This episode is going back to basics, covering some of the biggest topics in sustainable fashion.
Cynthia Dam, the content creator behind Inspiroue, is talking about ways to get started with a more conscious approach to fashion, how to curate a sustainable wardrobe affordably, how to spot greenwashing brands, what to look for from a truly sustainable fashion brand, tips for smart thrifting, and more!
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The transcript of this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast is below.
ELIZABETH JOY: Hey there, and welcome or welcome back to the show. Today’s episode is going back to the basics a bit and exploring some of the most commonly asked questions in sustainable fashion.
I will be in conversation with Cynthia of the YouTube channel and associated Instagram account inspiroue.
Cynthia is a sustainable fashion advocate and educator who breaks down many complex topics on her channel in a very digestible way. She is definitely one of my favorite YouTubers, so I’m really excited to have her on the podcast today.
And in this interview, Cynthia is going to share what tips she has for those just getting started on their conscious fashion journey — which I think is also helpful in terms of how we can communicate to others who may be our conscious fashion beginners as well.
She’ll also be talking about:
- What her approach is to curating a sustainable wardrobe;
- Some ways that we can be ethical and sustainable fashion activists;
- How we can identify greenwashing and call in brands to actually do the work to be more sustainable;
- What elements Cynthia looks for to tell when a brand is actually conscious or sustainable;
- and her tips for thrifting like a pro.
- Plus, there will be much more along the way!
If you would like to read along or read this interview instead, the full transcript to this episode is in the show notes, which you can find on consciouslifeandstyle.com.
The link is also in the episode description. And if you like this interview, be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast so that you do not miss any future chats like this one. And finally, if you’re a fan of the podcast so far, giving a rating and a review of Conscious Style Podcast is something that can really help this content reach new audiences. Thank you so much in advance for your support!
Okay, now on to the show. Cynthia is going to get us started here with some background on what led to her interest in sustainable fashion and starting her platform, inspiroue.
CYNTHIA DAM: In terms of background, I actually started on YouTube, just for fun. I needed a creative outlet when I was just a baby entering high school. And then along the way, I think my journey with fast fashion is really similar to others.
You know, at that age, we’re shopping H&M, and we’re in that really fast buying mindset; over-consuming, always wanting something new and emotionally shopping.
And I always found myself just staring at my closet and wondering, why don’t I like any of my clothes when I have so many of them?
So when I started to Google about fast fashion, about H&M, and why I felt that way, I actually did an essay on this in high school, so that was almost the pivotal point.
We had to research a business and talk about their business model. So I chose Zara because I loved Zara at the time. And then from there, I realized, okay, they created this fast fashion business model.
Why is that? What is the impact and the effect of making fashion into such as short turnaround time?
Because they are the ones that basically invented like from design to in-store. They would operate with a 10-day turnaround and that really changed the entire way the fashion system worked.
Then from there, it just slowly snowballed into the platform that it is today. Because it’s so important for us to realize, I think the extent of how fashion impacts people. And that’s why I started the content that I’m doing now is to really improve sustainability literacy.
And to talk about these things that I think should be talked about at a younger age, versus us just researching and learning more about it because we’re passionate about fashion.
So it really turned from that first essay in high school to learning about the fast fashion industry, and then the Rana Plaza incident happened around the same time. Then I started learning about the ethics and unethical labor, the forced labor that happens.
Then, slowly getting more into thrifting, capsule wardrobes, trying to figure out how I as an individual consumer, could make an impact. Because I was like, why is this a thing, you know? Like how do we start to shift this?
And as I was talking to people around me, no one really seemed to care either. So it was really interesting to grow up trying to navigate that space and see now looking back how much the revolution has grown and how much more people know about this and care about this.
Yeah, that’s kind of a bit of a background.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, that’s super interesting about Zara. Because I had a similar experience. I studied international business at my university and I had an international supply chain management class.
