“I’ve always wanted to try it, but I actually don’t know much about it.”


This is a conversation I often have with people around me. With the overwhelming choices that fast fashion provides, physically walking into a thrift shop with the anticipation of finding hidden treasures can be exciting. There’s something magical about shopping for second-hand clothing. Thrifted pieces are mysterious, matured, and experienced, for they contain memories that are forever kept between their former owners and them with all kinds of fun stories, each unique in their own sense. If you’re tired of seeing similar outfits in every part of the city, transforming your clothing into something new and unique can also unveil who you really are. While it is nice to possess clothing that is aesthetically pleasing, owning clothing with interesting stories and unique presentation is what makes a wardrobe special.


Here’s a short and sweet Thrifting & Upcycling 101 for you to get started on your journey of creating your personal statement with fun pieces of clothing.


Before Thrifting

  • Create a “shopping list”

It can be overwhelming walking into a thrift store especially larger ones like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Therefore, having a rough list of what you are looking for to polish up your wardrobe is essential before thrift shopping.


  • Sell clothes that are collecting dust in your closet

Go through your closet and see what clothes are ready to be removed from your closet. Donate them to Goodwill or sell them at the thrift store for cash/store credits! Doing so can also help you have a good knowledge of what you already have vs. what you need.


  • Dress for the trip!

You will be doing a lot of trying on when thrifting. Thus, wearing something basic and comfortable like a sweatshirt with biker shorts is ideal for a thrifting trip. Depending on your shopping list, you can also wear something that matches with the potential item you are looking for to better visualize the complete outfit.


  • Bring your own shopping bag for a complete sustainable shopping trip!


How to Thrift?

SCANNING is an important technique to implement during thrifting. Start with the aisle with the kind of clothing you are looking for (tops vs. bottoms vs. shoes, etc.), then find the ones that match your size. High-quality clothes usually stand out from the more worn-out ones when you are scanning. Go with your instinct, and, when something is catching your eye, take it out for closer examination & try it on!


READ THE TAGS. They say a lot about this piece’s brand, size, material, and caring instructions. Once I even found a beautiful jacket from Burberry at Clothes Mentor in Savannah for a great price! It is also important to look for materials like linen, silk, wool, cashmere, or 100% cotton that last longer with better qualities.


TRY ON clothing that you are ready to purchase. There have been many times where I found dresses/ tops that look really cute on the rack, but look unflattering after trying them on. Finding a piece that both looks pleasing and fits you is essential when shopping. With that being said, trying on pieces that you don’t find attractive can sometimes surprise you. I lost track of how many times my friends forced me to try on something I found to be silly but ended up falling in love with.


IMAGINE the potential that a piece of clothing has. In the fitting room, try to adjust the neckline of a dress or fold the sleeve up a little to see if it will look chicer. Will this pair of pants look fabulous if you add some patterns to the pocket? Let your creativity flow!


Where to Thrift?

There are many thrift stores around the states, both online and physical. If you are uncomfortable with shopping in-store, try browsing through online thrift shopping websites like Depop, Poshmark, theRealReal, ThredUP or even Facebook and Etsy to see if there are any surprises waiting for you.

There are also great physical stores to shop from. Checkout our thriftmap to find the one for you!


So I Thrifted, What’s Next? (Upcycling!)

After thrifting, remember to clean the clothing following their caring instructions. Now it’s your time to show off your creativity!


To get inspiration, go on Pinterest or Instagram to hunt for styles that spark your interest, and use them as a prototype for your alterations. (For example, I’ve been really into straight leg jeans with fun crop tops recently.)


Some easy upcycle tips: CUT, CUT, CUT!

Whether it’s a conventional T-shirt or long jeans, picking up your scissors and cutting it shorter can always give the clothing a completely new look. I used to cut up some “boring-looking” tops for a crop-top finish, which turned them into pieces my friends loved! You can also cut long sleeves into a tank top, or a turtleneck into a v-neck. Be creative, and have fun!


