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5 Must-Reads on Fashion's Unhealthy Relationship With the Environment

Some light lunch reading.
What a nice planet! Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

What a nice planet! Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Happy Earth Day, friends! Let's talk about the environment. 

Or read, rather. For your lunchtime enjoyment, here are five articles and one video that make some good points about the unhealthy relationship between fashion, our consumer tendencies and the environment. And the most distinct thread, across the board, is that we really just need to buy less stuff.

We need to stop treating our wardrobes as disposable, or something that needs updating every two weeks. That's really hard when Topshop adds fun new styles to its store every week and when fashion itself is inherently based on fluctuating trends. However much effort big, publicly traded companies pour into sustainability efforts, it's very much on us, as shoppers, to curb the cycle where we can, which starts with our own spending habits.

1. Vanessa Friedman's Copenhagen Fashion Summit speech

At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2014, Friedman (then the fashion editor at the Financial Times) argues that fashion is inherently antithetical to sustainability, and it's unrealistic to expect that the system will ever change. What we can do to reduce consumption is create what Friedman calls "Sustainable Wardrobes" — wardrobes that are designed to last decades, if not generations. Read a transcript of her speech here, or watch it below.

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2. "The Clothing Insurrection: It's Time to Take on the Fashion Supply Chain" 

Though you probably know intellectually that the fast fashion business — urged on, as publicly traded companies like H&M and Topshop are, by the imperative to grow year after year — can't be good for the environment, shoppers are on a whole shielded from the ecological consequences of buying into this cycle, says's Maya Singer. In her estimation, one of the best ways to combat consumerism in the extreme is by having a keen sense of style.

3. "Fashion Brands' Message for Fall Shoppers: Buy Less, Spend More"

There are some brands out there, like the startups Zady and Cuyana, that make it a point to encourage shoppers to buy fewer, better things. (Ideally their things, but the message is good nonetheless.) And according to the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Holmes, consumers may be willing to take that cue.

4. "Reformation, An Eco Label the Cool Girls Pick"

The trouble with environmentally friendly clothing brands is that while they appeal to shoppers' inner do-gooders, they don't often carry white hot desirability, too. That's what Reformation, profiled in this New York Times story by John Koblin, has done so well. As founder Yael Aflalo puts it: "I want altruism and narcissism to be combined."

5. "Will California's Drought Mean More Expensive Jeans?"

One of the more alarming pieces of news to come out of California this past year is that it's running out of water, with what the LA Times reports is just a year's supply of the stuff left in its reservoirs. With that will come water restrictions, which NBC's Jeff Daniels (not that one) writes could make manufacturing more expensive and in turn products like denim, much of which is produced in LA. If it wasn't clear that our treatment of the planet was going to cost us, here's some evidence.