And we literally studied Zara’s model. And they were promoting it as like this super innovative, amazing thing that we should learn from.
Now looking back at that, I realized how harmful that was that that was literally teaching all of these people, all these students that this was like the model to work towards…
And it’s all based on not just capitalism, but colonialism, right? Trying to get the most money out of the most efficient processes possible around the world, going to where the labor is the cheapest, where the policies for labor are the most loosely held.
But how that’s really baked into our mindsets, right?
As we go into university, I think a lot of people are talking now about how everything’s so interconnected, and how the systems that we live in are built to be oppressive.
I think that it’s not just in fashion, but as you start to see it, it’s literally in every single thing in our world.
Which I know is a little bit sad to say but also, I think that it is such a cool opportunity for us.
Because what we learn in one industry, so what I learned in fashion, can be applied to everything else.
Not just with rights, not just with ethics, but represents something that all of us can understand no matter what we care about and no matter what we’re passionate about.
I think wanting to change one part of this global system, such as fashion, also means that we have to change how we see everything else and how everything else works.
So the more that I’m thinking about it that way, the more I’m seeing everything as this one interconnected thing, the more I see it as an opportunity versus this overwhelming, huge problem — this like mess.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, yeah, I totally am with you.
It feels like if you look at all of it as individual issues, it’s so overwhelming.
But if we see those deeper root causes, those connections, then we’re like okay, if we address it at this root cause, then we can start to really address all of these things that I once thought were all just separate problems.
So yeah, definitely education is key on that. And that’s why I love your series on your YouTube channel called sustainability literacy.
You break down things like definitions, concepts, things to watch out for in sustainable fashion, and talking about the problems in fast fashion or big fashion.
And there are, of course, a lot of things wrong with fast fashion. But what do you think are some of the worst impacts of the fashion industry today?
CYNTHIA: Of course. I think first is the people. Like, I don’t understand how it’s been eight years since the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh….
And we’re still trying to convince or pressure brands into paying living wages, into giving their workers rights. Like with the pandemic, how so many brands just refused to pay and left garment workers in the dust canceling orders.
So I think first it is just the people who make our clothes.
From the garment workers to the farmers at the beginning of that production process, the second, third-tier suppliers, the ones that a lot of consumers don’t think about.
Yeah so I think first is the people that directly make the clothes, that harvest the materials that go into making the clothes, that dye the clothes.
And then second is the people that bear the burden of the environmental impact of the production of mass fashion.
So not just the textile waste, which I have a whole video on in that playlist so check that out, it is jam-packed with stats — but the amount of textile waste that comes out of the way that we currently consume and produce. It affects people across the world and the Global South.
It’s mostly the Global South that is negatively impacted. And it’s almost as out of sight out of mind. So we need to care about them as well.
Then not just that, but where we produce the fashion, all of the chemical dyes, the toxic water waste, all that pollution is also negatively impacting the people in the Global South the most as well.
So thinking about not just the people who directly make our clothes being treated fairly, being given living wages, and actually having access to clean water and food.
Not allowing it almost our greed and the way that we consume to impact these people, because I think we operate under this out of sight out of mind.
I think we’re really privileged here in the Global North. So all of that really ties together, I think, to fast fashion.
Then I think it really just starts with the people, and then, of course, the planet, right? It’s all interconnected.
So I mentioned, the pollution, the water waste, all of that, but then also the amount of resources that it takes, the amount of fossil fuels, the carbon emissions that come from the way that we produce. I have a video on that as well, so it’s a great place to check out.
But the amount of oil that we use for synthetic fibers, the amount of trees that we cut down to produce materials, like things made out of wood pulp.
There’s just so much there. So I would say people and the planet. I know that’s such a vague answer.
But it honestly is what continues to be impacted the worst — from the way that fast fashion is made from the way that mass-market fashion continues to be produced.
ELIZABETH: Mhm yeah.