ADD, ADD, ADD!

Have a piece of clothing that’s too basic/monochromatic? Try adding some fun materials/accents to it! I have a thrifted black jacket with beads added on its collar, which adds a lot of character and spark to it. If you are into embroidering, sewing patterns and flowers onto solid colored sweatshirts/jeans can also make the clothing stand out. If you are feeling extra, play with some bold materials like tulle, ties, or do a collage of fabrics from different clothes!


THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX

Try creating something unique to you, even pieces like those on the runway! Collect inspirations from everywhere: Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, fashion shows, magazines, etc. Use the materials you have to create something absolutely YOU! Next in Fashion is a great Netflix show to see how designers design and create fabulous clothing from scratch. With your passionate heart and creative mind, you too can become the designer of your own clothing!


  1. https://verilymag.com/2016/02/thrifting-tips-vintage-style-salvation-army-goodwill-buying-second-hand

  2. https://www.collegefashion.net/fashion-tips/upcycling-clothes/

  3. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/ukraine/articles/the-10-best-places-to-go-thrifting-in-ukraine/

Editors: Rachel Zipin, Victoria Ploerer, Katie Zhang, and Emily Kim

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People often tell me that they don’t think there is anything they can do to be more sustainable in their everyday lives, whether that’s because they don’t think they can afford to make large changes to their current lifestyle or because they don’t think that they can have any real impact as a single person.


While it’s true that much of the pollution and environmental damage done is by large companies, as consumers we can try to support more sustainable brands, or to reduce our own consumption since that is what we can control. We can hope that if enough people switch to shopping sustainably, brands will recognize sustainability as a priority of their consumers and begin to incorporate it into their manufacturing considerations.

What are some simple changes that everyone can make to be more environmentally conscious as a consumer?


1. Consume Less

Reduce how much you shop for clothing


Try to buy pieces that will last if you are able to. For example, if you can find a pair of jeans that will last a few years or longer, you won’t have to buy new jeans every year! Consumption reduced!


If possible, avoid buying too much of a style that you know will go out of style quickly, or that you might not like in a year or two. This is often hard to know in advance, but I try to analyze what kinds of pieces that I have bought in the past and worn the least. For example, I’ve noticed that clothing with bright colors is often something that I might purchase and not wear very often. I have also noted that I tend to get the most use out of maroon, black, white and grey clothing. By tracking your own purchase to use ratios, you can create similar conclusions and help identify pieces that you will enjoy for years to come. You can try an app like Closet+ or write down purchase and use observations in a journal to keep track of your own tendencies.


2. Repurpose What You Already Own

At altKEY, we LOVE to up-cycle and repurpose clothing. Our president Katie (a sustainable fashion icon) basically worships Ashley of the youtube channel best-dressed for her up-cycled pieces. Like Ashley, you can take items from your own closet and cut and sew them into entirely new pieces of clothing to update your wardrobe and keep your fashion repertoire fresh without increasing your clothing consumption.


3. Shop Sustainability

When you choose to purchase new items, try to buy from brands that are known for using sustainable methods of production. By shopping sustainably, you are supporting brands that are doing their best to reduce their waste and keep our planet healthy.

The app Good On You is a great start for comparing how sustainable different brands are. Check it out next time you are planning on making a purchase!


4. Thrifting

Ah, thrifting. Thrifting is such a complex issue that it will get a special blogpost soon on the topics of ethical thrifting. Keep an eye out for that one, especially if you are concerned about the impact that the increase in thrifting has had on poorer communities.


Until then, I’ll just keep it brief. Thrifting is a great option especially when sustainable brands are too expensive. Shopping at thrift stores can help reduce clothing waste and reduces your consumption of new materials. You can also repurpose thrifted items with the same up-cycling methods you might use on your own old clothes! The short version of ethical thrifting is to avoid buying in bulk, and avoid buying clothing items just to sell them for a marked up price. If people profit off reselling items from thrift shops, thrift shops often have to mark up their own prices to compete, which hurts people who rely on thrift shops as their main source of clothing.


