A Chat with Sustainable Fashion Advocate, Gabriella Smith.


Gabriella Smith is one of the Co-Founders of The Upcycle Project, a platform meant to educate people about sustainability in the fashion industry.  We sat down with this babe for a coffee and a chat about her personal experience with sustainability in fashion.


1.  Slow fashion is a term that gets used a lot but many people don't know exactly what it refers to... would you please shed some light? 

I feel that it’s important to define the difference between Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion, in order to help consumers, identify where they are shopping and make informed purchases.

Slow Fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. On the other hand, the Fast Fashion model focuses on imitating styles and trends seen on the runways and recreating them at a much lower price and quality to sell to the mass market.

The Slow Fashion movement is adding transparency about production process and educating consumers about the craft of making clothing. I hope that consumers will begin to understand what is required of producing a well-made garment and consider staying away from fast fashion, as the bargain of purchasing fast fashion, may come at the cost of an eight-year-old in Bangladesh making $3.00 a day.

2.  Why do you feel it is important to educate people on sustainable practices in the fashion industry?

The Fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world according to the World Economic forum. In order to make changes, consumers need to be aware that their purchases have direct environmental, social and ethical consequences. Americans buy four times as much clothing now as they did in 1980, according to The State of Reuse Report. In order to keep up with the purchasing patterns, fast fashion continues to use up resources to make new clothes. For example, the manufacturing of a single t-shirt uses around 2,700 liters of water, one of our many limited resources. To make matters worse, much of these fast fashion items end up in the landfills, which then begin to pollute the nearby soil and waterways. By educating, informing and incentivizing consumers, they can demand transparency and sustainable practices form the companies they choose to buy from.

3.  What measures do you personally take to ensure you're shopping sustainable?

Lately I have asked myself not only about shopping with a purpose, but rather, what is the purpose of shopping? In the US the average woman has seven pairs of jeans, of which she (myself included) wears only two. Nevertheless, they (we) continue to add jeans and other pieces to our closets without really thinking about what we already have. As my resolution for 2018, I will take a shopping sabbatical, a year in which I cannot buy myself any new article of clothes, shoes, or accessories. My goal is to discover my personal reason as to why I need to add something new to my closet and get better at shopping my own closet.

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4. Is shopping sustainably ever a challenge? 

In short, yes. For me, sustainable shopping has been more challenging than resorting to Fast Fashion, because of the following factors: accessibility, cost and aesthetic.  Nevertheless, the industry is shifting, online retailers have made it more accessible to purchase and more designers are adopting sustainable practices without compromising style and asthenic.  I still want to look chic in my ethically made and sustainably sourced outfits! ;)

5.  Any tips for people who want to start building their own sustainable wardrobe?

Everyone has the power to take baby steps into making their closet more sustainable.

Step 1. Don’t throw away your “non-sustainable” clothes. After all, you have already bought them and sending them to the landfill will only add to the problem. Instead, try and streamline your you style, by separating the clothes that you love, the clothes that you may wear soon and the clothes that you will never wear again (to take to a thrift store or local charity)  and get creative at shopping your own closet.

Step 2. Shop with intention.  If you must add new pieces to your wardrobe make sure that they stand for what you believe in and focus on high quality. It is sometimes difficult to have a fully sustainable outfit, so I suggest that when you shop, you buy brands that stand for a specific category, such as:

  • Sustainable Materials (organic, cruelty free, carbon neutral, 3-D printed, mindful mining, upcycled, vintage)

  • Ethically made (fair wages, made in the USA, handmade, artisan/community support)

  • Social Responsibility Funding (education, child slavery, human trafficking, social community projects, water, literacy, medical aid)

  • Limited Edition Production

Step 3. Love your clothes. Taking care of your old and new clothes is key to increase their longevity, fast fashion or not. Be mindful of how you are using the washing machine vs. hand-washing and stay away from the drying machine (mine destroys my clothes!) and hang dry as much as possible.

To check out Gabriella's journey as she transforms her closet into one made up of stylish, ethically made and sustainability sourced clothes follow her on Instagram @gabriellasmith and check out The Upcycle Project here.

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