I mean it really does have like every impact you could imagine on people and every impact you could imagine on the planet. So it’s a good way to sum it up.
So for those who have learned about the harms of fashion, and they want to kind of dip their toes into maybe shopping a little bit more consciously, or more broadly, participating in fashion more consciously.
What tips do you have for people just starting out in their journey? Or what tips would you suggest people give to others starting out on their journey?
CYNTHIA: Of course.
I think we first need to acknowledge that there’s no perfect activists. There’s no perfect individuals.
So not judging people for where they shop, or how they contribute and how they make their impact, I think is really important.
It’s not so much focused on where you buy from or how you buy, but being a sustainable consumer means not consuming as much.
So I think that is one of the first things to relearn is, in order to be more sustainable, we actually need to cut consumption, no matter where we shop from.
The other thing is, I don’t know what resources or what privileges or what money people have access to. I think there’s a lot of privilege, even in the sustainable fashion space, and a lack of inclusivity from sizing to price range.
But in that regard, not using that as an excuse, because it doesn’t just stop at how you consume or what brands you support. I think a lot of the activism goes beyond the consumer.
So there’s a lot of talk right now about being just a citizen or being a consumer activist; not just being a conscious consumer.
So voting, doing things that help your community directly where you live to be more sustainable. Being more involved in the grassroot organizations.
It’s also not just doing the online work, but also doing the offline work.
I know that it was kind of like a lot of random things together.
But to summarize, I think one is not thinking that you need to buy from sustainable brands to be sustainable. it really is more about slowing down your consumption, and being more mindful of your consumption, making the most out of what you have trying to buy secondhand first.
There are so many clothes already on the planet, why do we need to continue to create more?
Second one is to hold brands accountable, whether they’re brands that you continue to buy from, whether their brands you want to buy in the future, or brands that you bought from in the past.
No matter where you are in your individual journey, you can still use your voice for any brand that exists out there to hold them accountable and to demand change.
Because the more that we can kind of pressure them to do that as a collective of consumers, the more pressure they’ll feel.
But on the flip side of that, we also need to demand better regulation from government.
So that’s why voting and being in tune with your local government and what they’re doing plays a role because it’s almost a ripple effect.
Really just I think caring at the end of the day, but also not feeling bad when you do something that you don’t think is sustainable, either.
I think when I first started this journey too, you can feel really overwhelmed, right? Like there’s so many places to start, or so many people saying you need to do this and this.
I think it’s just knowing that every single thing that you can do matters and that there is no perfect sustainable consumer. There’s no perfect sustainability activist, but the more that we can all do together, the better.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, totally.
And all of these things are so interconnected. Just as you were saying all the issues in fashion are interconnected, kind of all the solutions are interconnected.
So yeah, getting involved in whatever way a person can. I love that. And I love that you made that really accessible because it can be very intimidating. I think the word activism is a little scary sometimes.
Even in the beginning, I was worried to say that I am an activist, or I want to be a change maker.
Because once you say that, I think you would invite in a lot of judgment from others, where it’s like, okay, now everybody’s watching you like a hawk. [Saying] like, ‘oh, you bought like a cup of coffee. So why are you claiming that you are sustainable or that you’re an activist?’
And I think that’s why it’s so important to not hold that judgment and not hold everybody to this idea of a perfect sustainable person, because it doesn’t exist.
I think the other thing I want to mention here is, a lot of people will say, ‘oh, but there is no ethical or sustainable consumption under capitalism.’
Like, yeah, but how are we going to change the system?
That’s not an excuse to continue shopping at Zara or H&M or buying new clothes every season! So I think that there is a lot of judgment and a lot of that type of perception that we need to change.
And I think it’s all just supporting each other in this journey so that we’re not making it hard for people to want to start this journey. It’s already overwhelming as it is facing off these big brands and the system that we live in.
And when we make it about being perfect, then people are going to think it’s all or nothing — and well I can’t be perfect, so why should I try?
