When shopping for that killer new dress, you have many options. Mini or maxi? Comfort or form-fitting, knock-out silhouette? With all of these decisions to make, the question of whether the brand uses green manufacturing processes might not ever enter your mind, but with the rise of green technology and eco-friendly attitudes, making those small changes to dress with the environment in mind is easier and more budget-friendly than you’d think.
An estimated 1 million tons of textiles are thrown away each year, from cotton t-shirts to synthetic fibers. The latter are especially harmful to the environment because synthetics take much longer to decompose, according to wasteonline.org.uk. Many in the fashion industry are doing their part to counter wastefulness, creating "upcycled," organic and natural fashion lines that employ green practices.
Think it sounds a bit pricey and pretentious? Far from it. Steering your wardrobe toward the green route is as simple as visiting your local thrift store. Angela Johnson, a Phoenix-based fashion designer who turns vintage t-shirts into high-fashion garments, believes renovated fashion finds can be found at everyday thrift stores such as Goodwill and St Vincent de Paul.
"Even when I didn't know how to sew and turn old garments into new ones, I still found a way to incorporate vintage fashion into my wardrobe," Johnson says. "It's a great way to wear something unique and experiment with or even start a new trend."
Johnson suggests going for silhouettes that were in style 20 years ago. Trends have a cycle of about 20 years, and just as fashion designers recycle old fashion trends, the savvy fashionista can be ahead of the curve by snagging up those dated thrift finds.
Check the label
When buying new clothes and fabrics, look at what kind of fabric you're buying and its source. Naturally occuring fabrics such as wool and cotton have less of an impact than synthetic fabrics. Additionally, some designer duds are shipped around the world, using jet fuel and gasoline to get to the department store shelf and increasing the designer's carbon footprint.
Major cities usually have a pool of aspiring designers devoted to living and designing locally; their designs are typically available online and at local boutiques.
Study NY, a New York fabric company, is one of many textile manufacturers devoted to recycling fabrics and turning them into high-quality, high-fashion textiles. Owner Tara St James accumulates thrown-away fabric throughout the city and recycles it. She also uses organic fabrics and no-waste patternmaking techniques.
Green might be en vogue, but for designers like Johnson, going green is more than just a profitable gimmick.
"It makes me feel great that I'm not using up the planet's resources to create the material I use," she says. "If everyone made one or two small positive [fashion] environmental changes in their lives, it would impact the environment exponentially."