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For Generation Z, sustainable fashion is about more than shopping. It’s a “state of mind”

For Generation Z, sustainable fashion is about more than shopping.  It’s a “state of mind”


Emile Jenkinson-Ramirez, a 24-year-old freelance makeup artist from Ajax, Ont., says she was forced to reexamine her fashion choices about five years ago after watching a YouTube video that explored the plight of underpaid employees working in Bangladesh. in the fashion industry.

That's when she realized she needed to be smarter about the clothes she bought.

These days, Jenkinson-Ramirez practices sustainable fashion by purchasing pieces that will last longer from small businesses in her area. Some of her favorite brands include Pashion Footwear and Slo Fashion Company.

For her, sustainable fashion is clothing created in an environment that offers fair wages and working conditions, while keeping its carbon footprint in mind.

“I'm glad we're talking about it more, because people like me haven't understood the difference [between fast and sustainable fashion] for a long time,” she said.

According to environmental news site, the fashion industry is responsible for eight to 10 percent of global carbon emissions. It takes about 2,600 liters of water to make a cotton shirt and 7,500 liters for a pair of jeans, and says 80 billion items of clothing are produced each year, a 4,000% increase from there at 20 years.

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Jenkinson-Ramirez is part of a generation increasingly aware of the environmental consequences of fast fashion. Faced with both climate change and inflation, Generation Z is changing its purchasing behaviors.

Sustainable fashion “needs to be more anchored in people’s daily lives,” she said.

Much more than shopping

According to a survey conducted by Vividata, a Canadian non-profit research organization, 44 percent of Gen Z respondents (people aged 12 to 27) said they were willing to pay more for sustainable fashion, while 45 percent said they were willing to pay more for sustainable fashion. declared that they like to buy second hand. (For comparison, 32% of respondents aged 18 and over said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable fashion.)

But dressing sustainably isn't just about shopping, says Audrey Henderson, a spokesperson for Fashion Takes Action, a Canadian nonprofit that promotes sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry .

“Being a conscious citizen or responsible consumer doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money on a 'sustainable brand,'” Henderson said. “The key is to take the time to be intentional in your actions. This is the opposite of impulse buying or buying something because the price is just too good to pass up.”

Earlier this month, Fashion Takes Action hosted an event in Toronto called ReMode, which gave visitors the opportunity to engage with the community and different suppliers who produce sustainable fashion.

A social media account for a climate content creator.
Canadian content creator Karishma Porwal embraces eco-friendly fashion choices on her Instagram account. (@karishmaclimategirl/Instagram)

One of the many designers practicing sustainable fashion is Michelle Good, founder and creative director of Gemine Designs. Based in Toronto, Good created her collection using natural and sustainable materials such as tencel fabric (made from wool pulp), organic hemp and bamboo materials.

“Sustainable fashion is an extension of who I am,” Good said.

With attendees ranging from Gen Z to Gen X, the event featured talks from influencers and experts who talked about how to reduce their fashion footprint. There was also a clothing swap, where participants donated clothes they no longer wanted and sifted through what others had brought.

One of the speakers at ReMode was Karishma Porwal, a 26-year-old content creator based in Kitchener, Ontario, who uses TikTok and Instagram to discuss climate change. She proudly says she stopped buying fast fashion about eight years ago.

“Sustainable fashion is a state of mind,” she told CBC News. “There is a term for people who don’t eat meat, but there isn’t one for people who don’t buy fast fashion.”

On his platforms, Porwal addresses topics such as microplastics and climate law. She says she aims to provide answers to questions people may have while also discussing parts of the system consumers should question.

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“The Earth deserves better”

Isabelle Sain, regional coordinator at Fashion Revolution Canada, part of a global non-profit organization that educates consumers about the fashion industry, says fashion “will never be sustainable because of the many resources that she uses to make clothes.”

Sain believes that while sustainable fashion can be a practice, consumers need to be more aware and informed about the eco-friendly aspects of clothing production.

“Fashion is a medium used to express ourselves and tell our stories,” Said said. “It has the potential to be a magnificent connector. The Earth deserves better.”

A rack of clothes in a store.
A clothing display at Bad Dog Co., a thrift store in Ottawa's Glebe neighborhood. (Submitted by Luke Webster)

ReMode's goal is to show consumers how to make the clothes in their wardrobe last longer, with what the organization calls the The 7 Rs of fashionwhich include reuse, repair and resale.

“Being more sustainable means you're buying because it's something you actually need and you know you'll wear it for a long time,” Henderson said, “while also thinking about the impact your purchase will have on people, planet and animals.”




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