So that’s something I really love about your videos is that you do make it so accessible, and so approachable.
And one of my favorite videos of yours is how to sustainably build your wardrobe. And you just have SO much good advice in there. So I will link that video in the show notes — I definitely recommend people check out the full thing.
But could you briefly tell us about your approach to curating or building a wardrobe in a sustainable and accessible way?
CYNTHIA: Of course.
Yeah, definitely check that video out because it goes into everything.
First, it starts with just slowing down and being mindful of what you already have.
Because if you’re going to go out and buy things sustainably without knowing what you have, and what will actually add value to your wardrobe first, then how do you know that the piece that you’re going to add next is actually going to be something that you love and cherish or you’re going to wear for a long time? So I would start there.
The second thing is making the most of what you already have. Those are pretty connected.
But again, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not sustainable to constantly buy. Like the most sustainable thing, you can do is not buy. So really remembering that when you’re trying to build out your wardrobe.
The third step is kind of related to if you do want to buy, try to buy secondhand first, try to swap with friends, try to mend clothing.
Then if you can, start to do your research, and invest in good pieces.
Spend that money to support brands that pay living wages, and that use sustainable materials and fibers, because those are the pieces that will also last a really long time.
But I’m also not just saying that only pieces from sustainable brands last a long time.
You can also take care of your pieces from fast fashion brands and make them last a decade.
So just taking care of your clothes, washing them less — I think we wash your clothes way too often.
There are just really simple things that you can do to make sure your pieces last!
Then I think from there, it’s just being really mindful when you do buy stuff.
I think anytime I see a video on YouTube about how to build your wardrobe, they recommend the same pieces over and over.
And it’s like, ‘no, a white t-shirt is not a staple for me because I do not like how it looks on me.’
So it is really just about tuning into what you feel good in what you love to wear. The colors that you love and defining style as YOUR style.
I know that’s tough, but I think really spending a bit more time tuning into yourself and also knowing it’s okay if that changes over time….
But trying to be as mindful and intentional as possible, so that you’re not just throwing out everything in your wardrobe every season because your styles changing that much.
I don’t think that’s actually a thing if you start to be mindful in the beginning.
That’s kind of the gist of how to sustainably build your wardrobe.
It really just starts first with knowing what you have and then from there, exploring styles and pieces that are good investments that will add value and spending time really learning what you love and what your style is.
ELIZABETH: For sure.
Yeah and I think that your video does a really good job at that assessment piece, like really assessing your style.
Figuring out what do you actually wear? What do you actually like?
Because as you were saying, some of these YouTube videos or other resources will have these must-haves or these essentials.
They kind of have this one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t really work for everybody.
They’ll say wear a white button-down blouse and get a good pair of dark jeans. And I bought some of those things to later realize that I don’t really wear those things.
Like I hate wearing jeans!
So it’s not really a sustainable approach. Even if it’s a capsule minimalist wardrobe, if it’s full of things that you don’t wear, it kind of ruins the point.
But anyway, kind of shifting back to some of these bigger issues that we were talking about before, it can feel really overwhelming, and like it’s impossible to make a difference.
And we touched on ways that we can make a difference with our closets and then we also talked about fashion activism earlier.
So I was wondering if you had some tips for that second piece, that fashion activism piece? How can somebody get involved? What are some tangible ways that people can get started with that?
CYNTHIA: Yeah, of course.
I think in the beginning, one of the easiest things is to diversify your [social media] feed. I think it feels is the most overwhelming when you care, but then you don’t know where to start.
There’s so many resources on Google, you don’t know what to trust and everything’s always changing. So there are amazing activists and voices and creators on Instagram.
So by just following them, you’re slowly are exposed to the conversations that they want you to have and the things that they want you to start thinking about.
I think that’s one of the easiest ways to start learning how to also push for change yourself.
