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Shopping at H&M in the Denver Pavilions the other day, I noticed a few racks of plain, nondescript clothes. Compared to everything else in the store they looked lifeless and uninteresting. Hanging on the rack was a sign that declared them to be H&M’s organic clothing line.
Somehow this didn’t surprise me; organic clothing has never been my favorite. It’s not that I don’t believe in sustainability and eco-awareness but rather that organic clothing often simply just isn’t my style.
Many brands target their organic collections toward a very specific audience: organic equals hippy in the eyes of designers. Neutral or earthy colors, simple designs, flowiness, and comfort over style are all common traits in organic apparel that make the eco-friendly style somewhat boring to the average consumer. Even organic clothes that don’t follow the hippy aesthetic tend to be the mostly basic, solid color designs. If you’re looking for something trendier or simply more your style yet still eco-friendly, organic clothing may not be the way to go.
Some brands, such as Patagonia, support free trade, fair labor practices, and organic materials, all of which seem to be noble goals. However, they only sell athletic gear. Patagonia also created a green program called the Common Thread Initiative, a pledge that states that Patagonia will do it’s best to create long lasting items, repair items that break, and recycle things when they finally wear out. The customer promises to buy only what they need, repair things that break, reuse things, and recycle only when it’s the last option.
As consumers, we can apply this same initiative of reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle to our own wardrobes.
Buy good quality clothing that lasts longer. As a college student on a budget, it’s often hard to justify spending a significant amount of money on clothes instead of just buying cheap from Wal-Mart. However, investing in better-made products tends to pay off in the long run.
Find items that will stand the test of time and not fall victim to the fickleness of fashion trends or frequent wearings. Basics that won’t change every season, such as jeans, blazers, little black dresses, suits, etc. are perfect examples of what clothes to invest in.
Learn how to sew.
It gives you the ability to fix clothing that you would otherwise throw away. Pants too long? Hem them. Buttons fall off your jacket? Sew them back on. Don’t like the hood of that coat? Remove it and sew it back up.
If something doesn’t feel or fit quite right you can change it. Sewing also provides many opportunities for creativity: embroider a boring shirt, switch out buttons on an old coat, transform a long shirt into a crop top — the possibilities are endless.
If DIY isn’t your thing, consider purchasing used clothing. The clothing has already been made and sold so there’s no wasting of energy or resources. Plenty of stores in Boulder offer used clothing at various prices.
Goldmine Vintage is one of the pricier stores, but they offer a large selection of good quality vintage clothing from various past decades. If you’re into retro style you’re sure to find some original pieces. Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet are generally a bit cheaper, selling stylish used clothes from popular brands. Goodwill, Savers and other thrift stores such as the Greenwood Wildlife Refuge Thrift Shop offer the cheapest of the cheap. The caveat is that no one has sorted through them to see if they are in good condition, let alone stylish. So, it’s up to you to sort through piles of hideous pieces to find the diamond in the rough. The Internet provides great options too such as Etsy.com. Etsy has great vintage sellers who offer lots of one-of-a kind treasures.
If you feel uncomfortable wearing clothes that have been worn by a total stranger, another option is to have a clothing swap. Get together with friends and bring old clothes you no longer like or no longer fit. Trade, everybody wins. Or, if your roommates are the same size as you, why not share clothes, particularly if you need a special item for one occasion that you know you’ll never wear again.
Recycling is the last resort — once repairing and reusing are no longer an option — because recycling usually takes more energy and resources. Consider finding a new use for your own clothing: turn old shirts into rags or sew an old sweater into a throw pillow.
Some large clothing brands also offer clothes made out of recycle materials. Patagonia, for instance, uses recycled soda bottles to create polyester. Better yet, support local artists who use materials such as old seatbelts or soda cans or other old materials to make unique jewelry or accessories. For example, I purchased a pair of earrings made out of old typewriter keys from the Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery.
Fashion has a reputation for being frivolous, but being stylish doesn’t equate to being wasteful. With some creativity and planning ahead, you can cultivate a unique, green fashion forward wardrobe that’s also friendly to the environment this St. Patrick’s Day.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Karyssa Cox at Karyssa.firstname.lastname@example.org.