When friends and family ask me about being ethical or sustainable with my fashion choices, I’m usually met with curiosity and the assumption that everything I own has to be organic cotton. While shopping with my mom and sister during the holiday season, they found a coat they thought I would like and remarked, “It’s made from vegan materials.” I replied that vegan materials are not the sole reason I purchase something and that they aren’t always the best choice. “You would know that,” my sister said. As someone who supports more sustainable and ethical practices in fashion and consumption, I do my best to stay informed. But if there is one priority I have for being an ethical fashionista, it’s not having a closet full of recycled polyester. What exactly do I think is important for someone who supports sustainable and ethical fashion? It’s not having a closet full of organic and recycled materials.
Unfortunately, I think many people begin to assume that I have completely thrown out my closet in replace of another one. As I’ve been decluttering, I’ve found minimalism is not the only or best answer for sustainable living. What’s more important is realizing why I’ve acquired these items and what I understand about my purchases so I don’t over-consume in the future. I don’t consider myself a minimalist, but going through what I own has made me examine the relationship I have with my belongings.
After reading a recent blog post by Tortoise & Lady Grey about intentional consumption, I started to realize the main core value for me as an ethical fashionista. It’s not about what I own, but using what I have and understanding the relationship I have with items I own. It may sound strange to dive this deep into my belongings, but as I’m going through more of my clothes each year, I start to recall the story behind my purchase and why I bought something. Items I had a more meaningful connection to I kept, and items I didn’t have a relationship with I gave away to a new home. Some items I donated to thrift stores, but many items I donated to the education department at the museum I work for. A co-worker of mine recently thanked me for donating so many crafts and fabrics for children to create their own art. I began to see that being someone who advocates for sustainable and ethical practices in fashion is someone who also has a strong relationship with what they own, even if someone else ends up loving it instead.
From this experience, the main rule for me as I strive to make more sustainable choices could be best explained by this infographic of the Buyerarchy of Needs:
So, if there is one rule I think is important for being an ethical fashionista, it’s not about having a closet full of organic and recycled materials. It would be nice to have, but I’ve found there is one rule that is even more important to me: Use and have a connection with what I own. Simple and nothing more.
What is one rule you follow when it comes to being an ethical fashionista?