What constitutes eco and ethical fashion?

When people ask me about my interests, and I tell them "eco and ethical fashion", many have never heard of these terms--and so there is often some confusion about what I am even talking about.  So I'm here to clear things up and provide you with some information and perspective on something very near and dear to my heart. 

"Eco" (ecological or sustainable) fashion is clothing that is kind/good to the EARTH, and "ethical" fashion is kind/good to PEOPLE (and animals).  Eco fashion is not always ethical, just like ethical fashion is not always good for the environment--but when your fashion items are both eco and ethical, its a win-win for both the environment AND people! 

Photo by me, taken at MATE the Label, Headquarters in Los Angeles, a brand dedicated to sustainability.

Photo by me, taken at MATE the Label, Headquarters in Los Angeles, a brand dedicated to sustainability.

EXAMPLES OF "ECO FASHION" PRACTICES:

-Buying secondhand from a thrift or consignment store (this is the most sustainable option): 1. These items are discarded or donated as the owner no longer wants them. If these are not given to a secondhand store or new owner they will be thrown away, likely into landfill waste. 2. You can use less gas by shopping at small, "local" thrift and consignment stores that are often within your own community.  3. You are literally REDUCING your total purchases at a normal retailer, the cost of the item (your wallet thanks you!), and your environmental footprint, REUSING someone’s discarded clothing, and RECYCLING the items back into your closet so the pieces can have a new life. 

-Buying secondhand from an online store such as Tradesy, eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, Depop, thredUP, etc. Buying online as opposed to in person is slightly less sustainable as you have to factor in environmental pollution from packaging materials and shipping/transportation.

-Buying something secondhand that is still new from online or in-store. Not all secondhand items have to be "used". Although buying new secondhand items is slightly less sustainable than buying used, it still offsets the manufacturing and production impacts in comparison to buying new straight from the company or retailer. A great item to buy secondhand that is new is swimwear, as it seems unhygienic to most people to purchase swimwear worn by other individuals. 

-Using more sustainable fabrics such linen, hemp, modal, tencel, etc. Bonus if you use organic! 

-Using recycled fibers, fabrics, and materials. An example would be using old plastic bottles to spin into fibers and then into fabric to make a new shirt. 

-Upcycling fabrics and clothing items. This is not to be confused with recycling as upcycling does not go through a shred>spin>new fabric cycle that recycling does. Upcycling keeps the general fabric components. An example would be cutting up an old t-shirt and making a reusable grocery bag out of it. 

-Purchasing products from companies who implement sustainable practices and elements in their production, factories, packaging, etc. 

-Purchasing products that use natural dyes like vegetables or seaweed instead of harsh chemical dyes that impact your health and the environment.

 

EXAMPLES OF "ETHICAL FASHION" PRACTICES:

-Having a "Sweatshop" free environment: There should be no harsh working conditions for the employees, all the design and production and shipping facilities and factories must comply with state/country regulations and standards.

-Fair Trade: Workers are compensated fairly for their work in accordance with regulations and wage guidelines.  

-Any initiatives, programs, partnerships, etc. that a brand may have that is dedicated to social/environmental good.  An example could be an artisan jewelry company that donates a percentage of profits to the World Wildlife Foundation or charity wellness programs for the artisans who make the jewelry. 

Taken at MATE the Label Headquarters. Wearing vegan hat, MATE the Label organic cotton tee, thrifted vegan belt from Poshmark, Boyish by Her jeans made from 30% recycled denim and 70% BCI cotton (Better Cotton Initiative) designed by one of my best friends Nicole Azevedo, and vegan Coconuts by Matisse x Free People booties.

Taken at MATE the Label Headquarters. Wearing vegan hat, MATE the Label organic cotton tee, thrifted vegan belt from Poshmark, Boyish by Her jeans made from 30% recycled denim and 70% BCI cotton (Better Cotton Initiative) designed by one of my best friends Nicole Azevedo, and vegan Coconuts by Matisse x Free People booties.

