The True Cost of Fast Fashion (And What YU Can Do About It)

Photos of weaver Dee Clements ©Marta Sasinowska/Practice Studies

I keep a running iPhone “notes” listing of movies, documentaries, and podcasts that I want to check out so when I make time to dive into something new, I’m not left scratching my head trying to remember what all those recommendations from pals were.

On this mile-long list was the documentary, The True Cost. And honestly, I scrolled by it many, many times before finally feeling that the time was right.

See, an informed journey in life usually begins with a catalyst, then it seems that curiosity takes you down rabbit hole after rabbit hole without end. It can be eye-opening and overwhelming at the same time.

For me, it started with personal illness, which led to food awareness, which then led to this book which immediately changed the beauty products I use, and now (and over the years), I do my best to make smart choices with some of my clothing and accessories, but I’m not perfect at it. If I keep it real, I could make more of an effort.

My favorite item of clothing is a leather biker jacket (and that won’t change since I hope I’ll be wearing it as an eccentric blue haired lady some day), but I try to balance it out by only buying non-leather handbags from companies like Mat & Nat. I’m conflicted over buying leather, and I’ve been thinking more and more about the plain excess of clothing hanging in my closet—1/10th of which I wear on a daily basis. T-shirt and jeans is me all the way. The past 6 months, I’ve only bought a few items that fall under the capsule wardrobe idea—basically, classics.

I’ve known for a while that I need to watch The True Cost, and I’ve also known for a while that it would put an end to the occasional indulgence in a fast-fashion H&M trip (or the all out clothing binge I go on when I visit Chicago). And like with many documentaries, you finish watching with an overwhelming desire to make a change, but how? Well, for me, I had to marinate on it for a few months, then I realized I had to ask an expert.

So, I reached out to my friend Dee who is a talented (I mean, really, really talented) textile maker and founder of Herron Clothier in Chicago.

Dee walks the walk. She has partnered with large brands like CB2, Land of Nod, and Chicago darlings like The Freehand Hotel, and The Winchester restaurant and makes every effort to create thoughtful products without compromise. She is always working hard to do better, too, like recycling textile scraps into other products.


I sent a message to Dee about the fact that I was ready to start making some smarter choices when it comes to the ole wardrobe and when I asked her where to start, she sent me so many recommendations (very Fall-friendly ones too) that I have to share them with YU.

So, let’s go down the rabbit hole, shall we?


Elizabeth Suzann makes much of her timeless, essential garments from fabric woven by a weaver friend of Dee’s who runs a mill in Nashville.


“I will be honest,” Dee says, “I love Patagonia, or as it is known in the climbing community; Patagucci. I think they make great durable clothing, and are responsible for huge environmental initiatives. In fact, I have a Patagonia Jacket that is made from recycled plastic. I love it. They also source merino wool from sheep that have been sustainably grazed.”


Topo Designs is an outdoorsy, nostalgic, American-made company out of Colorado who make hiking gear that’s flattering for a woman’s shape (hallelujah!).


Woolrich: classic, staple, American-made clothing.


Levi’s has also made an initiative for eco conscious sourcing and environmental interests as well. They have an initiative called the Well Thread Collection which uses 65 percent less water in the dying process and 50 percent less for finishing. The entire product is made with closed-loop recycling (basically a production process in which post-consumer waste is collected, recycled and used to make new products) in mind, and the collection is made in factories that invest in the wellbeing of its workers. Go Levi’s!


Dee also shared a very special project called ‘Friends of Light’ which was started by Pascale Gatzen who teaches fashion at Parsons. She has weavers in the Hudson Valley weave jackets to pattern using wool from a local farm called Buckwheat Bridge Angoras (the whole farm operates on solar power). Not sure how to secure one of these stunning jackets, but if you search for #pascalegatzen or #friendsoflight on Instagram, you can see just how beautiful they are. We are looking into this, so stay tuned…

The universe is indeed pushing me in this direction because I have to also add a few goodies that I came across this week thanks to my pal Jessica’s One Part Podcast.


IX Style: a charitable fashion company that sells huarache sandals, Mayan handbags, and jewelry made by artisans in Guatemala. The owner, Francesca Kennedy, is from Guatemala and for every purchase, IX Style donates to provide clean drinking water to children in Guatemala—she created the company after the lake (Lake Atitlan) that she swam in as a child (and that locals gather drinking water from) became according to NASA, one of the worst natural disasters to occur in our lifetime.


Proud Mary works with global artisans in the developing world to create its line of ‘ethnic-modern’ home decor, personal accessories, and wearables. By combining a modern design aesthetic with traditional methods of production Proud Mary bridges the gap between fair trade and on trend/fast fashion.

I’m looking forward to learning more about these companies, but in the meantime, tell me! What are some of your favorite thoughtful and responsible clothing/accessory brands? Have you seen The True Cost and how did it impact you if it did?

Comment with some thoughts below.


Read the comments or add yours.

Comment Rules

  1. Brenda

    I recently found
    Their styles are flattering and fun, and sooooo soft. And they’re in the same boat as these co’s with sustainably sourced and giving back.

  2. Heather Elizabeth

    Thank you….Such an important read!

  3. Kayla

    Love this post Heather! I will be watching The True Cost documentary very soon. Didn’t know that about Levi’s but that is great to hear. Being more mindful and aware with my fashion choices and buys is something I am starting to do. Will be checking out the companies that you shared. Everything looks so pretty! 🙂

    • So glad you liked the post, Kayla. Curious what you think of the documentary. 🙂

  4. Rebecca

    Check out Encircled. Love the versatile pieces 🙂

  5. Becky

    Definitely check out Patagonia. They are the pioneers in the outdoor industry who push all the other big players (like TNF) to do better. Prana is another company who uses some organic cotton & recycled poly as well as fair trade and bluesign certified clothes. (Looking forward to the new book in the spring)

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