Dec 23rd, 2020, 11:45 PM

Dressing to Impress with Sustainable Fashion

By Clara Appia
An outfit up-cycled from four koozies, a t-shirt and cardboard lemonade packaging. Image Credit: Unsplash/Utopia by Cho.
Being in style no longer requires snagging the latest designer item or following seasonal trends at fast fashion stores. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many second-hand stores to close, leading to a dramatic increase in the popularity of digital thrift stores. More are more shoppers are turning away from fast fashion and discovering that keeping the planet cool can go hand in hand with dressing cool.

Home to some of the largest Fashion Week events on the month-long circuit, it comes as no surprise that Paris also has a ton of cool thrift shops scattered throughout the city. For many students and centime-pinchers in the City of Love, digging through the one euro bin at free*p*star is a rite of passage. Kiliwatch is notorious for its scales that make that “too cute to leave behind” jacket suddenly just out of your price range, while The Kilo Shop and its 12 locations have been keeping AUP students in their vintage Levis for several semesters.


Sadly, with the coronavirus pandemic, many of these vintage stores in the fashion-forward French capital have been closed for much of the year. Luckily, online shopping platforms like Depop or Vinted have become the platforms of choice for cost-conscious fashionistas. Those in search of more upmarket and luxury goods have been looking towards the online consignment shop The Real Real. Some of the biggest names in luxury fashion like Gucci, Burberry and Stella McCartney have begun partnering with secondhand resellers to make their products more accessible to younger consumers.

However, if you're on the hunt for more original pieces of course, DIY and upcycle fashion brands on Instagram are the way to go.  


A post shared by cierra boyd (@friskmegood)

Online brands like Cierra Boyd's Frisk Me Good, feature innovative designs like the "Sneaker Corset" available for sale. Boyd launched the brand in 2017, after she graduated from Ohio University. 


Online brands like Cierra Boyd's Frisk Me Good, feature innovative designs like the trending "sneaker corset" available for sale. Boyd launched the brand in 2017 after she graduated from Ohio University. 

“With my entire brand, I just use it as a creative outlet for myself, to be able to express myself," remarked the budding designer in an interview with “It’s about being bold, being flamboyant and loving what you wear, and having confidence in who you are, through clothing as your creative outlet.”

Sneaker painting and designing could be seen as the first iteration of these new deconstructed designs Boyd is popularizing. Etsy features hundreds of sellers capable of taking white Nike Airforce 1s and turning them into a personalized fashion statement. However, sustainability does not seem to be emphasized with this trend in the same way it does with Boyd's creations.

"I do consider my creations an act of sustainability," says Boyd of her corsets. "Upcycling has been part of my brand since I created Frisk Me Good in 2017. I was upcycling before I consciously knew what a big impact it was having on the Earth. I didn't have money to buy the fabrics I really wanted, so I started working with the things I had already to create something new."

Upcycling extends far beyond footwear, with non-streetwear designers also getting in on the trend. French Designer Charlène Perret and her brand Rinvest France touts its original style and its special attention to eco-responsibility as key selling points for conscious consumers. Launched in 2019, the brand focuses on combating some of the key criticisms of fast fashion. It is 100 percent made in France and 100 percent upcycled by hand.  


"All of the designs are made from curtains, sheets and scraps of fabric that were abandoned, and we repurpose them into new clothes and give them added value," explains Perret on Rinvest's website. "Recently, I launched a tailoring service in addition to my ready-to-wear brand, because in the end, tailoring and repairing our clothes are really the first eco-responsible acts that we can have."

Driving this trend toward sustainability and conscious consumption are Gen-Z and millennial consumers. Many in the fashion business have already taken note of the younger generations' appreciation for vintage and upcycled fashion. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 took a deeper look at what is most appealing to both millennials and Gen-Zers as they turn away from fast fashion in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief among the concerns highlighted by those surveyed was a desire create a “better normal.” With health and the environment taking center stage this year, the pandemic has especially given rise to a keen sense of individual responsibility. Many understand that their consumption is part of the problem when it comes to issues around climate change and sustainable development. Finances are also the main issue for would-be buyers as many have lost jobs and their streams of income in light of the global lockdown measures. Even Instagram influencers are noting how they contribute to a culture of over-consumption as they reckon with the unrealistic standards they advertise to their audiences. 


It is no surprise that influencers, brands, and shoppers alike have flocked to sites like Vinted and Depop. The platforms' success is twofold — it acts like a social media platform that allows users to follow each other and like and share their favorite looks, while also enabling them to create curated collections that are visible to the public. Popular tags like #thriftedstyle and #charityshopfinds show that this is not only about consumption, but has morphed into an entire aesthetic choice at the hands of Gen-Z and millennial shoppers. Bigger social media figures have also moved on to the platform, like British author and influencer Patricia Bright, who uses the platform to sell the looks featured in her videos. 

Depop website. Image Credit: Depop.

The pandemic has made every person reevaluate their impact on the planet as the global lockdowns showed how much healthier the environment becomes without the pollution of millions. With smog clearing from the skies seemingly overnight in major cities and fish returning to normally polluted waterways, many are realizing how quickly the Earth can heal if given a chance. Similarly, consumers have seen how rapidly business can adapt their supply chains to accommodate stressors to the system.


Fashion is simply one piece of the larger "green" and sustainable lifestyles of students and young people all over the world. As society looks toward a post-pandemic future, there seems to be some hope that many of these changes will stick around.