While researching animal-friendly fashion companies that give back for my KCAL 9 style expert spot I came across companies promoting “sustainable and eco-friendly” fashion including Bead and Reel. Which got me down an “Google” rabbit hole of horrifying facts about how our “fast fashion” shopping habits are contributing to the earth’s pollution, taking away business from artisans as well as still torturing animals. Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends like Forever 21, Wet Seal, Zara and H&M in cheaply made and inexpensive ways. 

1. The U.S. sends away a full billion pounds of used clothing per year, making it our eighth largest export — where clothes are bought in 1,000-pound bales, sorted and then resold to the local populace, sometimes wreaking havoc on local industries by taking jobs away from local textile workers, Fashionista wrote. 

2. Eleven percent of donations made to Goodwill in 2014, for example, were deemed unsaleable and carted to landfills — about 22 million pounds in all — costing the organization millions of dollars in transport fees and other expenses.

3. Electrocuting fur-bearing animals anally and genitally is an agonizing slaughter method used frequently to limit damage to fur. New York is the only state in which this inhumane method is illegal, Peta stated. 

Holy cow! This is so sad and horrifying. With us being in the biggest shopping season of the year I wanted to offer us more facts and alternative options. For some, it’s not about eliminating certain ways to shop completely just being more mindful and choosing wisely when you can. I reached out to Sica, owner of http://www.BeadAndReel.com for her advice on what we can do to and to break it down for us in simple terms helping us to shop smarter. 

1. What is considered ethical and sustainable?

This is a tough question because there is no universally accepted definition for either, and most brands and people have their own interpretations – which can vary drastically! For me, “ethical” is really just the Golden Rule – it’s eating, buying, and interacting in a respectful way because that’s how I would want to be treated. It’s taking into account the people, the animals, and the environments touch through my choices, and trying to be as gentle and mindful of them as possible. 

My favorite definition of “sustainable” is: meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To me, that means using fewer resources, replenishing what we do use, and supporting women and vulnerable populations to build economies to allow for prosperous future generations. 

2. What are your thoughts on the 3 facts? 

I think they are very important for everyone to know!

Overconsumption is a massive problem, which leads to environmental issues, garment worker exploitation, and also just a general sense of nothing ever being enough. It’s not good for anyone! And the solution is really simple: just buy less, and love and use the things you already have. 

Regarding fur, it is an absolutely horrific and archaic industry and I truly can’t believe that in 2017 it’s still up for debate. I think it’s also important to note that all animal fibers come from really ugly origins. Leather, wool, silk, bone – the means with which these are acquired are equally disturbing, and so the best way to avoid supporting this kind of unnecessary cruelty is to simply shop vegan fashion from companies like mine, Bead & Reel!

3. How can we shop smarter?

My number one piece of shopping advice is: buy less or buy second hand before considering buying new. There is enough unwanted clothing for everyone in America to only wear second hand! Most of us are blessed with far more fashion that we ever actually need (or wear), and we’re trained to want more, to want new trends, to want new things. I love changing up my wardrobe as much as the next woman, but when I do I buy something I make sure it meets my own values (no sweatshops, no animals) and it also will be both a style and a quality that will last me for a long time. I love the #30Wears project which encourages you only buy something you plan to wear 30 times! I recommend giving that challenge a try. 

Photo credit: ClassicCotton.org.

4. How does Bead and Reel follow these guidelines?

Bead & Reel is entirely vegan, entirely sweatshop-free, and focuses on 15 different ethics which customers can shop by to support their values (like Organic, or Female Founder). My goal with my store is really to empower consumers to put into action the things they believe in and use their purchasing power to vote for the world they want to live in, whether that’s more kindness towards people, animals, or our planet (or, all of it!).  

5. What do you wish the American population was more informed about?

I wish more people understood the ways in which the fashion industry exploits and suppresses women. I hear so much talk about female empowerment and feminism – and I adore both! But until American consumers stop buying fashion made in sweatshops – which is how most fashion is made, and it mostly made by young, underpaid women – we aren’t going to see equality or equity. 

If we want to close the wage gap or stop the devaluing of female bodies, we have to stop supporting them with our regular fashion purchases. 

6. How can we get in touch with you?

I’m easy to get in touch with! You can email me at hello@beadandreel.com, you can find me on Instagram (@beadandreel, @sica_schmitz), Twitter (@beadandreel, @sicaschmitz), or Facebook, and you can sign up for my newsletter to find out about my regular sustainable fashion events from swaps to fashion shows(happening this Sunday!). 

7. What are your top gift picks for the holiday season?

The average American consumer will spend almost $1,000 on gifts this holiday season, so I recommend voting with your wallet and putting that money towards the world you want to live in. The best gift we can give to those we love is a kinder, more just world, and so I’ve made two gift guides, one about fair trade and vegan gifts for activists and one about fair trade and vegan gifts from women owned businesses

 And when in doubt, foster an orphan elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya! I have fostered an elephant there for years and it’s truly the best gift I’ve ever received. 

Sustainable fashion items from BeadandReal.com.

 Thank you, Sica, for all this fashionable information. I hope we all can learn from Sica’s advice and make better purchases not only for ourselves but for the world. Happy “sustainable” shopping and repurposing everyone!

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