Over the past few months, I’ve become less and less interested in buying new clothes and dread the thought of going to a shopping mall (even if I were allowed to right now). It’s a bit of a weird feeling for me seeing as how I’ve always loved to shop and pretty much grew up walking to aisles of Yorkdale mall. I’m just not as enthralled as I once was by Zara’s heaping mess of trendy clothes or H&M’s basic tees and the clothing items I already own from those stores are just falling apart, ripping at the seams and pilling.
At the same time, I’ve also been slowly trying to do my part to live more sustainably: buying reusable sandwich bags and food wraps, reducing my overall waste, eating less red meat etc. Even though I’m certainly not the poster child for sustainability, I do believe every bit counts and even just being more aware of our environmental impact on a daily basis is beneficial. With all that said, I decided to stop contributing to fast fashion and commit to shopping sustainably by supporting sustainable fashion brands that I could find right here in Toronto.
Keep reading to learn more about how I’ve committed to sustainable fashion brands in 2020:
How I Started:
The first step for me was cleaning out my closet. As the self-proclaimed queen of “I’m sure this will come back in style,” I have become quite the clothing hoarder over the past decade. Moving cities for university couldn’t even get me to shake my bad habits. However, In December I finally cleaned out my closet, donated the clothes I hadn’t worn in months, set up a Depop account (an app for reselling used clothes), and took a trip to my local consignment store. I didn’t necessarily throw out or donate all of my clothing from fast-fashion retailers; if they were still in good condition and I deemed them a staple in my wardrobe I let them stay because if they serve a purpose in my closet, I’d rather them stay there than potentially end up in a landfill.
Doing My Research:
As a long-time thrifter, I knew all the tips and tricks for hunting down vintage finds at local shops. However, vintage shopping is hit or miss and there are a few things I needed in my wardrobe ASAP. For example, I had been working a full-time job for about seven months and I didn’t have a proper blazer. I would have loved to wait until I found the perfect vintage blazer that fit just right, but in reality, that could take months and I really needed some professional clothing in my closet. So, I had to go searching for sustainable fashion brands that were new to me and actually committed to well-made, sustainable clothing.
I spent an entire weekend in a Youtube hole searching up the best sustainable brands here in Toronto and how they defined the word “sustainable.” I learned that sustainability means different things to different people and I would have to develop my own definition and set guidelines for myself. I decided that I wouldn’t be too hard on myself since I was just starting out and that I’d buy from brands that, like myself, might not have all the answers but are at least working towards lowering their environmental impact. Some of the stores I found are Frank and Oak, Kotn, Uncle Studios, Everlane, Reformation and Outdoor Voices. Again, these are not all 100% sustainable but they are transparent about their impact and are working towards a better future. These stores are obviously pricier than the stores I used to shop at but when I considered the level of quality and how much longer they would last, I was on board.
Getting Out There:
After I picked up some basics from a few newer brands, I got myself ready for a big thrifting trip. One of my favourite finds was 96 Tears Vintage where I scored big time on a pair of vintage Levi’s. Unlike Value Village and Saint Vincent de Paul, 96 tears is highly curated which means the prices are higher but the selection is infinitely better. If you’re new to thrifting or, like me, have trouble finding jeans in thrift stores, I would highly suggest hitting up one of the many curated second-hand shops in the city. You’re basically paying for someone to sift through all the not-so-cute clothing and present you with only the gems. It saves you time plus you have a way higher chance of actually finding something you love. While thrifting might seem out of the question right now, many shops are running bids on Instagram or selling through their online platforms.
My next endeavour was Depop. I finally worked up the courage to buy something on the app instead of just browsing endlessly and I even organized a meet-up (pre-isolation) with a complete stranger so I could avoid the $12 shipping charge (and I lived to tell the tale). Even though I’m no longer buying from fast fashion stores, I do still purchase those brands on Depop because giving a garment a second life, no matter where it’s from, fits within my definition of sustainable. I’m still working on the selling side but as far as buying goes, I think I’ve mastered the app.
Going All In:
Now that I’ve proved to myself that I can commit to changing my lifestyle, I’m ready to go all in. As summer approaches and I realize my white sneakers aren’t so white anymore, I’ve started to look into how I can make every part of my wardrobe more sustainable, even my shoes. I’ve also started to consider new makeup, bathing suits, socks, and jewellery that are line with my new standards with the end goal being to one day have a completely sustainable closet. Obviously, isolation is another hurdle. When this lockdown period began I wondered if I’d be able to keep shopping sustainably. It hasn’t been easy (the desire to indulge in some good old retail therapy is real), but I’m taking this time to learn more about the brands I support and find some new brands that share my values.
Once again, I am not perfect and neither are my methods. I don’t claim to be the most sustainable or eco-friendly shopper but I’m trying. I love that I now have a little voice in my head whenever I go to buy something that makes me stop for a second and ask: where and how was this made? And more than anything, I love that I no longer feel guilty when I shop. I used to feel so ashamed when I would buy new clothes, but now I feel excited and even proud when I find the perfect pair of vintage jeans or I discover a new sustainable brand because I know this is my own little way of going green.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Jordana Colomby)