Then I think having those conversations, having an open mind with people in your circle too. That’s how we continue to push for change, is at your level of influence.
Sometimes we think, okay, in order to make a difference, I need to change the world.
But how do we actually do that in a sustainable way, based on us still having to live our lives as well?
How can we inspire those around us to also care about this?
What can we do at our level of influence?
Is it talking to the local government? Talking to, for us, it’s like the municipality and where we are in the city, thinking about what we do in terms of our recycling? Do we have textile manufacturers? Kind of things that are directly around you.
Or for me, for example, I really love educating and reaching people online; I already kind of have this platform.
So how can I leverage that, and reach these people and inspire these people?
So I think it really is just about always being open to learning.
And always being open to changing your mind after seeing a new piece of information, because everything constantly changes, too, right?
So not feeling like you need to defend yourself if you were wrong about something after learning about something else I think it’s also really important.
And it’s not just about fashion. If you care about ethical fashion or sustainable fashion, you also care about women’s rights; you care about racial justice; if you care about environmental justice, you should also care about women’s rights.
Again, like we mentioned, all these things are interconnected.
I think it really starts with wanting to understand all the moving parts.
So that’s why I stressed the importance of education around sustainability — sustainability literacy.
Even as consumers who want to start caring about this, brands have gotten so good at greenwashing, that you don’t even know when they claim something, if it’s true or not.
So how do we make a difference?
It’s by really understanding so that we can confidently push back when we see that. So there are so many different things to do.
But I think at the baseline, it is increasing our understanding of this stuff and our awareness and then continuing to have those conversations, continuing to push that — whether it’s through our friend groups, through family, through local government, and seeing what they do.
And especially if there are teachers watching this, I really do think we need to start teaching this in school as well. I’ve had really interesting conversations about this too.
But why aren’t we educating people about this from a young age? Like why aren’t we taught this?
ELIZABETH: Yeah. I mean, as we were talking about before, sometimes we’re even taught the opposite!
We’re taught that these models of super efficiency and outsourcing to countries and having no traceability of anything and producing as fast as possible. We’re taught that that’s like a good thing.
So yeah, education is very key.
But something you touched on was greenwashing, and I would love to explore that more.
So for anyone unfamiliar, greenwashing is essentially when brands exaggerate or mislead or just flat out lie about their sustainability claims.
So Cynthia, how can we spot this? And how can we maybe call in brands and push them to stop greenwashing and actually do the work to become more sustainable?
CYNTHIA: Of course, yeah!
I also have a video on greenwashing, and what brands continue to do and all of the buzzwords, so those are great videos to watch as well.
But in terms of greenwashing, I think if you ask a more specific question, when a brand claims something.
Let’s say, H&M says, ‘we are more sustainable, because we make our conscious line out of 50% recycled cotton.’
Then you can ask, okay, but how much regular cotton do you use for your entire supply chain?
Just asking one level deeper about what they’re talking about usually uncovers a really vague message from them, or they try to skirt around it.
So asking for really specific answers when brands claim things will really help show whether they are greenwashing or if they have facts to back whatever up.
I think with greenwashing, brands have gotten really smart about this.
So they will do something to distract you or they will hide it with a lot of long resources. Like in their impact report, they will refer you to different exhibits and different pages, and then it literally just doesn’t mean anything, either.
And the language that brands use, especially if they use kind of vague terminology, like more sustainable or more eco friendly, I think digging into that and seeing what does that actually mean? Like how is it actually more sustainable will help you pinpoint it and see what their answers are there.
I think in the industry, a lot of the greenwashers are larger brands too. So they want to make money from people who care about sustainability.
So I think the one easiest way to spot greenwashing is, if they still continue to produce at a large scale, if they continue to constantly release new collections, they’re definitely not sustainable.
Then also, at the end of the fashion cycle, do they do anything to help recycle their textiles?
So a lot of these brands, for example, H&M has a take-back program where they claim that they’ll take back your clothes, and recycle them.
