Midweek Musings: Future of Sustainable Fashion

Above: Elizabeth Suzann Nashville HQ

Though I only discovered Elizabeth Suzann a short 8 months ago, I am saddened by the news yesterday of their downscaling of operations, detailed on Instagram here. From the outpouring of comments, it is clear that Liz and her team have helped inspire a movement of sustainable, conscious style. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to own several of Elizabeth Suzann pieces, both new and pre-loved, and to even visit their HQ and operations in Nashville. 

Sustainable vs Accessible

To be honest, I always struggled a bit with the dichotomy presented by fast vs slow fashion. ES and other slow fashion brands (Only Child, Bryr, to name a few) have always been an investment. And rightfully so, given their minimal footprint with high quality, locally sourced raw materials and production. 

However, what’s technically “best” for the environment isn’t always best in accessibility. While it’s great that many can save up for a $140 silk blouse or $145 pair of recycled plastic shoes, there are many more who simply cannot. Which is why I’ve still supported more economical (though not locally produced) brands like Everlane. And why I still keep (and wear!) some fast fashion pieces that have held up as closet staples. My guess is that in the near future, more spending will be redirected to secondhand markets. And though this is good for the environment, it unfortunately doesn’t help brands directly.

What has normally been the strength of sustainable brands is now their biggest risk with slim margins, high fixed costs and lower demand. I sincerely hope that they’ll be able to make it through these challenging times for retail, and well, the world.

#memade

I’m inspired by the creative DIY and #memade kits popping up from businesses impacted by shutdowns. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in SF is offering baking kits, Mister Jiu & Lord Stanley have teamed up to create an at-home 5 course meal (luxurious, for sure), and Black Squirrel Berkeley has offered Instagram DM-based fabric sale for mask-making and clothing projects. It sounds like Elizabeth Suzann 2.0 may head this way after the dust settles, as well. I would love to see her pattern kits that carry forward the deep attention in all of her designs.

And with the uptick of sewing, perhaps more people will mend clothing instead of tossing them into the trash due to a minor hole or tear. I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past. But I’m determined to get through my small stack of simple mends and alterations during the next month of shelter-in-place. Side note: can you believe JoAnn’s & Amazon are sold out of entry level sewing machines? Crazy!

All in all, I admire Liz and her strength in making the right, but difficult, decisions by her family and her team. Elizabeth Suzann as we know it will be dearly missed – but I look forward to supporting whatever comes next.

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