Fashion is an industry full of issues around its impact on people, animals, and our planet, and it seems everyone is trying to find the right direction to place the blame. Does the fault lie with conventional companies for continuing to make poor environmental and labour choices? Are consumers the problem, for still supporting them? Is it the government’s responsibility, for not forcing or enforcing better standards? Or are sustainable brands the real culprits, for not being good enough (trendy enough, cheap enough, accessible enough, diverse enough – we’ve heard it all)?
Realistically, it’s probably a mix of all of these. It’s a problem created by many businesses, laws, and shoppers, and it’s a problem that will need to be fixed in the same way. However, the one thing that each and every one of us can do right now is to support our favorite sustainable brands in order to see them thrive (and show the world that this is what we want).
Here are ten cheap and easy ways to be an advocate for the brands you love.
1) FOLLOW THEM
Most brands are on social media, and most use their limited resources to make sure they offer beautiful, interesting content. And while it may seem silly, numbers do matter: for media outlets to take a brand seriously, they want to see that a brand has a serious following. Want to help? Find your favorite brands on your favorite social media platform and become a fan, follower, or friend. Pro tip: since most social media platforms have an algorithm that punishes brands (it’s pay to play), be sure to like, comment, and share their content if you want to see more of it in your newsfeed.
2) SHARE THEM
Word of mouth is one of the most prized assets to a small business. Your friends trust your opinions, so use them to promote the brands you trust! Even if a brand isn’t within your budget or personal style, you can still share what you love about them or the pieces on your wish list.
3) SIGN UP
In general, the best way to keep up with a brand is through their newsletter. Watch for new styles, catch those sales, get notified of news, and stay up to date on upcoming events and announcements.
4) SHOW UP
If you live in a major city there is likely a small but growing sustainable fashion scene with regular events for learning, connecting, and supporting. Panels, pop ups, fashion shows – go to them! As a small business, there is nothing more disheartening than taking the time to host an event that has very low turnout. And if you can’t make it, be sure to pass it along to your friends who might be interested (or maybe who don’t even know they are interested yet!).
5) TALK TO THEM
Most sustainable brands are relatively small – often made up of just a few people (or maybe even just one). This means that they likely don’t have giant research teams or marketing departments to know exactly what you want (or who will try to convince you that you do!). If you like something, let them know! If you don’t like something, let them know too! Either way it’s likely going straight to the top, and without feedback, brands aren’t able to improve, grow, and offer more of the styles, services, and features you’re looking for.
6) BE REALISTIC
We live in a time where online giants can easily offer free shipping both directions, same day delivery, and live customer service, but these conveniences are often not feasible for small businesses. Bring a little extra patience, understanding, and thoughtfulness to your expectations and interactions with smaller sustainable brands, they are likely doing the very best they can with limited time and resources.
7) LEAVE REVIEWS
Honest feedback is so valuable both to companies and to potential customers, so taking a few moments to leave a review of a recent purchase will be extremely appreciated by both. Positive feedback helps other shoppers feel confident in buying something that is a new style or new brand, and negative feedback helps the brand take steps to fix the product, descriptions, or photos.
8) JOIN THE MOVEMENT
We can’t fix the fashion industry if the majority of consumers and creators don’t know there is a problem. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to help educate and empower others through a broad range of resources. Encourage your friends and family to watch The True Cost (it’s even streaming on Netflix!), find and share your favorite ethical writers, or start gifting sustainable fashion books for all those upcoming birthdays, bat mitzvahs, and bridal showers.
9) GIVE A GIFT CARD
Maybe the time, price, or style isn’t quite right for you to shop with a sustainable fashion brand you admire, but it might be perfect for someone else in your life. Next time you need to give a gift, consider choosing a gift card from a small business. Even a $25 gift card is always a wonderful gesture, and it will not only be a small way of directly supporting a company you admire, but it will also allow the opportunity for someone new to potentially discover them as well.
10) SHOP WITH THEM (DUH)
In the end, there’s nothing more powerful than the vote you cast with your wallet. The only way to ensure that sustainable fashion and sustainable brands will succeed is to make sure they have the ability to continue existing. As exciting as it is to see many new conscious companies launching, there is also the sad reality of many ethical brands going out of business. Sure, you might need to saving up, shop a sale, or spending a bit more time finding an sustainable version of a specific style, but every dollar spent at an ethical company is moving the “sustainable fashion industry” forward into one day being just the “fashion industry.”
Previously published on Bead & Reel