The Good Wear's Beginning
For several years, I have been following along with fair fashion brands (or ethical, sustainable, responsible brands - whichever you'd like to call them) and was forever changed by the mission and quality of goods that these unique brands were creating. But for a while, it was more about admiration and learning with a lack of commitment... until it wasn't. Last year, I was in a bind to figure out what I wanted to do for my career (and life) and knew I wanted to take a jump into something I was passionate about - ethical fashion. With months of planning and encouragement, I launched The Good Wear in March of this year. I had committed in January to start shopping only ethically produced fashion - which means shopping brands that are transparent about their supply chain, creating product that is sustainable for the environment or shopping recycled clothing from consignment and vintage stores. And from this decision, I wanted to share how we could all unite to be better fashion consumers.
QUICK FACTS TO KNOW ABOUT ME
before getting into deeper, passionate opinions...
- I look forward to coffee every morning
- Board games are on my list of ultimate favorite past times
- My favorite candy is Harisbo Gummy Bears
- I love reading books and have a goal of reading 40 this year (does Harry Potter on tape count?)
- I have re-watched The Office on Netflix almost 8 times
- I am training to run a marathon this fall (goal is to finish!)
- Fun fact : I hope to own my own ethical fashion company one day!
So the ultimate question is... why trust me and The Good Wear for advice + facts about responsible style and ethical fashion? Here's the story...
I became interested in ethical fashion while learning about Fair Trade brands during my time studying Fashion Merchandising at VCU. I've always loved fashion, style and creativity and this program taught me so much more about the industry than I could have expected. I was able to study buying, store planning, retail math, branding, marketing, forecasting and more as well as make life long friendships with those in the industry. But it wasn't until my Junior year (2012) that I truly came across Fair Trade during a research project. I was instantly intrigued by the impacts of clothing + material production and the behind the scenes of the fashion industry's supply chain. And although I didn't act on it (yet), I began paying attention to brands, reading new books, and following a variety of social media accounts (the best tool for discovering new brands).
There were a few brands that stood out to me from the very beginning and continue to influence me today. The first company is Everlane. I was instantly attracted to this brand because of their upfront approach to TRANSPARENCY (buzz word) in their supply chain and quality of products they were producing. Plus they were creating eye-catching minimalistic styles... and still do. I ordered my first purchase of a canvas tote bag in 2012 (?) and still own and use it daily! But what was even cooler about this purchase (yes, I get very nerdy about this) is that I could find out where my bag was made around the world, with exactly what materials and for what price it cost... directly on the page I made my purchase! Really no one else was doing this at the time and it impacted the way I viewed shopping online. Since then, I've made many Everlane purchases and still love their transparent view on production. Seriously I've used my first tote from years ago for travel, work and every-day and it's still completely intact - if that doesn't scream high quality, I don't know what does.
The second company that stood out was 31 Bits. And this one stood out for different reasons - it was one of the first I dove into that invested in an artisan based business model. Basically, this means that 31 Bits invested in a community of artisans somewhere in the world (in this case, Uganda) and employed them to create jewelry - because that was skill they already had! In this business model, the artisans are paid regardless of if the product is sold or not and thus creating sustainable living conditions for many families. Since then, 31 Bits continues to employ these women as well as investing in the their education and family life! This is a sustainable approach to smaller global economic communities that would not have the same opportunities in their lifetime without companies like 31 Bits. I was amazed by the incredible passion the women behind the company had and the impacts they were making. Their jewelry is made from recycled materials and incredibly attractive to wear for day or night occasions.
Today, there are dozens and dozens of other brands that I've come to love and admire for their transparency, responsible style, creativity, artisan work, and more. There are brands that are creating jobs abroad, but also smaller retailers that are focused on creating sustainable fabrics and selling ethical products sourced from the United States. The challenge for us then comes to find and get to know them (and ignore the crazy marketing tactics from the larger brands that we all know and have loved in the past...).
WHY ETHICAL FASHION
So why should we even invest our time, money and effort into ethical fashion?
