Small-Batch, Student Made, #Sustainable.
The difference between fast-fashion retailers and smaller-scale operations boils down to one thing: scalability.
While the former have the ability (funds, demands, resources) to produce more items faster and cheaper by sending work overseas, local artisans and small businesses often resort to producing fewer items out of local factories, or even by hand, in the case of made-to-order products, which are handmade one at a time, whenever an item is sold.
It doesn't take a scientist to see which one is more sustainable than the other. While fast-fashion retailers may be producing more products quicker, they're also producing more waste, more greenhouse gasses, more CO2 emissions, and wasting more water, quicker. Due to the nature of this process, they often have little control over their use of resources and their net of exports, especially when compared to smaller-scale business.
But one of the smallest-scale operations remains in the hands of some of the most talented designers out there: the students. Here in the Bay Area, we're lucky to have two of the best design schools in the country: the Academy of Arts, and FIDM, where the talents are undoubtedly exceptional.
Prior to shooting this look, I actually never considered the idea of shopping from design students. I didn't even realize it was an option, let alone a sustainable one. But my friend Julia, who lent me this sweatshirt to borrow, assured me that it's actually quite sustainable, and a quite feasible option. Many design students produce their design by hand, and sell them to make a little extra money to help get them through school. Many of these clothes are made in dorms, or in university classrooms, so the conditions are ideal and the labor, we can assume, is fair. Since the student is setting their prices and reaping the profits, it is safe to assume that they are paying themselves living wages, and using the residual to purchase high-quality fabrics (like the amazing neoprene used in this sweatshirt!) To me, it doesn't seem to get much more sustainable than hand-made, small-batch, student-made clothing.
Now, where the hell do you even find student made clothing? It's definitely not one of those things you can just walk into a store and ask for, it and it certainly takes a little more time and research, depending on your area. For San Francisco folks, Shop 657 Sutter seems to be where it's at. It's a little pop-up shop that features pieces made by students and alumni from the Academy of Arts.
But of course, if you're not in San Francisco, you're definitely not out of luck. I highly recommend getting in touch with your local arts institution, and seeing if any of their design students have independent online shops. Or, if all else fails, check Instagram! If you look up the hashtag #studentdesigner, you'll find tons of pictures of student-made clothing. And I'm sure if you contacted one of those budding designers about buying their clothing, they wouldn't say no. After all, nobody wants money and recognition for their works more than students.
So next time you go out to shop #sustainable, try shopping student-made! It's a fun way to get involved within your local community, while also putting your dollars towards good causes,