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Top sustainable fashion trends to watch out for in 2021

Guide on how to achieve a more eco-conscious wardrobe

Sustainable fashion is a trend itself, with an increased desire for conscious and ethical standards when it comes to our clothing. Ultimately there are plenty of brands to choose from and here are the top 5 trends in eco-fashion to look out for in 2021.

The public’s inclination to shop clothing in an ethical way has grown over the years. Shopping for clothes is an inevitability, but it has ecological effects that we all need to consider. Luckily, consumers are beginning to understand that the day-to-day decisions we make can add up to a single large impact. Responsible consumption is a simple way to contribute positively toward a bigger picture of sustainability, and fortunately, you can shop ethically and maintain your unique sense of style at the same time. 

Top sustainable fashion trends to watch out for in 2021
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What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is defined by manufacturing methods that minimize wasteful or unethical practices, whether that be in the materials used or the labor methods implemented. Sustainable fashion has become more popular with each year, and the general mentality of supporting brands that have adopted sustainable practices has become commonplace. Many companies have revamped their production processes in recent years in hopes of embracing these concepts, so shopping sustainably has never been easier. 

Trend #1: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Some of the most effortless ways to create a sustainable capsule wardrobe will also help you save money in the long run. We should all be reducing, reusing, and recycling clothing items whenever we can. 

  • Reduce: One of the best places to shop ethically is your local thrift store. Thrifting is a great way to build up your favorite go-to’s without any guilt. Buying pre-worn items inherently cuts down on the damage much of the fashion industry creates with material waste, plastic production, water waste, and neglected labor laws. You’re actually reducing unnecessary production by finding these hidden treasures, and you’re saving space in our already overflowing landfills by creating a demand for used clothing. 
  • Reuse: The consignment industry has been booming lately, with ethical online companies such as The RealReal and Poshmark emerging to meet the public’s growing interest in sustainability. So even if your city doesn’t have a consignment shop worth writing home about, there are numerous online channels to help take advantage of the consignment trend. 
  • Recycle: Is your closet starting to burst out at the seams? It might be time to consider pulling a Marie Kondo! Gather items to donate to a local thrift store or consignment shop. You can even accomplish this without ever leaving your home thanks to easy-to-use apps like Depop and ThredUp, which allow you to sell and shop for pre-worn clothing items from the comfort of your own couch. 
Top sustainable fashion trends to watch out for in 2021
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Trend #2: Avoid Fast-Fashion Fads

The opposite of sustainable fashion is fast fashion. Fast fashion is when retailers churn out items rapidly, typically due to a popular style that’s recently made a mark on social media. This practice is rarely ethical, with materials and labor methods used that cause even the most fashion-savvy connoisseurs to raise an eyebrow. 

The easiest way to identify if a brand is guilty of contributing to the fast fashion industry is by simply taking note of how often new items are released and what materials these items are made from. If you’re seeing new stuff every time you enter the store, that might mean the brand is all about ordering large collections from manufacturers overseas. Some of those manufacturers are located in countries without strict labor or emissions laws, which only adds to the issue. 

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Trend #3: Read the Tag

Sure, that jacket looks great on you, but do you know how it was made? Are the materials ethically sourced? It may be common knowledge that sporting leather isn’t the most environmentally sound fashion trend, but what about the lining of your favorite winter boots or the amount of plastic used in your accessories? Some harmful materials to avoid include:

  • Animal Byproducts: This a no-brainer, but when animals suffer for the sake of the latest fad, it’s problematic. So ditch the fur coat and leather boots for an ethical, plant-based alternative that looks and feels just as stylish. For example, a great alternative to leather includes items made with recycled rubber, a total win-win for sustainability!
  • Synthetics: The biggest culprit in this arena is polyester, but synthetics also include items manufactured with acrylics and nylon. Importantly, you’ll find that most accessories are made from natural materials, which last longer and resist things like heat much better than their synthetic counterparts. 
  • Cotton: As a very common material used in clothing, cotton production is an environmental and social issue that contributes to labor abuse, water waste, and the overuse of harmful pesticides. 

Instead, look for brands that use environmentally-friendly materials, which are often more durable and comfortable.

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Trend #4: Don’t Let Deals Fool You

If an item is trending on Instagram and you find it super cheap at your local mall, you’re likely looking at cheap materials as well. There is a reason that fast fashion brands are able to have low prices. Not only do these items tend to degrade quicker over time, but they’re also usually produced using weak and easily-obtained materials that assist with the fast fashion model. Additionally, if you pay less for an item, that means the laborers are getting paid less for making it.

Two key elements of sustainable fashion are taking better care of your current wardrobe and wearing the same cute dresses, jumpsuits, and rompers for every occasion. It’s much harder to accomplish that goal if the stylish piece you bought in the spring is already falling apart by fall.

Top sustainable fashion trends to watch out for in 2021
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Trend #5: Do Your Research

Humans are creatures of comfort, so taking the first step into sustainable fashion practices can be daunting for those of us who already have our favorite stores and brands. Research the practices of your current favorites and contemplate if these are companies that you feel should be supported. If they’re initially just too good to give up, consider limiting the amount of money you spend with them to at least minimize your own carbon footprint. 

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Baby Steps, Baby!

Sustainable fashion trends are not an “all-or-nothing” movement. The goal is simple: normalize ethical decision making when rummaging through the clothing racks. Even taking baby steps toward more sustainable fashion trends will ultimately contribute to a more positive future for everyone. Brands produce clothing based on demand, which means it’s up to us to decide what’s considered in and what needs to be out for good.

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Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, who has worked with fashion brands, such as Velvet Heart Boutique. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about the latest trends and wellness.

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