Maureen I’m so sorry to hear that you feel this way. Feel free to unfollow if you’re feeling put off by my blog. It’s not for everyone! There are a ton of bloggers out there promoting sustainable and ethical brands and I urge you to check them out. Two of my friends, Jess Kirby and Meg Hall, are doing a great job if you need a place to start.
I’m so happy you made a blog post about this!!
For kids clothes check out my cousins kids clothing line. Made in the California with environmentally responsible materials.
Also, thank you for creating this post and sharing what you’ve learned. Looking forward to see what changes we all can make to help the earth.
Love this post, Julia, and thanks for shining a light on this! I learn so much from you.
I had no idea how bad it was, and Im going to commit to making better choices.
I really need to think about kid’s clothing- its SO easy to buy cheap clothes from Target and Old Navy because I know the clothes are going to get destroyed, but when I realize how many unnecessary items they have, I realize I could probably be spending a little more on fewer, better quality items.
(PS- their Dudley Stephens fleeces have impressively withstood multiple paint incidents!)
Thank you for sharing his post! I have increasing guilt around the environment in all areas and I think any steps in the right direction are worth taking.
One thing I would like to add: H&M will accept any textiles for recycling (you get a 15% coupon but as I’m not a big shopper there I tend not to use them) and JCrew/Madewell have the denim recycling program too. Even if someone doesn’t shop those stores, they can take advantage of the recycling programs.
I would like to chime in on some wonderful ethical brands! Ace & Jig, Kordal, Elizabeth Suzann, and there is a huge market online for buying these second hand online for cheaper prices. Check out selltradeslowfashion on Instagram!
Cheers to you for writing this post. I haven’t watched True Cost yet, but I’ve been thinking more and more about this subject recently. I have two young kids – 2.5 and 4 years old. 90% of their wardrobe comes from Target and the Gap with a few Patagonia items for each of them. I can justify spending more for quality for myself since I’ll wear them for years and years, but struggle with my kiddos since they grow out of stuff after 6 months. As you learn more, I’d love to hear your thoughts on clothing for Amalia too!
P.S. In the same vein as Walmart striking a cord with others, I’ve felt the same way about all the Amazon hauls on Instagram lately. I love Amazon as much as the next person, but since I really started trying to spend less money this year, I’ve become more aware of the environmental impact of that 1 or 2-day shipping not to mention the fast fashion aspect. Food for thought!
There’s really no need for kids’ clothes to be bought all new. Until my sister and I stopped growing a lot around middle school age, we rarely had clothes from anywhere other than yard sales, consignment shops, and hand-me-downs.
This was the case for me too, Megan, but kid’s clothes are definitely not made like they used to be. They shrink, stain easily and can’t handle being washed in hot water, fade and rip (socks and girls leggings are the worst). Quality kids clothes cost a lot of money, but I wish it was that easy. I do think Patagonia (as mentioned here a few times) does a great job and stands behind their coats.
OMG Julia, this is the best post!! I had NO idea. Thank you for enlightening me (us) and for all the work that went into gathering all this information. I always love your posts but this was exceptional. Thank you!! ❤️❤️
Your post went around our family group text this morning, and we’re all going to watch this movie! I had no idea how bad and deep this issue goes, thank you so much for all the info and resources. I’m def going try to do better and be more conscious with you RTR here I come!!
Haven’t seen the movie but read the book it was based on (very good too). Thank you for starting to think about this, its a big issue ! My biggest pet peeve is when people brag about how cheap their clothes cost!
Also – don’t forget my favorite brand Amour Vert!!!
Thanks for this, Julia! Very informative and I think you hit all the right notes about taking time to learn as much as we can while making an effort to do better. Every little bit helps. I recommend checking out The Well Essentials site – Megan does an amazing job highlighting ways to incorporate sustainability practices into our everyday lives, including fashion. She has a great Facebook group as well.
Wow. I guess we always knew this was happening to some extent, but when you watch a documentary like that (I haven’t seen it yet) I’m sure it’s very eye opening.
I think that it’s great that you’re sharing your personal commitment to more sustainable fashion. For me, it’s totally unrealistic to do this in every scenario just like it would be to go vegan, get rid of my car and bike everywhere, buy 100% non-gmo/organic, etc. etc. but if we all make some better choices, then perhaps it will add up.
I fear you will receive backlash every time you partner with a brand that doesn’t fit this category now, so it’s a good reminder that it’s not all or nothing to make an impact!