 **Check out our interactive thrift map in posts**
 
 Important Dates: 
 02/01 - Modeling & Dancer deadlines
 02/25 - Preliminary Round (Designer Deadline)
 02/28 - Semi-Finals Round 
 03/14 - Fittings & Dress Rehearsal 
 04/10 - The KEY, Fashion Show 
 
 Important Links: 
 -> check out our KEY tab! 
 -> https://www.instagram.com/altkeyofficial/ 
 -> https://discord.gg/BEJuvKQE75
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I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “use code ____ for 15% off”. Even if you haven’t, we’ve all seen great bargains for the cheapest, trending clothing option on the internet, and to no one’s surprise, big corporate companies recognize this, too. They pop subtle ads in your social media and use influencers to encourage consumption of fast fashion - a term that I like to think of as the opposite of long-lasting, transparent, and innovative when it comes to clothing.


While large brands like H&M, Forever 21, Gap work on market research, design, sales, and marketing in high-income countries, production is outsourced to countries such as India, Ethiopia, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and even some parts in the US. Because these brands are not legally affiliated with manufacturers, they are not obligated to ensure safe and legal working conditions and wages. As a result, workers in these countries often suffer under dangerous working conditions and low wages but are forced to continue working there in order to support their families.


The problem of fast fashion harming workers in other developing nations feels like an issue that is very far away. In fact, the issue hits pretty close to home. Most of the clothes you’re wearing are most likely to have originated from outside the US in factories without legal obligations to create a safe working environment. In LA, the Federal Labor Department realized their outfits are made by “sewers [who] earn as little as $2.77 an hour” (NYtimes, 2020).


Clothes have always been a symbol of wealth and status. As messed up as it is, the biggest fast fashion brands have the largest low-income consumer population. Fast fashion is easy, accessible, and affordable, whereas sustainable brands are often expensive and size-limited.


The fashion industry is, has always been, a toiling machine. According to Goodonyou.com, “new designs are made in less than 2 weeks, and 1000 new styles are released every week.” Mass-marketing retailers keep an eye out for looks on the runway, trends alluring the public, and influencers who can connect the masses to high-end, unaffordable looks. Not to mention, this happens every year, every season, and every month: “The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone” (Darmo, 2020).


Have you ever wondered where unsold clothing goes? Instead of donating or upcycling clothing, most fast fashion companies toss or burn their unsold stock, leading to dire losses of natural and financial resources (Lieber, 2018). Two years ago, Burberry “destroyed $36.8 million worth of its own merchandise” that led to a country-wide Burberry Boycott and #burberryburn trending on social media (Lieber, 2018). In 2017, H&M reported to have “burned 60 tons of new and unsold clothes since 2013” (Lieber, 2018). A short documentary set in Panipat, India highlights women shredding brand new clothing shipped from the US, a dirty method to maintain a brand’s reputation.


And of course, there are consequences. “The fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of the entire world’s carbon emissions” and “more than 500 billion dollars of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and the lack of recycling” (UN, 2020). To give you a rundown, “Washing, solvents, and dyes used in manufacturing are responsible for one-fifth of industrial water pollution” (McKinsey, 2020). According to TuftsDaily, “the average woman in America [owns] seven pairs of jeans and the average American family [washes] around 8-10 loads of laundry per week” (Smith, 2020). With each load of laundry, it collectively adds up to “half a million ton of microfibers...released into the ocean when clothes are washed per year” (Smith, 2020). Fashion accounts for 20 to 35 percent of microplastic in our ocean (The State of Fashion, McKinsey 2020).


Although our lives may seem distant from these hard facts, our ecosystem is connected and what we choose to decide for the short-term will impact all of us in the long-term. Whether we like it or not, we’ve already impacted the planet. There’s no such thing as a “re-do” on the results we’ve already made. However, each year 20% can become 10% and 10% can become 0% and we can change.



