Santa shops sustainably: how to buy ethically this holiday season

By Siobhan Elizabeth Ball

Elm Staff Writer

As social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok generate conversations regarding the environmental impact of clothing, the term “sustainable fashion” is becoming one of the hottest Internet buzzwords. But what exactly does the term mean?

“Sustainable fashion” is a catch-all term for any piece of clothing that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, improves the working conditions of laborers and limits the environmental impact of clothing production. 

The practice comes with a price, however. Because these garments are produced at a high cost, sustainable fashion pieces often retail for hundreds of dollars. Clothing from popular sustainable brands, like Patagonia and Reformation, range anywhere from $50 to almost $500. More affordable sustainable options include second-hand shopping and mending pre-owned pieces.

“Fast fashion” is another term frequently seen on social media. The phrase refers to clothing created to replicate high-fashion designs that are mass-produced at a low cost to expedite production. 

Popular fast fashion brands include SHEIN, Forever21, H&M, and Zara, who sell clothing at a comparatively cheaper price point. According to the Harvard Business Review, SHEIN is now “…the fastest growing e-commerce company in the world.”

This is due in part to the company’s ability to reproduce trending social media looks in a matter of days. 

According to an analysis conducted by author and technology specialist Matthew Brennan, SHEIN takes only three to five days to conceptualize, produce, and ship a new, trending garment. In comparison, it takes two weeks before a new trend hits the shelves of other fast fashion retailers, like Zara and H&M.

Fashion trends are not inherently bad; they are popular for a reason, but oftentimes consumers are influenced by social media to impulsively purchase a trendy piece that they do not need. 

To avoid falling into the trend trap,The Guardian suggests slowing down consumption in order to fully think a purchase through. This mindset is especially relevant during the holidays.

Beginning far before the holiday season even starts, consumers are faced with the opportunity to take advantage of early Black Friday sales and overconsume in the name of holiday cheer. 

To avoid overconsumption this December, try to curb your impulses and think about the practicality of clothing prior to purchasing. Consider shopping at different stores that are transparent about their production, such as Girlfriend Collective, Reformation, or Patagonia, or buying second hand at vintage outlets and thrift stores.

If you are considering buying a gift for yourself, invest in quality basics to build up a capsule wardrobe. By curating a collection of basics, you will have a collection of well-made, timeless pieces to match any other items of clothing.

In the throes of the holiday season, sustainable fashion is more important than ever to consider as we approach the new year — a time when consumers tend to change their wardrobes. By slowing your consumption, you can make smarter decisions and avoid overspending.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo caption: Many consumers are shifting away from making holiday purchases at malls. According to Statista, 57% of shoppers opted to shop online in 2021.

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