Thank you for posting about this! I have been thinking about ethical fashion for awhile now and trying my best, but it is definitely hard. I absolutely love allbirds, rothys and Dudley Stephens and I really don’t mind paying the higher prices for good quality pieces that are also ethically made. I always keep and wear things like that more instead of the $20 tee I buy from target (or whatever). M
One of the easiest ways to be more environmentally friendly while saving money when it comes to fashion is to simply just buy/acquire LESS. I don’t know how that can be reconciled with being a fashion blogger though.
I agree and I don’t know either, but I like to think that bringing awareness to the situation is a good start!
Thank you so much for the post! As a mama of two girls, I would love to see a post on kids brands.
I am going to try to find those next. It is really hard with kids clothes because the ethical brands seem to have a crazy high price tag. But I’m going to ask around and share what I learn!
Great read. I also believe Poshmark is great for reusing clothes. The items are going to a home that wants it.
Thank you for watching and sharing. I watched this a few years ago and have never been the same since.
For me, the biggest change I’ve made is: Shop Less. Way Less. This year, I purchased no new clothes or shoes or purses or jewelry in January, February, and March. Three months of no shopping. It wasn’t that hard guys!! (And I live in NYC and walk by new fashion displays daily.) You can do it! Would love to see you do this as a one-month challenge. I know it’s likely harder with a child who’s growing…..but I feel like bloggers could set the tone and have powerful impacts.
Totally agree, I can go a long time without shopping. It’s changing your mindset to only focus on buying what you will wear a lot. Then spending more on quality becomes more feasible.
Great post! I can’t wait to watch the documentary and be more conscious in my buying. You are definitely creating a ripple effect! And now I feel better about wearing my Patagonia fleece today 🙂
Go Patagonia go! Great company and great product 🙂
Yes, Julia!! Thank you for this post. This has been on my mind a lot in the past year. I have made steps to “go green” in some parts in my life, like less plastic, and more reusable coffee cups, but have been struggling to find a link to clothes except for donating and consigning. Both are great options, but I too had heard, and read about all the clothes being donating to overseas, and just ending up in landfills. Because of this, I have been picky about where I consign and donate clothes to, in the past year or so. I have also been more conscious of how much I am shopping, and buying new things. I really really try to go by the rule that I need to absolutely love it before I buy it, and it works most of the time. I do have things in the my closet that I have had for years, and that I have worn well beyond 30 times! This makes me happy, and like I am doing something good, but always feel like I can do more in this field. I love your insight into this hot topic, and I hope that more people will start to realize that sustainability in all parts of your life is important!! Thanks so much for taking a huge step, and putting together this post!! 🙂
Another thing to think about is that synthetic clothing is plastic pollution. If you buy that cheap shirt and throw it away when it rips, it’s in the ocean forever. Go with cotton or linen when you can!
Right. That is a good point, but what was interesting in the documentary was how much it also focused on cotton as a problem. It feels like you can’t win! But yes of course the synthetic product pollution our oceans is much worse.
Yes, you’re right in some ways you can’t win. Thanks for highlighting these issues!
The thing I feel like I can do personally is buy as much quality stuff as I can used. Why buy new when you can recycle clothes.
Love your blog because it’s a great combo of fashion and lifestyle – and this post is both! It’s so obvious how much you care about keeping it real. Honestly, I liked the walmart post just as much as this one – think your integrity makes it easy to see both sides. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ lady!
Glad to hear it’s resonating with you, Britt. Thank you so much for following along!
Yes, you’re right in some ways you can’t win. Thanks for highlighting these issues!
The thing I feel like I can do personally is buy as much quality stuff as I can used. Why buy new when you can recycle clothes.
Great post! I appreciate your writing and loved your approach. Thank you for reminding us to think about our purchases. You’re doing a great job with your blog, Julia!
Thank you so much!
Do you know where thredup donates the clothes after they don’t sell, they say they donate responsibly but that is all they say.
You can see a list of their charity partners here: https://www.thredup.com/bg/p/donate
It includes Big Brother, Big Sister, Girl’s Inc, Help a Mother Out, and more.
If you’re interested in this topic, and generally about being a better informed consumer, you should check out the book “Buy the Change You Want to See: Use Your Purchasing Power to Make the World a Better Place” by Jane Mosbacher Morris and Wendy Paris. Jane went to high school in CT and is the founder of TO THE MARKET, which connects businesses and consumers to ethically-made products from around the world.
