How to Make Sustainable Fashion Choices During the Holidays

Maor Yur
December 26, 2019

Sometimes it feels like the holidays were designed to torture our healthy habits. Whether it be around our food and exercise or our spending, there’s no question that the winter months bring anxiety, often treated with retail therapy. According to the National Retail Federation, shopping in November and December accounts for 20% of annual retail sales each year, and they project about a 4% increase from last year as well for an estimated $730 billion this year.

While it’s not all fashion purchases, it is an area ripe for sustainable habits. How can consumers challenge themselves to make more sustainable choices, especially during the era of Black Friday/Cyber Monday craziness? What are some changes you can make as you anticipate the holidays?
Don’t Wait for Motivation to “Spark” on January 1st!
Perhaps you were one of many who found inspiration from Marie Kondo’s Netflix series that debuted January 1, 2019 (It really impacted Goodwill!), but chances are good that you have plenty in your closet right now that’s collecting dust. Take this time to reflect on what you wear, what you own, and what you may sell or give away. Go shopping in your own closet! For all the items that no longer appeal, consider selling to consignment shops and donating to give them a new life.
Instead of tossing old favorites, consider repairing them. Many brands that produce category products like shoes and winter coats offer opportunities to repair and recondition these items. Another way to prevent real-estate waste in your closet is to purchase items you can wear all year round. Avoid seasonality where you can, and focus on layering quality items.

Quality Over Quantity
If you do choose to buy new threads this holiday season, shop for garments that last, with ethical production processes. If the garment is part of a very specific trend (I’m looking at you, Millennial Pink Crop Top) really consider if it’s worth the purchase. “Fast fashion” appeals because it highlights newness, reflecting top designs at reasonable prices. Its invisible cost may not impact your wallet, but it has a huge impact on the humans producing it and the environment. Instead, support brands that offer quality garments (and ethical and sustainable production, such as on-demand digital printing that doesn’t waste and pollute freshwater) that will not only last longer, but also come without the invisible price tags.
Consider Vintage and Consignment (or Renting!)
Maybe the comeback of hammer pants (it was athleisure all this time, you guys) doesn’t help make the case, but vintage and consignment shops hold many hidden treasures for the intrepid consumer. Not only do these options come with steep discounts, but often they’re lightly worn or new. Shopping vintage is a fantastic way to show off your personality and, in the process, saving a garment from being dumped in a landfill or in developing countries. As an added bonus, many consignment shops also operate as nonprofits, so by shopping at places like Goodwill, you are helping support an incredible community network.
What if “vintage” isn’t your thing? Afterall, those mom jeans don’t look good on everyone. Consider renting your wardrobe, especially if it’s for an occasion like a wedding or holiday party. Instead of wasting money on a dress you’ll only wear once or twice or repeating looks on social media, look fly in the latest design and return it when you’re done. You rent your movies, TV shows, music, home, car, so why not clothing?
Hello 2020
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the frenzy of holiday spending. The term-du-jour in many sustainable circles is “precycle,” which means to avoid waste as much as possible prior to purchasing. As 2019 comes to a close and retailers make their final sales push, remember that the consumer holds a huge amount of power. Sustainable consumer choices show the industry that sustainability is more than a passing trend.