But learning the definition of true recycling versus down-cycling. A lot of the times these brands are just taking these and shredding them down into fibers or into washcloths or insulation, so it doesn’t hold the same value and eventually still ends up in landfills.
That is another example of greenwashing.
But it’s a bit harder to realize if you’re just looking at oh, yeah, like they take back our clothes, they are helping close the loop on fashion! But no, it’s still going to the waste.
So again, just asking, where do these clothes go? Can you make them into new clothes? Ask them those deeper questions.
And then in terms of calling in brands, on social media especially, we’ve definitely been able to cause a ruckus maybe because we’re also in lockdown. So it’s not like we can go out and safely protest in front of the stores and stuff.
So when [brands] post about sustainability, you can already see in the comments, people starting to ask these more direct questions to also bring up okay yeah, sure, you decreased your carbon emissions by this much… but are you paying your garment workers?
Sustainability doesn’t really have a true definition, so they use it in these small parts of their entire supply chain.
But true sustainability is across the entire like business model.
So if they say, oh, look at this, we use more sustainable materials or a more sustainable production process.
If they don’t reflect sustainability across their entire business, whether it’s from paying workers sustainable wages, or the materials that they source, they don’t even know where they come from. I think those are really easy ways to tell that brand doesn’t care about sustainability.
Or you can also ask — I don’t really like the idea of canceling a brand, especially if they’re a smaller brand just starting out — but asking for numbers and for concrete commitments, so that we can hold them accountable to timelines is really important.
Because a brand will say we aim by 2030 to pay all of our garment workers living wages, but then how do they prove that they are doing that?
So constantly asking, okay, you said this, you claimed this. What progress have you made? I think is a great way to continue to call in brands and hold them accountable.
Versus this idea of oh, you did this one bad thing. I’m not supporting you anymore.
Looking for specifics and asking deeper questions, I think that’s a really good way to kind of start diving deeper to identify the green from the greenwashing.
But as we know, no brand is ever going to be like perfect, particularly within our current systems, and many of the boundaries, especially for smaller brands, in terms of resources like time and money.
And it can be tough to find that point where a brand is doing, quote unquote ‘enough’, but what are some signs that you look for to be able to identify if a brand is actually conscious and sustainable?
So back to the term sustainability, and really learning what true sustainability means in fashion. Again, have another video on this, so check out the whole sustainability literacy playlist!
But true sustainability means from start to finish, the entire production process is closed-looped or circular. We aren’t creating a lot of waste that continues to exist on the planet.
So it doesn’t just come down to we use recycled fibers, or we use Lenzing’s Tencel Lyocell — which is a great sustainability minded brand.
But really looking at, okay, from the raw materials and where they get the materials to how are they made, to what dyes they use when they turn that fiber into textiles, how does the water get cleaned or used? Do they use clean energy in that process or do they use fossil fuels?
And then from there, when they cut the garments and the patterns, are they using techniques that reduce the waste from the fabric cut off?
Or are they shipping far? Are all of these different steps along the production process / their supply chain around the world?
Then do they buy and produce at a large scale or are they trying to limit their production runs or just producing on demand?
These are all things across a brand supply chain that you can look at.
And I think in terms of what is enough or not, one of the things that all of us should ask about is ethical labor.
I think in this day and age and with how far we’ve come, I don’t think it’s acceptable anymore to be treating your workers poorly to not paying them living wages. So I think that’s one thing.
The second thing is materials. There are so many more sustainability-minded materials available that aren’t that expensive. So looking for those versus brands that continue to produce synthetics.
Those things are so easy for us to stop buying into to stop producing, because, that is plastic and oil. That stuff continues to sit on our planet.
I think it really spans the entire lifecycle of an item. And then even at the end of its lifecycle, does the brand use biodegradable materials? So once you’re done with it, does it break down?