Grey post! I rally applaud you for talking about something like this, especially since it’s directly related to your job. Unfortunately I really think that one of the main reasons for that 400% increase over the past decade is because of the rise of social media and being an influencer as a career. As consumers we are bombarded from all angles with things we should buy, and since influencers make money from getting consumers to buy (whether it be a click or a sponsored post promoting a brand) they are motivated by our purchases. Now this is obviously a double edge sword because no one can force another to purchase, but I do think it’s a huge contributing factor. I know I’m definitely as guilt of buying things I probably wouldn’t have had an influencer not shared it. I’m sure a lot of influencers don’t care since it’s about $$, but I appreciate that you are going to try and do your part to help out!
I hear you. I don’t have the answer to this but I hear you and it’s definitely on my mind.
Great post and love the transparency and thoughtfulness. Eileen Fisher is also extremely passionate about this topic. Their brand is working on recycling clothing and reusing items. Although Eileen Fisher can be expensive, they are at the forefront of fashionable sustainability. Take a peek at their Instagram and you will their commitment and initiative in this area.
Yes! My best friend from college works there and I’m hoping to interview her about it. They are doing incredible things!
I have to admit, the Walmart post did throw me. And then I was a bit disappointed when I saw your Instastories that seemed to indirectly address the issue in a somewhat defensive way. But I applaud the effort you’re making to dig in and put some light on the subject. The last few days must have brutal for you, especially with Anel away so thanks for taking the time to try and conduct some research and get a post together.
For me, the issue was more being off brand as well. Out of curiosity I searched some other bloggers who promote Walmart clothes and their comments had none of the negativity yours did. It’s because their target audience shops Walmart and they consistently promote very low cost product. I’m sure if those bloggers started promoting Persifor, Dudley Stephens , etc. their readers would revolt in a similar manner.
At the end of the day, every one of us buys and consumes unethical product from our food, beauty supplies, home consumables, toys for kids, clothes, etc. We can all probably do a lot better and in general, simply consuming less is probably the best way to start, followed by consuming smarter.
Hope this week is a much better one for you.
That actually makes a lot of sense. When I accepted the partnership, I thought it was going to be helpful for everyone who was asking me for more affordable clothing ideas. At the end of the day, I’m happy that I did it because it led me to watch the documentary and opened my eyes to something new. The backlash is part of the game and making mistakes is part of life, but I really believe that it’s how you react, change and grow going forward that matters.
I think your reaction to the situation is beautiful. And I love that you are not making apologies to appease the harsh criticism. You made and owned a business decision. Maybe you lost some followers but you’ve opened the door up for a conversation.
Not sure how AG jeans ranks but Geri from Because I’m Addicted just did a whole behind the scenes at their factory on Instagram recently that I found fascinating
I get what you’re trying to do here and applaud your research efforts into fast fashion and the implications it has across the industry and the world. However, I feel like it’s kind of disingenuine to post this literally right after your WalMart post, after you already accepted the partnership and the money that came with it to shill their clothes. I think in the future, better research and more thought could be done before accepting a company’s sponsorship so people don’t feel turned off by the whole thing.
I 1000% agree and will do better going forward. That is my goal!
Great post! Such an important topic. It’s amazing how we can be so much more aware and thoughtful about what we eat and be “going green” in other aspects of our lives, but still so unaware of the impact of our fashion choices. I’ve had similar wake-up calls recently. Thanks for sharing this reflection.
Thank you for sharing this. It’s so easy to just think about the thrill of something new and easy but we all need to take notice if we hope to make even a small difference. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention!
I need to watch the documentary and try to be better. It’s so hard sometimes when you’re trying to buy affordable clothing and not blow a budget so I know it’s a long process but trying even a little bit is better than not trying. I’ve never donated to Goodwill but I usually donate to my local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter and they use the donations to sell in their local shops, they take the money earned and put it back into their charity but now I wonder what they do with the items they decide they can’t sell. Can’t wait to read more of your posts on this topic!
Thank you for this. Very insightful! and holler for lululemon!!
Such a great topic to cover! My question is where are you going to shop for Amalia from now on? When I quickly downloaded the app, stores like H&M, Zara and Gap had better ratings than more expensive stores like Boden or Hanna Andersson. Would love to hear what you will do!
I have no idea! Need to figure that out next.