OVERLAP - CAN BE BOTH ECO & ETHICAL

Made in America: Most clothing items made in the United States are not necessarily eco-friendly or sustainable. However, if the clothing is made in the United States, wages and working conditions in American factories are usually better than in other countries, due to stricter regulations and workplace standards. However, there have been reports that there are still sweatshops in the US where workers are not earning minimum wage, or are required to work long hours or work in other potentially hazardous conditions, so try to do some research. By shopping local(ish), you also cut down on transportation pollution. Something shipped within the same state or country has much less of a transportation environmental impact than something shipped from overseas. Some companies take greater measures to implement sustainable practices and materials than others. Depending on the company or brand though, you could be shopping both eco and ethical made in the USA items! Bonus: by purchasing items within country or state lines, you're also supporting the economy and hardworking Americans! 

Made in Europe, Australia, or Canada generally have similar working conditions to the US. 

Vegan Fashion:

Vegan fashion includes clothing items that are free of any animal products! This means no leather, suede, wool, silk, cashmere, fur, etc. The debate of vegan fashion needs to be addressed--you can make the case that it is eco or unsustainable and you can also make the case that it's ethical and non-ethical.  Every situation requires a bit of thoughtful analysis--Here are a couple of examples:  

Example 1: Company X sells Vegan shoes for ($10 - $30)

-Eco: Good because you're using much less resources to produce the fabrics and materials to make the shoes. Bad because this particular company is known for its pollution, harsh chemicals, etc. to produce shoes--thus potentially harming both the environment and workers' health. 

-Ethical: Good because you're not harming animals, but not so good because this company may cut corners in taking good care of their employees, and not pay them a fair wage for work, and there have less than good working conditions in their factories. 

Lower price point items are typically made cheap, do not last as long, but are much less likely to have animal products, whereas most more expensive items (unfortunately) are made with animal products and are durable. This is not the case with all brands and items though.

Example 2: Company Y sells Vegan shoes ($500+)

Eco: This company as a brand is dedicated to sustainability efforts in every area of its development and production.

Ethical: This brand is ethical all the way around - to humans, animals, and the environment. 

Promoting and practicing sustainable initiatives. Environmental sustainability is both a concern for both ethical fashion and eco fashion. While it is both eco and ethical--there is sometimes a conflict in that you can't always afford to buy the most expensive items you'd like--a good time for shopping for resale.

 

Reflect

I hope this information helps you think about the purchases that you make and the types of companies you support. This has been quite the learning process and journey for me over the last few years and I’m always learning more about this topic and am happy to share with you all. As sustainable/ethical fashion awareness grows, so does the industry. Consumer demand drives companies to make changes, so the more we learn and talk about these issues, the more companies will shift their mindset. Let’s #MakeShiftHappen! 

Saltwater Luxe Collaboration

This was probably one of my favorite shoots I've ever done! I had the pleasure of working with Saltwater Luxe, a casual luxury brand based in Long Beach, California. No joke, their office is two minutes from my apartment!! As you guys know, I'm a huge advocate of ethically sourced goods and Saltwater Luxe is Los Angeles made (yay no sweatshops!), and often sources vintage fabrics reducing their carbon footprint. Their style is beachy bohemian with a little adventure. Toria Webber (model) and I sought to capture the wanderlust #SWLBabe vibe and hit the road on a day trip to Angeles National Forest just east of Pasadena. Side Note: I highly recommend going on a weekday, there were barely any cars or people! We also ventured around some neighborhoods around Pasadena. It was so much fun and I can't wait to work with Toria and the gals over at Saltwater Luxe again in the future!

Local Nomad Collaboration

Explored around Papago Park in Tempe with my sorority little, Elizabeth for a shoot! We collaborated with Local Nomad Shop in Uptown Plaza in Phoenix and I styled the looks. All their pieces have such a cool back-story and the store owner, Lauren, seeks to find super unique, ethical, and sustainable vendors. As you guys know, I'm a huge advocate of local and sustainably sourced goods (especially ones that are cute..hehe) so it was great to work with Local Nomad Shop! Working with companies that share your values and interests are important in order to be genuine to yourself and your audience. I understand that it may be difficult at times to always be wearing/eating/using sustainable products, but every little bit helps!

