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  • Writer's picturekatiesoltas

Sustainable Fashion Guide for 2020

Updated: May 14, 2020

COVID-19 has had a tremendous economic impact on the retail community, with millions of factory workers out of jobs who can barely put food on the table for their families under pre-coronavirus conditions. It’s had a negative impact on most of our bank accounts as well, so it’s difficult to help the retail and garment industries even though our hearts want to help (read details here provided by Nisolo’s CEO).

Finding businesses that give back to the community or support a cause has always been important to me. I believe small boutiques do this in a way as well, even if they aren’t at the point where they can donate any profits yet to charity. Just by providing a place to shop that understands the local population and isn’t run by a large corporation is a noble cause, and I like to support those true entrepreneurs. After experiencing COVID, I want to be even more conscious about where my retail money is going. I hope these suggestions will resonate with you as well.

With the economy slowly reopening, we’ll soon be able to go out in public a bit more – while social distancing – so hopefully it’s not too late to wear those adorable spring threads for early summer and into fall with some layering. I've highlighted a few of my favorite trends and colors in the pictures that align with the brands and boutiques listed below. These include white mules, mustard yellow, gunmetal blue, snakeskin (practically a neutral now!) small floral print and the cozy, yet cute jumper for your work-at-home loungewear.

Sustainable fashion
A slinky snakeskin summer suit and DL1961 denim with white mules by Dolce Vita.

Rule No. 1 – Stay in your loungewear if that’s what makes you happy.

You should never feel like you’re forced to dress up during a pandemic, but it can boost endorphins for many. We all have varying levels of comfort in what type of activities we’re doing these days, and the same goes for our moods. Some days I feel super productive, and other days I’ve wanted to lay on the couch and do a Netflix marathon. And that’s OKAY. There is no guidebook on how to get through this weird time.

For me, I’m more productive when I’m comfortable, but made an effort to get out of what I slept in the night before. Bonus points for any hair or makeup done, but that usually doesn’t happen if I’m watching the kids.

Gunmetal blue comfy jumper by Fighting Eel Hawaii and snakeskin mules by Dolce Vita.

Rule No. 2 – Recycle what you can.

Ultimately, it lessens our impact on the environment and the volume of clothing in demand if we stop buying new items whenever we need or want something. I do like to find pieces for some of the major trends of the season, but after I had kids my budget tightened up (even more so with the coronavirus). So, whenever there’s a trend I love, I ask myself what I already have in my closet that will fit the bill. This spring and summer, neon and tie-dye pieces definitely made a comeback. I have always loved neon and have plenty of bright pieces in my closet from the past few years. In a perfect world, I would have loved to purchase this muted neon tie-dye dress by Bella Dahl but decided to save money since my summer trips have been canceled anyway 🤷🏻‍♀️.

Or, recycle clothing from others by buying secondhand. Kids grow like weeds, so what’s the point of buying them new clothes every few months?! Lululemon clothes are my favorite for working out (seriously, you can’t beat the Align pants for yoga) but the brand is super pricey. I enjoy finding gently worn Lulu at cheaper prices off Facebook Marketplace and niche groups on the platform – just search for your favorite big chain brand, and there will likely be groups for “buy, sell, trade.”

Rule No. 3 – Clear out and refresh your closet by selling, donating or giving to a friend in need.

It’s taken me about a year to get rid of pieces I don’t need anymore. For example, do I really need this red bandage dress that I used to wear clubbing from seven years ago when I rarely go out on the town? Probably not!

If you’re prepared to operate your own “boutique” and have plenty of time during the rest of quarantine, Poshmark is an excellent option to sell your gently used designer clothes. I set this up, but I am a terrible Posher. I would miss emails and am not always able to get back to people within the 48-hour window to ship items out. I think selling your top tier designer items on here would be best, but expect to sell even the “new with tag” items at 50 percent or less of what you paid for it. Or, you can trade with others, which was pretty cool. It’s interesting to see what items others will give you in exchange for the ones you’re willing to part with.

I recently tried ThredUp, and this works much better for my lifestyle. You get the app, sign up for your first “standard clean out kit,” and ThredUp sends you a complimentary shipping label for up to 30 pounds of gently worn items. The company sells what it can of your items and sends you any profits (while taking a commission of course). Then, they donate the rest to charity for you! The best part is that they also accept children’s clothes, so I did a combined box. I just sent it off, but I’ll provide an update on how this all turns out ;)

If you’re looking for a children’s-only donation app and online consignment store, kidizen comes highly regarded by several friends.

Rule No. 4 – Buy from companies who do their part to help the environment, people or some other charitable cause.

It wasn’t until 2016 when I moved to the Middle Tennessee and discovered fashion with a cause. I visited House of Nashville, a boutique curated by Belmont University students featuring local artists and designers, and found the leather goods brand ABLE. The growing ethical fashion brand employs and empowers women as a way to end poverty. ABLE trains at-risk women in our nation and abroad the trade of making purses, scarves, shoes, jewelry and more. In turn, ABLE invests in their futures.

My first ABLE tote sporting a recycled mustard Fighting Eel sundress.

Since then, I’ve found similar brands Raven + Lily (based in Austin, featured at Magnolia Market at the Silos) and Purpose Jewelry out of Irvine, California. I love the sleek, minimalist look of these brands’ products and the cause behind them even more. I rarely buy leather goods or accessories anymore unless there is a story to tell from the designer or a cause attached to the production.

Dancing through the Blue Bonnets in a Bella Dahl tie-dye dress and a Raven + Lily bag. Photo by Walk the Line Photography (Amanda Mercer)
A classic two-strand necklace by Purpose Jewelry

Nashville-based Nisolo is another accessories company that has become my go-to for shoes. It focuses on providing sustainable fashion through offering fair wages in its factories in Peru and the best quality materials possible, creating amazing leather footwear. Read more about Nisolo’s sustainability here. Other boutique footwear brands doing their part are Soludos and Dolce Vita.

It's hard not to feel the good vibes in Soludos by the lake.

In addition to supporting struggling populations, there are many ethical brands that do their part to protect the environment with responsible practices or partner with charities. Several of my favorite brands that partake in this are Los Angeles-based Bella Dahl, Rails Clothing and New York-based DL1961 Denim.

Rule No. 5 - Buy local. Or at least from a small business.

Even during COVID-19, you can support local boutiques with online sales. Some are slowly starting to reopen their store fronts, but everyone has different levels of comfort with traveling out into the post-COVID world. Here is a roundup of my favorite boutiques from the places I’ve lived and visited:


· Zia Couture Jewelry - Savannah


· Fighting Eel - Oahu

· Olive Hawaii - Oahu

· Mikoh Swimwear – Oahu-designed/Newport, CA-based

· Ginger13 – Oahu

· Pink by Nature – Maui

· Work It Out Kauai – Kauai

· Ginger & Koi – Big Island – Kona

· Pretty Please Boutique – Big Island – Honokaa

All the spring florals in rust, rose, mustard and gunmetal at the beach.


· Blooms & Linen – Zionsville

Middle Tennessee

· e. Allen – Nashville

· Abednego – Nashville

· Alexis & Bolt – Nashville

· Moda – Nashville

· Jondie – Franklin

· Couture Crush – Clarksville

· Hey Noli - Clarksville

My favorite summer 2020 style from the office to the beach: miniature florals! Show Me Your Mumu Tunic from e.Allen

San Antonio/ Texas Hill Country

· Lynsey Louise – San Antonio

· Her Hippie Heart – San Antonio

· Hill Country Outfitters – Fredericksburg

· Sam I Am – Bulverde


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