Second hand!!! I just went to a huge consignment sale on Saturday (for the second year in a row) and for $20 I got over 40 pieces of clothing for my 2 year old daughter and baby boy on the way! Several of the pieces are brand new with tags, and the rest are in great shape and will be perfect for the 3-6 months she will wear them for. This time of year there are usually tons of these big sales going on. Also, our town yard sale Facebook page always has people selling or giving away children’s clothing in excellent condition too. Just a thought 🙂
Great article. I am more aware of what I am wearing and buying. I love everlane tees and think the few bucks more than some fast fashion brands is worth it. But like you said, it can be costly to shop the “better brands”, especially when it comes to kids clothes! My philosophy is turning towards really asking myself if I need what I am about to buy, if so, is there a better option that might be a bit more expensive but will also last longer? And not falling victim to every sale email. I have never been one for forever21 or zara. But Old Navy will remain a staple at least of my kid’s wardrobe. And when he is done with the clothes, I will donate them. I also spend a lot more time reading the “about us” or “story” section of brands. And look for brands that give back (Bombas, State Bags, etc).
Great, informative post! When we know better, we do better! I’ve started a comment so many times, but I’ve struggled with getting everything I want to say organized. I was a bit appalled at the nature of many of the comments on the Walmart post. I mean the comment along the lines that you should keep up with the news instead of watching so much Netflix was out right mean and not at all constructive. There was a lot of privilege showing in that comments sections. Because let’s be honest most of your readers that didn’t approve of that partnership chose not to shop at Walmart long before the had ethical reason to speak out against the company. I will definitely add the documentary to my Netflix and try to continue making smarter shopping choices! I’d love to see even more frequent shop your closet posts because I think the biggest impact we can make as individuals is to commit to wearing what we already own. As you continue to learn more I’d love to get updates on this topic. Super bonus points if you dig up information on any lower price point companies with good ratings
Hi Julia. You have some interesting ideas here on how to tackle consumption of fashion. Quick question for you: as a blogger you receive a ton of free stuff (I’ve seen this on your IG stories) have you ever asked brands to stop sending you things? The waste generated from this free stuff (especially all the packaging) has to be enormous. I think you & your fellow bloggers could make a difference if you proactively asked brands to stop sending you stuff!
Yes! It is such a huge problem, I can’t even tell you. I’ve asked brands to email me first before they send things but most often it’s the new brands that I’ve never worked with that send me stuff. My next step is to talk directly to the PR firms to nip it in the bud.
I’d love to hear more about better places to donate clothes. I usually do Goodwill if it’s not going to consignment, so other options would e great. Thanks!
This is my favorite blog post I’ve ever read. Thank you for your honesty and educating us! My motto is always “better, not perfect” and that’s exactly what your post is about ❤️
I learned a lot from reading this post…and that app was eye opening too. All my favorite brands are rated Not Good Enough and one brand I love they say to avoid (Tory Burch, mind blown!) I commend you for doing all this research and hope to see follow up posts on the changes you make going forward. I’m not sure where my fashion journey will take me from here, seems like a lot to take in having to source new retailers that support petite fashion but I can work on consuming less and re-wearing what I have for as long as possible (which to be honest it’s not as much as 30 wears for some things, but I can work on that!)
It is eye-opening! But one thing to note about Tory Burch (I looked it up today too because I met her this morning which was crazy!) is that the reason it’s not good enough is because there isn’t enough public information. So do other research too when you see cases like that.
This is a great post. You’ve inspired me to actually take the time to do the long overdue spring cleaning my closet needs, and create a pile of clothes that I no longer wear and will donate. Looking forward to watching the movie soon!
Thank you for writing this post! I watched The True Cost in November and made my New Years resolution after doing so. My resolution for 2019 is to be more intentional with my purchases and to take better care of the things I already have.
While Meg Hall was posting about her #noshop19, I was doing my own research on capsule wardrobes, minimalism, ethical/sustainable shopping and I came across this picture of an ethical fashion pyramid by Anuschka Rees (https://anuschkarees.com/blog/2016/5/26/5-ways-to-build-a-more-ethical-closet-no-matter-your-budget). Picture it like the old food pyramid. At the top is the smallest portion; “support ethical brands.” As the sections get wider you have “buy vintage/second hand, buy quality/durable, shop less/ buy better” and lastly, the largest portion of the pyramid “value and take good care of the things you already own.” We may not all be able to afford ethically sources clothings, but we can all take better care of our clothes already in our closets! That task is attainable for everyone and is best for the environment.
These days, with the decluttering phase, everyone is quick to throw things away. But for what? It is all just going to sit in a landfill.
As it is, I am lucky enough to own enough clothes to get me by for many years (as long as my size doesn’t change), so instead of tossing our my clothes and breaking the bank with ethical/sustainable replacements (using even more resources to produce), I have changed my mindset and I now take better care of the things I already have.
