How Do You Get Into the Sustainable Fashion Industry?

Fashion students and professionals are starting to wake up to the massive environmental damage and worker exploitation inherent to the conventional fashion industry, and want no part of it. But they often don’t know where to start.

This guide is intended to answer that question definitively once and for all.

Be flexible

But on the topic of knowing what you want, don’t be so rigid you get stuck. “The people who are recently graduated or transitioning from traditional fashion businesses, they tend to already have a place they’ve been pigeonholed into, whether they love it or not. They’ve already invested a lot of time and money into the current skill set they have. They oftentimes aren’t seeing the bigger picture and other options, because those other options require more education or a change in skill set,” Tara says. “Those people I find the hardest to help, because they are looking for something specific.” If you’re not finding what you need, again,expand your knowledge so you can break out of that box.

Attend sustainable fashion events and network

“This is what really helped me,” Faye says. “I started going to events and meeting people. Not just meeting them and saying, ‘Hi can I have a job?’ but learning about what they do in sustainable fashion and how they got there and all the ways you can be involved that are not being a designer. It gave me a lot of connections so when they had a job opening, I could just know.”

Don’t go to just free events, though. “Go to conferences even if you need to pay for them, because they have really good networking,” Tara says. Those are the places where the CEOs and industry leaders hang out.

Intern for an emerging sustainable designer

If you would like to be a designer, this is one of Tara’s top recommendations. “Internships are so broad, you tend to learn a lot and evolve your skill set,” she says.

Apply for a job at a larger label or company that is or is going sustainable and ethical

This would be the holy grail, where you are surrounded by people diligently working to overhaul the fashion process to be more sustainable – and get paid to be there. Some of the brands that come to mind (in no particular order) are Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman, Levi’s, Nike, H&MReformation, Nudie Jeans, G-Star, Everlane, Maiyet and Stella McCartney. You could also seek out something in the offices of the fashion holding companies PVH, Li & Fung, and Kering. None of them are perfect by any stretch, but they’ve shown interest in the topics of sustainable fashion and have a lot of clout. Just know that you’ll be up against a lot of competition.

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