I know I’m going through so many specifics, but it’s hard not to because I think the definition of sustainability is really vague right now. So a lot of brands leverage that to confuse us.
So just first learning what are all the things that actually go into producing a piece of clothing from start to finish?
And how can a brand care about all those things along the way? I think it’s really important.
ELIZABETH: I mean, there’s a lot to it.
That’s the thing. That’s why its such greenwashing when these fast fashion brands just say well, we’re using recycled fibers now, therefore we’re sustainable.
As you touched on, there are so many other things that we have to think about in a sustainable production system.
But what are some of your favorite conscious fashion brands who are doing a lot? Maybe they aren’t perfect because no brand really can be, but that are really doing some awesome things that you’re excited about.
I would say the first one that comes to mind just because we were talking about recycling and everything is Thousand Fell.
So they make sneakers and they use bio-based materials and a lot of it is stuff that can break down and compost, which I think is really amazing.
In terms of their system, I think it’s amazing to see how sustainability minded they are, in terms of every step of that.
At the end, they also take back your sneakers, and they work with a recycling facility to help break that down. So I think they’re a really good example of a brand that cares about trying to do the best in each of those areas and constantly improving on that as well.
In terms of other brands, I talk about sustainability minded brands on my channel, and on my blog, too.
I’m really careful. I like to be careful when I recommend brands, because this is just my opinion at this moment in time with the information I have now.
So that’s why just take all of this with a grain of salt and do your research when you’re watching this.
I always love mentioning Eileen Fisher, because I think they were really the first in the fashion industry to care about the materials, the people that make the clothes, and making clothes that last really long time.
I remember, when I first Googled sustainable fashion, Eileen Fisher was the first brand that popped up.
So they’ve really, in terms of a large brand, I guess been paving the way in terms of what to look out for in fashion, for womenswear specifically.
And Patagonia is another good example.
But having the B Corp certifications, using Bluesign certified dyes and materials, supporting GOTS-certified cotton.
All of these things, as a larger brand I would say, I really admire how committed they’ve been to that.
But I really try to support the smaller brands. I think size-inclusive brands are also really important. Brands that produce on demand are really important.
Another brand that I really admire is Lora Gene. She has a collaboration with Aja Barber, who is also an amazing activist and voice in this space to follow on Instagram and to support her Patreon and stuff.
It’s really hard to name them one off, because my favorite ‘brand’ I would say is thrifting.
I’ll always try to thrift first, and then the brands that I support that produce new pieces are based on what I find that I need in the moment.
So the reason I bought Thousand Fell is because I was trying to find white sneakers for years, and then I found them. So I think it also just depends on your style.
If you are curious about some of the brands that I have bought from or that I’ve supported, just check out the brands listed on my blog, or I have videos on them. I hope that can help!
ELIZABETH: Yeah, I mean it is always changing.
And I understand that hesitation to name specific brands, because as we know, there always can be something that comes out about that brand that we didn’t know before.
But I love that you mentioned that thrifting is one of your favorite brands or sources rather to find conscious fashion.
Could you share with us some of your tips and tricks for shopping secondhand fashion and finding quality pieces that match our style in the kind of the vast supply of secondhand out there.
CYNTHIA: Yeah, I love this question!
Understand that you can thrift any style you want these days.
There’s still a stigma around when you throw out you can only find a certain style of like baggy sweaters or grandma knits or something.
The majority of my wardrobe is thrifted and a lot of people are surprised when they see that because it’s more of an elevated modern, classic style.
But I think there are a lot of pieces that you can find that were made really well that were made a really long time ago with really good quality materials.
So I say the first tip I have for thrifting is going often and having an idea of what you’re looking for.
Because I also think that you don’t want to fall into the rabbit hole of just thrifting whatever you see that you like, because then you’ll also have a cluttered wardrobe.
So being mindful of what your style is and what you’re looking for, I think is really important.
It also helps because it gives you an idea of what to look for when you go to thrift store because there’s always so much stuff.
