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Sustainable fashion in a gen-z world

young travellers in Greece

You’ve probs noticed this already, but just in case you hadn’t we’re pretty keen on green here at Contiki. The colour (I mean, just spend a couple of seconds on our homepage to see that beautiful Contiki green), but also trying to be sustainable in what we do.

Now obviously most of that is about sustainable travel, but we also like to think broadly about what it is to be green, and that extends to what we wear.

So we reached out to fashion psychologist, Dr Aurore Bardey, course leader for BSc Psychology of Fashion at London College of Fashion to ask about her hopes for Gen Zs being more sustainable in their clothing choices, and how you can be greener with your fashion picks.

Hey Aurore, let’s talk fast fashion to start with. Why is it a real necessity for people to reject it as much as possible?

“Personally, I think that fast fashion is creating one new clothing line a week. And that means brands are creating more than 50 lines a year… [Aurore’s not wrong, 92 million tonnes of textiles finish up in landfills.]

That’s why we need to reject fast fashion. And ultimately you don’t need to follow trends, you need to follow who you are. Otherwise, your self-identity will belong to a fashion style or vice versa.

And if you follow fast fashion, you will keep on changing and changing and changing your style.

Fashion should be here to heal you, to boost your self-esteem, and not to consume it [through fast fashion].

In my mind, there are two reasons to reject fast fashion, first for sustainability, and secondly for your self-esteem.”


Looking at Gen Z specifically, do you think that they are rejecting fast fashion more than previous generations?

“Well, the latest research shows that Gen Z are more inclined to reject fast fashion compared to previous generations. 

And that means they are more engaged with sustainable fashion. They are more engaged with sustainability. There are more activists [among Gen Z]. They are more willing to speak up. 

However while this picture is quite promising, all the research shows that is in the intention or the willingness. We’re not sure yet if they’re really rejecting fast fashion.”

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So you believe that Gen Z do want to be greener with their fashion choices?

“A majority of Gen Z consumers do want to be greener. They do want brands to be greener, more transparent, more local.

The Gen Z generation is the green generation in terms of attitude, of intention, of willingness.”

Young people in Greece

What can people do with their fashion choices to be more sustainable – particularly if they’re on a budget?

“I used to promote luxury fashion as a way of being more sustainable, but some consumers don’t have the budget for that.

If you are on a budget, the place to go is second hand. As usual though, with ethics and sustainability, there’s always a “yes, but”.

If you’re on a budget, second hand will be the perfect option for you, but don’t do fast fashion second hand.

If you buy and sell on a second-hand app that promotes fast fashion items, it is exactly the same as buying fast fashion directly. It’s not good for the planet, and it’s not good for sustainability. Again, if you keep on changing your style, it’s not good for your self-esteem, for your identity.

So it’s second hand with a touch of minimalism. If you want new clothes, turn yourself into [a minimalist shopper].”

Two men taking a photo of Milan Duomo

What’s your personal approach to finding clothes you like which are also sustainable?

“I’m a big fan of second hand clothes. They last longer, and when I buy second hand, I also make sure that I’m getting long lasting clothes.

Because I’m quite picky, second hand allows me to go from really vintage stuff to modern clothing, or something really neutral. I can shop for a variety of different styles.

I’m also a big fan of minimalism. I pay a lot of attention to not having a lot of clothes in my wardrobe. When that number is higher than 30, I try selling my clothes, giving them to charity or to friends.”

People in Portugal

Do you have hopes that future generations will take a green approach when thinking about their fashion choices?

“Big yes! All my students can confirm I say that in every lecture. My students amaze me with their activism mindset.

I’m always amazed by young people like Greta Thunberg. I didn’t have the courage to speak up about societal shifts and issues.

I do have a lot of hope that future generations will take a greener approach in their lifestyle, personal choices, and fashion choices.”

If you’re thinking about how to be more sustainable when travelling, check out our packing list, or if you want some Contiki merch while being conscious of the environment, check out our clothing store. We’ve partnered with Teemill who only use certified organic cotton and print on-demand technology powered by renewable energy, so you know your new gear comes from a good home.

contiki teemill tshirt

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