Here’s how:


1. View clothing as long-lasting and versatile.

    Invest in basics that you’ll continually reach for in the years to come. Stop yourself from looking at Instagram trends with an “I need that” mentality, but observe your wardrobe to see what you’re missing. 
    Although currently it’s hard to bridge the financial gap between sustainable brands and affordability, one solution is to go thrifting. Thrifted clothing allows a green cycle of buying and selling clothes. I would also recommend checking out Pact and Thredup, both online brands that sell a wide range of prices. However, always remember that the best solution is to evaluate your wardrobe and continue to consider do I really need that?. 

2. Use Fashion Checker 2020 to see which of your favorite brands are producing fast fashion.



3. Understand the Fashion Transparency Index 2020


Transparency is huge! We want to be able to support brands that are paying their workers fair  wages with safe and healthy working conditions, and that do not violate human rights within supply chains. 


4. Get involved and stay informed!


Use your voice on social media, reach out to local activists, and help support your favorite sustainable movements, whether it be through donations or volunteering. Here’s one way to start: https://www.patagonia.com/actionworks/#!/explore/home. As long as you feel a strong urge to change the current fashion industry, there is always an opportunity to get involved. 

For more insight: 20 facts about fast fashion, What United Nations is Spearheading, and Global impacts on Fast Fashion.

5. Give your friends a slight nudge on what you’ve learned and help pay it forward.


This is so important! The meaning behind “sustainability” has become distorted into a term that many brands label onto their clothing-line when in reality the companies do this to lure you into thinking that one word means the brand is safe from fast fashion. However, this is the company making decisions for you. Now that you have all these resources, you can make the decisions for yourself, your friends, and especially for those who didn’t know. 

6. Follow, like, and forward local organizations and/or clubs on campus that promote clean clothing.


I’m one of the co-founders of altKEY, a new sustainable fashion-forward movement (2020), and we’re reaching out to students at Emory about sustainability and fast fashion. One of our biggest projects for 2021 is our virtual fashion show, the KEY, on April 10th, looking to promote student designers, panel speakers, and local Atlanta grass-root businesses. Follow us on Instagram, on facebook, on linkedIn, and visit our website! Below is a picture of our lovely exec team :) 



Due to COVID-19, there is mounting pressure on the fashion industry to return to the normalcy of mass production and the pursuit of high profits. However, the crisis must not be a limitation to what can be done for a greater change. The fashion industry is an entity that is always changing, fashion today can be outdated by the time we reach 2021. Yet, we can decide what we consume, and we can collectively demand the change we’d like to see in the fashion industry. Let’s do this together.









Works Cited:


Chavie Lieber. “Burberry, H&M, and Nike Destroy Unsold Merch. An Expert Explains Why.” Vox, Vox, 17 Sept. 2018, www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/17/17852294/fashion-brands-burning-merchandise-burberry-nike-h-and-m.


“Home - The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion.” The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, 2019, unfashionalliance.org/.


Darmo, Jennifer. “20 Hard Facts About Fast Fashion.” Good On You, 27 July 2020, goodonyou.eco/fast-fashion-facts/?utm_source=GoodOnYou-email.


Kitroeff, Natalie. “Fashion Nova’s Secret: Underpaid Workers in Los Angeles Factories.” The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/12/16/business/fashion-nova-underpaid-workers.html.


Smith, Colette. “In Face of Environmental Repercussions, Sustainable Fashion Takes Hold.” The Tufts Daily, 5 Nov. 2019, tuftsdaily.com/arts/2019/11/05/face-environmental-repercussions-sustainable-fashion-takes-hold/. Accessed 3 Dec. 2020.


“The State of Fashion 2021: In Search of Promise in Perilous Times | McKinsey.” Www.Mckinsey.com, 2020, www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion#. Accessed 3 Dec. 2020.


“Waste and Pollution.” Clean Clothes Campaign, 2020, cleanclothes.org/fashions-problems/waste-and-pollution.




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