The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Environmental Justice Alliance and Zero Waste Committee, and UCSB Fashion Club co-hosted a panel discussing ethical and sustainable clothing practices on Jan. 27 at the MultiCultural Center. 

Panelists representing the campus organizations each brought their own perspectives on sustainable fashion, discussing issues like fast fashion, overconsumption and conscientious thrifting.

Panelists gather in the MultiCultural Center to discuss textile sustainability issues ranging from fast fashion to overconsumption to conscientious thrifting. Courtesy of Zero Waste Committee

Fourth-year environmental studies major and Fashion Club Magazine Liaison Visala Tallavarjula is the co-chair for the Environmental Justice Alliance (EJA), a campus organization promoting environmentalism in a safe space meant for the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community and others. 

“You cannot have environmental justice without social justice,” Tallavarjula said.

Globalization and the creation of social media shortened the time that ideas and fashion trends spread, according to fourth-year Black studies major and Fashion Club Vice President Jacob Nicholas. She said that trend cycles used to last 10 to 20 years, but now trends die out within three to six months — especially within the fashion industry. 

“Social media makes companies feel like they need to produce more. It’s where we draw the line with what we think is unacceptable,” Tallavarjula said. “If we stop purchasing from these unethical, unsustainable companies, we don’t give them power and we deplatform them.”

The panelists discussed how thrifting is becoming an increasingly popular trend within fashion as a way to ethically purchase unique clothing; but for others, thrifting is more than a trend. 

“Prior to the recent popularization, thrifting was seen as cheap and dirty, but it was a lifesaver for marginalized communities,” Nicholas said.

Stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are staples for those who cannot afford more expensive clothing, according to Nicholas.

When it comes to over-thrifting, the problem doesn’t entirely lie with the consumer, he said. Resellers with a higher socioeconomic status purchase clothes for cheap and sell them at higher prices.

“It takes away the luxury of being able to dress well from those who are economically marginalized,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas urges consumers to ask themselves whether or not this clothing item is going to be worn multiple times in the next year before buying it.  

“Sometimes I’d go to the mall and buy things there, and I know I have the privilege to do so,” third-year environmental studies major and panel attendee Grace Pham said. “But now I’ll definitely tell myself, ‘Wait. Think about it before you buy it.’”

Tallavarjula said that expectations of perfection amongst environmentalists hampers sustainability movements.

“[Thrifting’s] a trend now and everyone [is] doing it, which is a good thing, but I didn’t think of it as much as before. Choosing where I shop and being mindful about that, and also how much I buy is important,” third-year environmental studies major and panel attendee Emily Sweet said.

One of the biggest actions one can take towards a more eco-conscious fashion community, according to Tallavarjula, is to resell unused clothes at the IV markets or other local vendors..

“We don’t have to stop thrifting,” Nicholas said. “But we should be more conscious and aware of where, what and how much we thrift.”

CORRECTION [2/9/2023, 3:11 p.m.]: A previous version of the article sourced a quote to the incorrect source. The current version has since been revised to reflect that change. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 4  of the Feb. 2, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.