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By Jessica Zang

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About this blog: I'm Jessica, a Palo Alto-born high school student who's passionate about subjects from social justice to hustle culture. I love writing articles and having thoughtful conversations with my readers, so please email me (jessicazangb...  (More)

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Social media and the sustainable fashion movement

Uploaded: Aug 14, 2021
Social media has caused the idea of living sustainably—more specifically, dressing sustainably—to take over the teenage world, as well as mainstream society. We are beginning to value a brand’s ethics, prioritizing sustainability and ethical production; this means saying no to the many fast fashion brands that formerly dominated the market, providing trendy clothing pieces for never-seen-before prices. But many users on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram still disagree over the ethicality of purchasing from fast fashion companies.

On one hand, it’s often the only option that many lower-income individuals can afford—how can we shame people who have no other choice? At the same time, fast fashion sites like Shein bring with them many downsides. They are most likely only able to make their clothes so dirt-cheap because they ride on the backs of unethical child labor, producing clothing in factories that pollute the environment. On top of this, these stores often steal designs from hard-working artisans sharing their creations online. These designers find themselves competing with huge fashion companies offering their creations at much lower prices (albeit having far worse quality) without receiving any of the recognition they deserve.

TikTok, as a platform, has only enabled the growth of fast fashion companies worldwide: content creators find success (in views, likes, comments, and maybe even future partnerships) when they post huge $300 hauls from fast fashion brands. This success gravitates towards creators with more money to spend and those who recycle their wardrobes practically once every month—both of which highlight the app’s achievement gap and the unsustainable nature of fast fashion. And with the overflow of said videos also comes the concept of microtrends. Essentially, microtrends occur when an influx of videos promoting a similar trend cause young people to follow a popular aesthetic or seek a specific item of clothing. These trends are suddenly thrusted into popularity, and when the app-goers move onto the next big thing, they are just as quickly deemed worthless or “yesterday.”

This is how TikTok and Instagram retain their engagement despite the content staying largely the same: the never-ending cycle of making trends go viral, running them into the ground, and throwing another at their perpetually hungry audience.

Social media has provided both a platform that rewards unsustainable fashion and a space for climate change activists to start important conversations, such as the notion that it may be unfair to pile blame on consumers rather than the companies who engage in unethical practices in the first place. And how much of an impact does one person who shops sustainably really make?

In my view, all we can do is try our best given our unique situations. And hopefully, this knowledge that we’ve tried our best will make the clothing we wear all the more comfortable.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by PA+family, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 16, 2021 at 11:38 am

PA+family is a registered user.

Hi Jessica! As someone not on Tiktok, can you explain what you mean about Tiktokkers and $300 hauls? Do they get all this stuff for free and then promote it? Also, I thought all the PA teens were into the local thrift shops in PA, MP and RWC? Do you think the online shopping is a bigger trend than the thrift shops? Love your insight into teen culture! Good luck in high school this year!

Posted by Rebecca+Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 1:52 am

Rebecca+Eisenberg is a registered user.

Hi Jessica - As an investor and consumer of sustainable fashion, I respect where you are coming from, but I'd like to make a couple clarifications:

1. Fashion is not sustainable if it is made by child labor, made in bulk, or distributed in non-sustainable manners. Ethics in production is a non-negotiable pillar of sustainability.

2. Many sustainable clothing lines are far more affordable than their non-sustainable brethren. That is in part because the costs of goods often are lower with recycled fabrics and materials made from post-consumer waste. Take, for example - which makes leggins and exercise bras (among many other things) from recycled waste. Leggings from sell for much less than similar leggings from its non-sustainable competitor, Lulu Lemon. Not only are the costs of materials to make's much lower than the petroleum-based materials (polyester) used by Lululemon, but also in some places, local and state governments give financial incentives to companies to clean up the plastic from the ocean, which those companies then can turn into clothing. In other words, for truly sustainable clothing companies, materials can have lowest costs, reflected in lower prices.

3. The most unsustainable fashion is fashion that is replaced often. Brands that sell constantly changing styles that do not last long are not sustainable. Truly sustainable brands make clothing to last, and rely on consumers not to replace it often. Check out Patagonia, for ex - which is having a big sale right now!

There are many excellent sources online to help you shop more sustainably. One of my favorites is Good on You (Web Link which rates companies on 3 factors: How they treat people, the planet, and animals.

In sum, the most sustainable fashion is the fashion you wear time and time again for years. The second most sustainable fashion is the clothing you buy used. Don't let anyone on social media convince you otherwise.

Posted by Rebecca+Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 2:01 am

Rebecca+Eisenberg is a registered user.

Jessica - yikes! I'm so sorry that my comment was posted three times! I don't know how that happened, but I would be very grateful if you (or someone at the Weekly) can take down all but one of them? Thank you!

And while I'm here, I wanted to point you to a article I just saw myself when I clicked on the GoodOnYou link I posted above. It is called "Fake News: 6 Fashion Industry 'Facts' Explained," and number 6 is the myth that ethical fashion is too expensive. URL is here:

Web Link

The article also has some great information about fake fur and leather - both of which can cause sustainability problems. Most of all, the best thing to do is to have as small a number of items as possible, focusing on clothing that is built to last as long as possible. That strategy generally works well for both budget, and the small size of most housing here in Silicon Valley!

Thanks again for addressing this incredibly important topic. You are a great champion for social justice!

Posted by jamesbenzo11, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 4, 2021 at 3:28 pm

jamesbenzo11 is a registered user.

This is such an informative post. Thank you for this article
would love to read more.

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