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How Young People are Shaping Sustainable Fashion

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Words by Elise Stavely

Why is it that the younger generations are working towards sustainability more than anyone? Perhaps it’s not only because millennials and Generation Z want to protect the future of the environment, but it has also come to be something we see as trendy. The future of sustainable fashion should hold a foreseeable stable position within the industry that lasts more than just a “trend”. While you indulge in buying charming vintage sweats and your handmade, plant-dyed activewear set over the endless fast fashion available, you may not realise you’re at the beginning of doing something good for the fashion industry.

A survey by Inspiring Global revealed that 86 per cent of young men and women are “interested in the environmental and social impacts of the clothes they buy, with two thirds of this group stating that these impacts either already affect their spending decisions, or indicating that they would like more information to be made available. The other third said that while they are interested, it doesn’t affect their spending decisions”. It becomes clear that the limited exposure to information on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry is potentially influencing consumers spending decisions in buying or not buying from sustainable companies.

Our youth generally gravitates towards a lifestyle of fulfillment and doing things that makes us feel like we are making a better impression on the world. Being aware that we are purchasing something that has been produced sustainably and ethically provides us with a greater sense of fulfillment over buying clothing first-hand or even from fast-fashion brands. If you’re unfamiliar with the term fast fashion, it can be defined as the continuous fast cycle of cheap clothing that embraces the quick-changing trends, produced at a rapid pace.

Contribution of businesses owned by young individuals

A number of small businesses including vintage stores, hiring companies and Depop accounts owned by young individuals are contributing to the future of a more sustainable fashion industry. These small businesses are set to overtake the fast fashion market by a landslide. In recent years, vintage clothing as a sustainable source of fashion has become essential to our wardrobes. Online vintage clothing store ‘Nextup Vintage’ is a newly established business owned by 18-year-old Jake Brown. The store features timeless logo jumpers and tees ranging from Ralph Lauren outerwear to Vintage Disney (pictured below).

Jake decided to start ‘Nextup Vintage’ through his own love of wearing vintage clothing. He explained that he found himself selling vintage pieces that he had only worn a few times and thought that starting up his own small business could allow him to share his love of vintage with many others. The 18-year-old spoke about the benefits of wearing vintage clothing as “you aren’t just the same as everyone else… wearing what you love and being unique is so much better than just following any trends”. In regards to the rise of the vintage fashion industry, he agreed that he definitely sees it rising even higher than what it has already become. He also added that the vintage market in the United Kingdom and United States is massive and Australia “tends to be a bit behind” so we should give it some time to grow. For more of ‘Nextup Vintage’, take a look at his Instagram @nextup.vintage, Depop @nextupvintage, and new website

Isabella Essuman is another young individual contributing to sustainable fashion through her lovely vintage clothing store titled ‘Soul Vintage’, which is based on Instagram and Depop @isabellaessuman. The 17-year-old started her business being someone that was “heavily into fashion and trends” with a love of the idea of sourcing pieces and catering them to her young audience “for a fraction of the cost with better quality clothing”, especially better than what is found throughout fast fashion. Isabella said that she wanted her store to be an “educational point on how second-hand consumption doesn’t need to be something ‘dingy’ or gross but rather clothing that has been passed on with many stories through the threads”. Here is some of Soul Vintage’s beautiful pieces.

She expressed her passion for second-hand consumption over first-hand consumption for reasons that go beyond reasoning of sustainability. She stated that “the ethics behind second-hand consumption are much more profitable as you could be buying from a small Depop shop or eBay seller rather than a large chain organised company that wouldn’t care for your order”. I think we can all agree that with education on specific companies, it is important that we invest in second-hand clothing businesses for the benefit of not only ourselves but also supporting the small-business owners who need the money. In regard to the status of second-hand consumption, she believes that our generation of young consumers will be 50/50, with some consumers continually purchasing new clothing to gain the satisfaction of keeping up with trends, while others will still gain the same sense of satisfaction from purchasing second-hand. As we have seen the fashion industry respond to COVID-19, we should continue to see international businesses embrace more ethical and sustainable production of fashion. Isabella also added that she hopes “we can all educate everyone else in order to bring as much attention to the environment and second-hand consumption as possible”. To see more of Isabella’s work, head to Soul Vintage’s Instagram and Depop.

Clothing hiring businesses are another way that young people can avoid contributing to fast fashion. Hiring businesses such as ‘High Street Runway’, ‘Rent a Dress Australia’ and ‘Borrow Me Dress Hire’ are a few of the great hiring businesses owned by young women in Australia. By hiring an outfit for an event over buying a dress, you are preventing the wasteful practice of first-hand consumption. At the same time, you are also borrowing a designer outfit for the fraction of the cost of purchasing one.

How can you personally make a difference?

There are a number of ways that we can all individually contribute to growing a more sustainable fashion industry.

Depop is a fashion marketplace app where a global community can connect to buy and sell clothing. Depop describes itself as being “less wasteful” and “transforming what fashion looks like” and truly that is what Depop is. It is simple to start up your own Depop account to be used for both purchasing clothing and also selling your own pre-loved goods.

Again, supporting hiring businesses for sourcing event-wear is far more sustainable than purchasing a new dress for every event. They are easily accessible, found on Instagram and websites with a fraction of the cost required.

As it has already been mentioned, buying pre-loved vintage clothing is always a go-to for unique statement pieces to add to your wardrobe that will be timeless for decades. Supporting these businesses will only allow the vintage clothing industry in Australia to thrive.

Another way you can make a difference is buy purchasing hand-made fashion and goods from Etsy and Instagram where you will find small businesses run by young individuals. By purchasing hand-made goods from a small business you can reduce your carbon footprint while also receiving something more unique and thoughtfully made. With fashion producing a whole 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, it is so important to work towards lowering this by opting for hand-made goods over fast-fashion.

‘Revel Knitwear’ owned by Shannyn May is a great example of this. It is a knitwear brand that is thoughtfully designed and handmade in Sydney using natural fibres. Revel Knitwear believes in creating a more sustainable future for the world by focusing on five key values including using biodegradable fibred, hand-made production, repurposing waste, ‘made to order’ production and low impact garment care. Her designs are unique and come in a variety of colourways pictured below.

‘By Tahlia Marie’ is another business which sells handmade goods, being handmade bikinis produced by Tahlia Cane. The bikinis are of high quality with unique patterns and designs to flatter anyone.

To discover more of their work, head to their Instagram pages @revelknitwear and @bytahiamarie.

Just quit supporting fast fashion. - If you want to help make a reduction to fast fashion, just stop buying from these brands completely. Companies such as ‘H&M’ and ‘Missguided’ are known to produce fast fashion and are increasing fashions negative environmental footprint.

Finally, let's not make it just a “nice” thing to have sustainable/eco-friendly items, let's move towards it being imperative to our lifestyle. Educate ourselves on the importance of ditching fast fashion and embracing hand-made, second hand and vintage goods.

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