Could Sustainability Be The New Sexy?

Sorting through all your clothing for the ethical options can cause you to drink a bottle of wine

The well-worn, Madmen-esque marketing mantra that "sex sells" may still hold up, but a new wave of conscious consumerism has folks many reaching for benefit-corporation over bikini-clad and eco-products over easy prices.

But why can't we have both? Who wouldn't want to look hot, fun, beautiful, trendy, cool, sexy etc.  and still do better for the planet and its people?

What is known as "fast fashion" is a complex and frightening issue in which the hottest trends are made to appear to come and go so quickly that consumers feel the need to buy more and more with little regard for the environmental and ethical impact of the industry. Fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world, and the second largest consumer of water. Around 13 million tons of textile waste end up in landfills each year. Furthermore, the hazardous production and manufacture process  is horrible for water systems, agriculture and even your own health. Plus, the push for fast fashion results in deplorable working conditions.

Frankly, there is nothing sexy about any of this.

And speaking of such, its formal/grad season! So while students are scrambling to finish thesis papers and study for finals, they also have to start thinking about what to wear to their faculty formal or graduation.

So I set out to find where sexy and sustainability co-exist, tips for how you can look good and still do good and where your intentional choice to be better to the earth will help you be your best self.

Be kind and rewind (rewear)

Lizzie McGuire struck the fear of being an outfit repeater into every 90's child's heart. Wearing the same dress to the different event could be a hard pill to swallow (what about the instagram!), but if you can get over it, you'll save yourself cash money. And you can switch up other things like your accessories, your shoes and even your hair to give the same outfit a whole new look.


What are friends for?

Still don't want to wear the same thing more than once? Borrow from a buddy! Shopping your friends' closets is a great way to find something cute and all you have to spend is quality-time.
Or better yet, turn it into a party. My gal pals and I had a dress swap this past week where we all brought our dresses over to my place, drank some wine and had a mini fashion show. It was tons of fun and a really stellar study break. I got honest fashion advice about what looked good and we all found something super cute to wear.

Check out local vintage stores, the Free Store and so much more!

There are ways to shop without breaking the bank. Plus shopping lightly-loved clothing saves money, but also saves the clothing from ending up in landfills.

Here are a list of the best consignment stores in the Ottawa area. Also uOttawa's Free Store is a great place to look for outfit pieces for free! Another good place to look is the uOttawa Clothing Sale/Exchange group on Facebook. You can post your own gently-loved items and find those of others.

And I've never tried this before, but Rent frock Repeat (they have a showroom in Ottawa) seems like a cool way to get a designer dress without the environmental and actual cost.

But what happens if you find an adorable vintage dress, but it isn't quite the right size? Well become tight with your tailor! You might have heard the slogan "repair is a radical act", but by fixing and reconstructing old pieces, you can give them new life.

(While on this topic, when you are discarding of your old clothing, don't throw it out! Donate it and repurpose it!)

Three visitors to the uOttawa Free Store take a look at the great things they found

Shop sustainable

Finally there are some higher-end retailers who are catching up with the times. My true favourite is Reformation; their clothing is so beautiful and so beautifully made! (and they have free shipping worldwide!)

Here's a list of some other high-end ethical fashion brands available in Canada.

On the down side, true sustainable fashion is often more expensive and difficult to find. But in defense of these brands, the quality is way better, they are typically fair-trade and domestically-manufactured and they are good for the earth and for you. It's an investment and a choice. So perhaps rather than buying five cheaply-made dresses at Forever 21, you can buy one beautifully-made one from an ethical retailer.

Some advice for folks who like to wear suits and ties

If you're a person who likes to wear suits and dress pants rather than dresses, I'm afraid this post is not going to be particularly helpful for you. There really aren't many ethical retailers out there catering to eco-friendly "men's" dress wear.

However Nordstrom, while it is not the most transparent of department stores despite their alleged ethical commitments, has a line of organic cotton dress shirts. Sadly, besides that, I could not find an environmentally-friendly dress shirt, or tie, dress pants or really anything, anywhere. So all this is to say, this is pretty disheartening and if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

Eco-friendly makeup

My piece last week talked about zero waste tooth paste and some other fun, eco-friendly bathroom tips. In addition, my favourite green and cruelty-free makeup brands are e.l.f., Lush and Physician's Formula. Again, here is a full list of green and cruelty-free makeup brands available at Sephora so you can put your best face forward.

What not to wear  

Do your research before you buy! Rank A Brand is a great source of info. The worst culprits will rarely be transparent on their own platforms with their actual sustainability commitments and manufacturing practices.

And all in all, the average piece of clothing is worn only seven times before it is discarded. So whatever you do end up buying, try buy something you can invest in.

We have the power to demand change with our dollar. We can use that power to show retailers that sustainability is sexy! Instead of being addicted to fast fashion, perhaps we could get addicted to socially responsible, community-oriented, and eco-friendly fashion?

And if you have a favourite brand who has made some seriously sexy commitments to sustainability, let me know!

And best of luck with your grad ball/faculty formal! You're going to look great!

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

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