NEXT TO sweatpants and Zoom shirts, sustainability might be the hottest thing in fashion right now. Consumers—especially younger ones—increasingly expect more from the brands they patronize: more transparency, more accountability, more emphasis on ethical practices. You should, however, take any brand’s claims that its products are “sustainable” with a grain of salt. “Sustainable” is a vague, catch-all term that can be exploited for marketing purposes. A brand that sells only locally produced clothes made from recycled fabric can use the word—but so can one that works with harmful chemicals yet occasionally releases a limited run of vegan-leather shoes. “It’s like saying food is ‘natural.’ It’s very broad,” said Kayla Gil, owner and curator of Seattle’s Pipe & Row boutique. That doesn’t mean that shoppers hoping to lighten their carbon footprints should give up—it just means they should do a little homework.
Experts encourage customers hoping to shop more eco-consciously to