This 2021, the number of choices for sustainable fashion is on the rise. Incorporating trendy sustainable pieces into our wardrobes has never been easier! While many small businesses are entering the market space with innovative items made from fully sustainable materials and recycled fibers, others are paying homage to our inner thrift queens and upcycling pros. 

Salvage Apparel Co., founded by the fashion designer and merchandising duo Emily and Megan, is doing just this and more. An online shop-turned storefront based in Columbus, OH, the brand is inspiring new life into thrifted fashion to create one of a kind pieces that add a modern flare to aged items.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that nearly 84% of unwanted clothes in America meet their fate in landfills. A large portion of these clothes are made up of unwanted or unsellable donations from thrift stores or second-hand merchants. Only a fraction of what is donated to thrift stores is usable for resale and this contributes to our massive amounts of textile waste. 

While companies that make new clothing from sustainable materials are using fewer resources in production and are preventing future waste with biodegradable materials, there is still the major issue of the massive surplus of clothing that has already been generated by fast fashion. 

Shopping new pieces from huge retailers that are mechanically churning out clothes every month is becoming less likeable as the seriousness of our waste issues becomes more widely known. Everyone from fashion enthusiasts to everyday shoppers have started turning away from fast fashion habits by thrifting and buying secondhand.

As longtime thrifters ourselves, the Zoe Elle Collective knows that we can either get lucky and find exactly what they are looking for in size and style, or, more often, we find an item that could use some work before it’s wearable. For those skilled with a sewing machine, almost-perfect thrift finds might be an easy fix. But not all are sewing pros, let alone own have the materials needed to make our ideal fashion item come to life. In these cases, Salvage Apparel Co. does the hard work for us. Salvage Apparel is working to alleviate our clothing waste problem by utilizing the pool of fabrics and materials already in existence by making old items new again.

The amount of thought and preparation that goes into the process at Salvage is remarkable. In a interview with the founders themselves, co-founder Emily shared the brand’s process. Least to say, we’re inspired on a spiritual level.

For Salvage Apparel, it all starts with a theme that is conceptualized and takes shape with colors, styles, or patterns. The creatives then consciously select what items to thrift in order to fit the theme and minimize any space for materials they won’t end up using. They are also very particular when it comes to alterations. Salvage Apparel prefers to keep the integrity of the garment instead of merely cutting and sewing for the sake of upcycling. What impressed us the most was the length these creators are going to minimize the waste they generate. We adore that they make scrunchies out of fabric scraps to use every last piece of fabric they can. What an innovative solution that is functional and creative!

As consumers, it’s important that we start becoming more responsible and conscious about the amount of waste generated from our own closets, because everything adds up. Realistically considering how long we intend to wear what we buy and choosing options that will last us longer than a few seasons are some ways we can be more conscious. Being aware of the ethical and environmental impacts of the brands we wear is equally important to changing our waste habits. Shopping a brand like Salvage Apparel that gives us the new, trendy items we crave through thrifting might be a perfect middle ground for sustainable fashion newbies to try.

While retail giants are taking notice of sustainability trends and trying to capitalize, they rarely shift from their business models of offering low-cost appeal through unethical labor and material sourcing. Salvage co-founder Megan believes federal regulation is necessary for sustainability to become the norm, but while we are still navigating the political process of ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion production, Megan reiterates that consumers both have the power and responsibility to shape what fashion will look like moving forward.

Brands like Salvage Apparel Co. are helping to banish the stigma of second-hand clothing by proving second-hand items can become something unique that fit the popular styles and trend of today. If you’ve dreamed of thrifting and upcycling your fashion finds but were too hesitant or fearful of the process and end results, Salvage might just be your dream come true. Along with their main collection pieces, they feature a custom order option, where they’ll develop upcycled fashion just for you.

Despite being new to the sustainable fashion community having emerged just last summer in August 2020, Salvage Apparel has already accomplished so much in the space. We’re excited for the strides Salvage will make in 2021 and the new pieces they will curate as they continue to grow and experiment with new fabrics and different techniques.

Shop Salvage Apparel Co. on their website or visit their new storefront in the Columbus, Ohio, area.