Iowa City businesses provide style with a conscience

For most of its existence, the fashion industry has operated with little regard for its harmful impact on the environment. In fact, second only to the oil industry, fashion and textiles is believed by many to be the second most caustic industry in the world. Let that sink in.

Photo by Zak Neumann
Photo by Zak Neumann

However, an alternative path for fashion has recently been emerging. Call it sustainable fashion, ethical fashion or simply caring about the world we live in, now there are multiple options that allow you to dress stylishly and use beauty products that have a minimal negative impact on the environment. Pro tip: If you care about sustainability, support small and local shops and brands.

Little Village caught up with two area businesses that are thinking globally by acting locally. Representatives from HABA Salon (recently awarded Green Circle Salon certification for sustainability) and Revival new and vintage boutique offer their thoughts on this and more.

Do you envision sustainable practice as a consumer-driven endeavor? How does it benefit the salon?

JoAnn LS (HABA): We decided to become a Green Circle Salon first and foremost because it is part of our mission to be as sustainable, environmentally friendly and as cruelty-free as possible. Our clients love this because this is important to them as well, and more and more clients are seeking products and businesses that care about the planet and offset their environmental footprint. From the products we carry (most all of our products are environmentally friendly, vegetarian, cruelty free and sulfate and paraben-free with minimal packaging) to how we dispose of our products and supplies, we want what we do to have as little negative impact on the environment and to be as safe and non-abrasive as possible. With Green Circle Salons, we are now able to safely dispose of and easily recycle up to 98% of what would typically end up in landfills or in our waterways. Green Circle recycles and finds carbon-neutral ways to safely dispose of everything from lightbulbs and paper to hair color to mannequin heads to hair clippings in a way that is very easy for us and takes up minimal time, money and space. This program appeals to our clientele and gives us all peace of mind knowing that taking care of our guests isn’t hurting the earth unnecessarily.

Sheila Davisson (Revival): At Revival, we are seeing a rise in the number of customers who are committed to practicing more sustainable shopping habbits and green practices…It really does seem to be more of a lifestyle choice versus a trend for most of our customers. However, [though] it may begin as a trend or an idea to try for some people, the growing consensus is that once you start, you can see so many ways in your life that you can be more green and create more sustainability. I do think it is a consumer driven endeavor. I think the rise in the number of consignment, up-cycling, re-using, re-purposing and green products is all a response to consumers expressing that they want to be able to stay behind their purchases and feel like their making mindful, sustainable decisions.

Recycling clothing is one more way for people to do that. Being able to recycle your clothing for cash towards new items is very enticing to people, but it does also make them feel better about their purchases and I think it really starts to create a more thoughtful approach to their spending and consuming habits. It not only stretches their dollars, but it stretches the life of the clothing. I think this also speaks to the changing of the tides in fast-fashion. Although, fast-fashion is alive and well, it too is having to answer to the consumer and the companies are having to be held more accountable and be more transparent about their practices. A lot of the big boxes like Zara and H&M are talking about their sustainable practices nows.

Considering what you’ve observed at your business, what do you think this says about current fast-fashion?

JoAnn: People are realizing how much of an impact the beauty and fashion industry has on our planet…I think that waste and disposability of fashion is on it’s way out, and that consumers are looking for unique and special experiences and products, and ones that don’t harm themselves or the planet. Taking care of the environment and having style are not at all mutually exclusive.

Sheila: I think the bottom line is that customers want to feel connected to and positive about what they’re consuming—whether that means supporting a local maker, buying a recycled item of clothing they are no longer wearing. We do carry some fast-fashion items, but we do try to buy U.S.-made when we can, and there is the option of extending its life in someone else’s closet!

This article was a collaborative effort between Tim Taranto, Simeon Talley and Joshua Preston. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 206.

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