The clothes that don’t “spark joy” for me of the clothing that does not fit anymore, I am selling second hand on Poshmark so it can be recycled and have another life sparking joy for someone else.
Thank you again for shedding some light on this very large issue and I’m looking forward to you sharing your TRUTHFUL journey with us!!
Thank you for sharing this pyramid!! It seems like a lot of people (myself included) forget the biggest way to change our impact is to just not buy as much in the first place! I’m working on changing my mindset as well. I got so tired of spending so much time int the cycle of consuming and then purging the things I don’t want anymore. I’ve found just having/buying less in the first place is better for me and the environment.
Great, informative post! I work in sustainability and try to make the right choices when it comes to food, clothing, skincare, etc. – but it can be really difficult (and can haunt your sleep!…or is that just me??). I haven’t seen True Cost but will watch this weekend. I think if everyone starts making these small steps in the right direction – more and more companies will start changing their behavior and then will give consumers an easier time making purchasing decisions.
Gap Inc has made a sustainability pledge: https://fashionista.com/2018/03/gap-sustainable-fabrics-water-conservation
Water waste is also a significant piece of any serious conversation about fashion and sustainability.
“It’s this backdrop that makes Gap Inc.’s announcement that it plans to conserve 10 billion liters of water by the end of 2020 so significant. That figure, which amounts to the daily drinking water needs of five billion people, is one Gap Inc. plans to hit by adapting the way it does business at mills, factories and laundries.
Besides focusing on denim production and human rights, Gap Inc. is also zeroing in on cotton, which is an extremely water-intensive crop. By working with the Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of cotton, Gap Inc. has moved closer to its goal of using “100 percent… cotton from more sustainable sources by 2021,” according to a release.
While Gap Inc. has been criticized in the past due to reports of child labor and abusive factory conditions that came out in the late aughts, its water initiatives have the capacity to impact the environment on a scale that is hard to ignore. Add to that the fact that Gap Inc.-owned brand Athleta recently joined ethical fashion heavy hitters like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher in becoming B Corp certified, and you have a compelling case that Gap Inc. is making real strides toward greater sustainability and more ethical production practices.”
Thank you so much for sharing this, Sharon! I’m so happy to hear that they’ve made this pledge. I buy over 50% of Amalia’s clothes there and was starting to feel really guilty about that but this makes me feel a lot better!
Thank you for sharing this post! Being conscientous about what I wear and where my clothes comes form (and what happens to them when they no longer serve me) has actually been on my mind since I was a small child. I’m surprised with how few people actually think about where their clothes come from so I applaud you for mentioning this topic. If you wear clothes, it is not 100% possible to wear ethical and high quality 100% of the time, but simply thinking about things and making smarter choices is a great first step. If everyone thought about it more and made purchases based on this information, it could change the industry. <3
This year I have decided to go on a shopping ban from May 1st to the very end of August. It is a way for me to save money, be more intentional with my purchases and spending, and to do my part to help the environment. But most of all, my goal is to appreciate what I have. I only buy clothes that I know I will love year after year (and I always rewear my clothes over and over again), but with styles coming and going so quickly these days it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to keep up with the trends. This is my way to slow down and practice gratitude.
Julia, thank you so much for this post and for your effort in learning more about sustainability and ethical brands!
I love to follow style bloggers, but honestly never look into most of the clothing or brands because they don’t align with my own sustainability goals. As a green blogger, I’ve been working to make my wardrobe more eco-friendly over the past few years, and it usually means I shop secondhand first.
It can be difficult to shop ethical brands exclusively because of the higher price points (although that’s what makes the fashion more fair for the workers), but I’m excited to see more brands become more transparent and make steps toward being more fair-trade and eco-friendly.
I’m excited to see how you adapt more ethical/eco-friendly fashion into your personal style!
Thanks for sharing! Our wallet activism is working but…
It’s so disheartening to read stuff like this. But all we can do is keep trying!
I think this is an admirable post, but I find LuluLemon deplorable after their CEO was quoted saying only women of a certain size should be wearing their clothes, came off to me as a total a-hole.
Oh wow, I hadn’t heard that. Yikes! Not a good look…
Thank you so much for sharing this. It was eye-opening, heartbreaking and life changing watching the movie ‘The True Cost.’ People like you will change the world with a ripple effect. Thank you.
The Girlfriend Collective is another sustainable brand that I think you’d enjoy looking into! Thank you for sharing this post!