And then second is looking at the materials. So you can find a lot of really amazing fabrics. I found cashmere, I found silks there.
Since it’s already produced, I’m a bit more lenient when it comes to that stuff. Sometimes I will buy synthetic pieces at the thrift store too, if it’s in a style that I really like.
But I just make it a point to use a microfiber wash bag when I wash them because anything made out of synthetic fabrics leaks microplastics when you wash them into our waterways.
So just like looking at the looking at the fabric when you’re thrifting.
And then I think in terms of thrifting tips, I like to go often and also know that it’s very hit or miss so I don’t let myself get let down if I don’t find anything amazing one or two or three times that I go, because you never know.
So keeping an open mind there, and also not being afraid to go into different ones, not being afraid to go into the men’s section or different sizes.
But the one important thing I want to note there is to not buy plus-sized pieces with the intention of cutting them up or DIY-ing them.
I think that there is this huge issue with people going in and buying a lot of oversized pieces, and then there not being pieces left over for the plus size community.
So I think it’s okay to like an oversized fit. But if you’re going to buy it, and then ruin it, I mean, that’s something that we should stop doing.
And then I think the thrifting landscape has changed a lot too. So it’s not just the Goodwills, Value Villages, and Salvation Army’s out there anymore.
But you can go to really curated consignment shops and thrift boutiques. Then also online, with all the apps out there now, Depop, Vestiaire Collective, there is such access to secondhand clothing worldwide.
And you can filter for certain things too, if you don’t like going into a physical store, and feeling overwhelmed.
So I really think that thrifting should be the first option if you’re ever looking to add anything to your wardrobe. And it’s easier than we think.
I also love that the stigma used to have about being dirty [is fading away].
So I come from like an Asian immigrant family. So my grandma sometimes says like, ‘oh, why are you buying used clothes? You have money, you should buy new clothes.’
But I think fighting back and I think proving that these clothes that people are trying to donate or give away like they’re in good condition still. They’re not dirty or you shouldn’t be afraid of them.
But yeah, those are kind of my tips and tricks, and I hope that they help.
ELIZABETH: Totally, yeah, that was great!
And so full of such helpful advice, as this entire conversation was. So thank you for everything that you did share today. I really enjoyed this chat and I’m sad that it’s coming to a close.
But I do have one final question for you that I asked every guest. And that is, what would a better future for fashion look like to you?
CYNTHIA: Ooh, I love this questions so much.
I’ve talked about this before to my channel, like what does a sustainable fashion future look like.
And for me, it’s one where we repair the relationship we have with our clothes. Where we love everything in our wardrobes and we wear them a long time when make them last.
And two is the people that make the clothes or play a part in the fibers that go into it, the dyeing… like every everybody that a piece of clothing interacts with along the way is paid living wages and has access to food, clean water, and can live a happy life versus living in poverty is something else that I think is really important.
Of course that doesn’t just fall into fashion.
And then I see it as one where all of the materials that we use can continue to be used again. So one where we really have minimized the waste that we cause.
A fashion system that uses solely clean, renewable energy.
One where the farming practices and the way that we harvest and grow materials or crops is regenerative. So we continue to take care of the earth when we take from the earth.
And also one where everyone feels included, whether it’s the styles or the sizes that we offer, and where we offer them, at what prices we offer them at.
I think that there’s a lot there but that’s kind of what I envision for what our future of fashion looks like.
I really don’t think that we can have a better future for fashion unless we start to dig into and change the system.
It’s not just about repairing or making it better, but really just looking at how broken it is and how bad it is, and putting in the work and committing to just changing the entire thing.
Maybe this isn’t something that we can achieve in the next two or three years. But I really do think that in order for us to hav an equitable and sustainable fashion system, all of these moving parts and these pieces need to change. And I hope that one day we can reach that.
ELIZABETH: And that’s a wrap for this episode.
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