If you’ve been following CIG for a while, you probably know that the heart of what we do is social mission (if you didn’t know, now you do!). However, beyond our partnership with the Dream Centre, our hope is to bring awareness to sustainability--something our team members are all individually passionate about. If you’re anything like me (prior to starting my own journey) sustainability sounded great in theory, but in practice it felt wholly overwhelming.
Let’s back up for a minute, and I will share a little bit about why I decided to take the leap into sustainability. In the summer of 2017 a boss of mine shared with me about her own journey towards slow fashion. I was familiar with the concept of sustainability and used metal straws and didn’t litter, but hadn’t met someone who actively lived sustainability out--especially not when it came to clothes. She was everything I didn’t expect someone who shopped ‘green’ to be: she was trendy, chic, and pulled together. What surprised me was that when she spoke about how she dressed, it actually sounded simpler than the constant call of shopping malls and Winners and online shopping. It was slow: less pieces, better made, lower price tag (if you take the thrifting route). I decided to take the plunge into slow fashion and just see what came of this attempt.
In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that making the shift wasn’t going to require too much of a lifestyle change for me. At the time I was a broke college student and I already primarily thrifted to save money. Also, truthfully, it wasn’t a calculated or thoughtful decision. I wish I could say I was thinking of the philosophical implications of my choices and the greater good: but I wasn’t. I was just interested about this new way of living. So, as I do with so many decisions, I decided to just jump in and give it a try.
I jumped in totally imperfectly andI am glad I did. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I think that everyone trying to be sustainable and doing so somewhat imperfectly makes a greater impact than only those who can do so perfectly doing it. If we are being honest, and I’m a big fan of honesty, no one can do it perfectly. So don’t let that stop you.
Despite the looming question of ‘am I even doing this right?’ I found that it was actually fairly simple. Since beginning that journey, there are some simple principles I follow to do my part to ‘buy-into’ sustainable fashion.
- Thrift/buy second hand whenever possible: I know this feels elementary, but hear me out. The sad fact is that even sustainable brands generate waste--in packaging and production and shipping. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to get transparency from brands who claim sustainability (hang tight--I’ll dig into this more later). When you thrift/buy secondhand you’re giving an item a second chance at life--at the Dream Centre we are big believers in second chances at life. Also, good luck beating the prices. It’s a win-win-win.
- (Brace yourself--this next piece of advice isn’t conventionally sustainable.) Invest into pieces that will serve you long term. Even if the source isn’t sustainable. One of the best practices to be sustainable (in all realms of life) is to simply extend the life of an item. When you buy a pair of boots that will last you through style changes, many seasons, you’re actively rejecting widely projected ideals that each season warrants a whole new wardrobe.
- Don’t invest in trendy pieces. I think this is self-explanatory but it’s worth noting that trendy pieces are incredibly accessible from thrift stores. You’d be surprised how many items that are still sold in stores end up at thrift stores. Last summer I found the exact tank top I wanted from Aritzia at VV for $7 (the Babaton Sculpt Knit Tank for those interested), meanwhile it was still on the racks at Aritzia for over $50. I’m just saying. ;)
- Extend the life of your items. This practice takes form in all sorts of ways. It might mean correctly washing your garments or mending them instead of tossing them. It might even mean buying a size that you feel comfortable in. Or maybe, it’s repurposing your old clothes into something new. As someone who cannot sew, I’ll be honest this can be a hard one for me, but I’ve found little tips and tricks along the way.
- Regardless of where you’re shopping--you should LOVE the garment you’re buying. Maybe you decide thrifting isn’t for you. That’s ok. Just promise me to not settle for anything but the best fit, colour, and quality. All of it. You’ve got to love it. In my own journey one of the most important practices has been becoming more choosey with what I buy--this isn’t only more sustainable because you’ll end up with items you want to care for and keep, but it also is more economical because you will buy less.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is a piece of advice that I need to hear. This past weekend I thrifted 3 or 4 times, and found myself revelling in ALL that I could get for my money (as I often do) and the thought occurred to me, “is this just a substitute for conventional consumerism?” I had to be honest with myself, and put some very unneeded items back on the rack. I think an integral practice for me, and this stage in my journey, is actually actively fighting the thought processes around consumption: even sustainable consumption. But if you’re starting out, don’t stress about that. Start where you are and do what you can as the saying goes.
With all that said. I dare you to jump in. Jump in totally imperfectly. Let the bumps and the learnings of this new world take you on your own sustainable journey. Don’t compare with others, and don’t wince with guilt buying that shirt you love at the mall. Remember, it’s not about perfection. With any luck, your journey towards sustainability will take you to CIG, but I work there so I have to say that ;)