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

One of my oldest and best friends, Kelsey Hughes, and I decided to go on a day trip to Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, AZ about an hour or so out of town. I was amazed on how much there was to do out there! We just went on the main trail which passed through multiple greenhouses, a bridge, a creek, and a short scenic hike around the area.

I recommend going here during the winter because everything is outside, not much shade, and your going to be drenched in sweat, likely getting a sunburn in 90+ degree weather if you don't. Unlike most national parks, scenic areas, and nature spots, there is an actual address to pinpoint where you are going and there is a huge parking lot which makes life way easier. You likely won't have cell service all day either and there aren't any food or snacks to buy so make sure to pack your own food! This is definitely worth a trip and makes for an awesome get-out-of-town day trip with friends!

Denim Shirt (Kelsey) - American Apparel

Black Distressed Skinny Jeans (Kelsey) - Topshop

Cream Fringe Sweater (Allison) - Free People

Vegan Suede Brown Hat (Allison) - Gigi Pip

High-Waisted Blue Denim Skinny Jeans (Allison) - Free People

Brown Vegan Western Booties (Allison) - Coconuts by Matisse

Black Vegan Suede Hat - Free People

Army Green Denim Shirt (Allison) - American Apparel

Taupe Shirt (Kelsey) - Kastlfel 

High-Waisted Black Denim Skinny Jeans (Allison) - American Apparel

Maroon Fuzzy Sweater (Allison) - Kensie

Black Tri-Blend Racerback (Allison) - American Apparel

Vegan Waterproof Hiking Boots (Allison) - Jeffrey Campbell, purchased on Poshmark

 

 

AZ Road Trip

I went on a road trip around Arizona with some of my girlfriends (Courtney, Blake, Alex, Tiffany, and Brooke) and it was such a blast!

Driving from Scottsdale, we went to Sedona on Day 1, hiked around Bell Rock, went to the downtown, saw Christmas carolers, and ate at a bomb Mexican place for lunch. We then spent the night at Alex's family's cabin in Munds Park, just a little north of Sedona. Alex's parents were SO nice and went up there earlier that day to set everything up for us. Her mom even left dinner in the fridge. So sweet.

On Day 2, we drove through Williams, had lunch and explored the area, then got to the Grand Canyon around 3pm. The Grand Canyon was FREEZING! We got some good photos (and laughs) there but we were not prepared for how cold it was. We were originally trying to spend the night in the Grand Canyon, but they have little lodging around the area and we didn't want to get hotel rooms. We ended up finding an amazing Air Bnb in Page about two hours north. It was way better than we were expecting!

On Day 3, we went to a crepe place for breakfast (I got vegan creme brûlée oatmeal with berries!) and then were on our way to Antelope Canyon. We decided to go to the lower part of Antelope Canyon from the reviews I saw online. It was cheaper (I think $28 or something), less crowded (supposedly), there was more climbing and stairs, and you didn't need to make a reservation. However, the tours did have a good amount of people and it was difficult to capture photos without strangers in the background. We left Antelope Canyon to travel to the instal-famous Horseshoe Bend on Lake Powell. The views were gorgeous and Courtney was giving us all heart attacks with how close she got to the edge (smh). We then began the drive back to Scottsdale (about 5 hours) and Alex dropped us off at our places. It was such a great trip with such great people. 

KEEP READING...  :)

I also partnered with a brand called Kastlfel for this trip and we got some really cool photos of their merchandise! Part of the reason I was so drawn to Kastlfel was their commitment to sustainability. As you guys know, I'm secretly suuuuper granola/hippie when it comes to the environment and ethically/sustainably sourced products. Their clothing is made from recycled plastic bottles and is actually so practical and soft! You could say I'm a HUGE fan.