The Sustainable Fashion Journey: Baby Steps

My love of fashion was born in a Rubbermaid dress up box, which belonged to me when I was around five years old. Inside this box (and realistically all over the floor) silky, frilly, tully fabric spilt out from all sides. My outfits changed two to three times a day and I was always playing a part in some fantastical story I had made up; and this really captures the reason why I love fashion: it is one of the best ways to express oneself without speaking. Twenty-five years later and I still spend lots of time creating outfits and thinking about style. While some may consider this a banal pursuit, for me, it is the best way to fit creativity into my life in the corporate world. 

The True Cost of Fast Fashion

I recently relocated to Raleigh, NC, after living in Chennai, India, where I was interning for a human rights NGO called the International Justice Mission. While there, I met a group of social justice warriors, many of whom identified sustainable fashion as a way to combat modern day slavery. Through the years of subscriptions to Teen Vogue, shopping marathons at the mall, and even my internship with a designer in New York, I never gave any thought to the issue of fast fashion. When it was brought to my attention, it took some time for me to acknowledge that the fabric in my favorite J. Crew dress may have been dyed by someone who was essentially a modern day slave. But the sad reality is, it’s true. It happens to people around the world and I actually met people in India who suffered as a result of this problem. For this reason I have started taking sustainable steps toward being more conscious about how I buy clothing.

My Start with Slow Fashion

In late 2019, I participated in a clothing swap, where me and a bunch of friends Sustainable fashion baby stepsbrought clothes and traded them so we could freshen up our wardrobes without having to go buy something new. At the beginning of 2020, I started a microblog, where I’ve enjoyed expressing my personal style in a little grid of photos and pithy captions, particularly seeking alternative apparel and the opportunity to celebrate local and small designers and brands. (Local and small designers are not guaranteed to be ethical/sustainable clothing brands; however, given their lower volume, it is likely their material is more ethically sourced.) And most recently, I took a huge leap and bought my first thrifted dress from a boutique that focuses on vintage items, yet again seeking recycled clothing rather than encouraging “fast-fashion”! I’ve also been doing research to see which brands are clearly not ethical in their practices and am actively avoiding those brands/stores.

Baby Steps

It is a slow journey, but I’ve found that baby steps are more sustainable than cutting something out entirely. I’m very excited about continuing to move toward ethical, sustainable fashion and shopping from brands who are making changes in that direction such as Visage Collective! Who’s with me?




Sarah lives and works in Raleigh, NC where she enjoys exploring local places to shop and dine when not working at her job in financial services. You will never find her without a cup of coffee in-hand! Feel free to say hello on her Instagram page: @brownsarahanne - she'd love to meet you!

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