As I've gotten to know the facts and meaning behind ethical fashion, I've come to realize the importance of our purchases. We live in a society that calls on us to increasingly buy more, yet we continue to throw out our clothing and goods faster. With ethical fashion's pricing and many company's business models, buying less is WAY better. (example : Patagonia's "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign) We have been habitual trained by the industry (yes, it's true), to trust that we must indulge in every style during each season - but did you know that with fast fashion today, there are about 52 seasons of releases by brands when there used to only be 4 a year? Talk about consumption... But don't fret, we have the ability to change those habits one step at a time.
A friend recently asked me "Is it hard to buy only ethical clothing?". And my answer is yes, it's tougher because my choices aren't thrown right in front of me. I typically can't run to the mall to purchase a dress or a pair of jeans, but have to take a bit more intentional time to go online and find a retailer that may sell the brand I want. Or I have to order online and wait for the shipping to arrive. Which in reality has made me realize I have a lot of things I think I "need" already in my closet.
Overall, my viewpoint has changed on how I see the items in front of me. When I look at an article of clothing or a pair of shoes, I see the impacts that go on behind the scenes of what went into creating that product (Watch The True Cost movie on Netflix to see first hand). I see the hands that touched the garment and I want to know that my purchase is going to make a positive impact in someone else's life. Because the reality is, our purchases make a difference. We typically don't EVER think about this, but someone is touching our clothing to sew it, construct it, or package (even if they use machines) and we must ask ourselves - are they getting paid fairly? Are they being treated as every human should? Or even, is this fabric safe to wear?
In the past decade, we've paid a lot of attention to the facts coming out about the food industry. Many of us take it extremely seriously that we must look for more organic and natural solutions to avoid chemicals that are in processed food. The fashion industry awareness is now becoming the same way. We must pay attention so we don't purchase clothing that has chemicals hurting our body because it was sourced incorrectly (company supply chain transparency helps this). We must pay attention and call on brands to reveal the standards they use in their factories to protect human life (wouldn't we want the same treatment if we were in their place?).
The past 7 months have changed my life and perspective of how I think of my past, current and future wardrobe. When I think of something I may want for an upcoming event, rather than running to a store, I take the time to realize I probably have that item in my closet. I am able to develop new habits to look for higher quality and something I will want to wear when I'm 25 to 35 to maybe even 50 years old! I hope The Good Wear can help reveal that, you too, have the same ability to change your viewpoint and CHANGE THE INDUSTRY! How cool and revolutionary is that!?
QUICK FACTS TO KNOW ABOUT FAST FASHION
- Fast Fashion : an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers
- Retailers like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Loft, etc are considered fast fashion brands because of their style turnover and lower prices
- Fast fashion brands have been revealed to cut corners in their supply chain, mispay workers, use global slavery, chemically produced materials, etc.
- Most clothing produced in this quick fashion is lower quality to produce at a quicker timeline... meaning your clothes won't last as long
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR NEXT
- The next 10x10 Style Challenge! *very excited to do another one of these in the next few months
- Posts on sustainable fibers + materials to know, responsible denim brands to know, ethical menswear companies (WOO!), and much more
- Frequent updates on Instagram here
- A "Brands to Know" list permanently posted on The Good Wear site to feature brands you can always go to in order to find the pieces you need
- A "Terms to Know" list to help you get to know the fair fashion industry while researching and shopping at all your favorite brands!
If you are on the hunt for an item and need recommendations - where to look for a responsible item + styles, how to find deals, how to depict company transparency - please reach out! This is something I am passionate about and love to investigate and learn more alongside this community!
Over the next few months, there will be a concise 'Brands' list that will help provide direction towards finding more of these products. And make it easy to do so. But until then, I hope to help by word of mouth!
Follow along on Instagram : @thegoodwearblog
*So many thanks to my talented and dear friend Lexi from Alexa Ann Photography for the photos you see here - Lexi has given up so much of her time to help me visually express The Good Wear's values of transparency, creativity and style.
Without her, I don't know where The Good Wear would be. If you haven't already, give her a follow on her Instagram!