By Daisy Wallis
TikTok has become a much-loved social media platform whilst the world has been in lockdown. But while it may have once been associated with a younger demographic, the rise of sustainable fashion creators have made it a platform that now rivals Instagram. But does TikTok have a future in showcasing the importance of sustainable fashion?
Like so many others on social media, TikTok has become a key part of my day in lockdown. I quickly became obsessed with the viral dance routines, that I have failed at replicating, and funny lip-sync clips.
In a time of such uncertainty – TikTok provides quick moments of entertainment and comedy in the average lockdown day.
However, TikTok has also quickly developed a growing group of content creators focused on promoting sustainability. From upcycling old clothes to educational guides on our impact on the planet, the sustainable fashion hashtag is full of accessible and easily digestible content. And with over 400 million views, it is no wonder that people are starting to talk about TikTok’s place in the sustainable fashion world.
Finding The Balance Between Fashion And Sustainability
Acteevism and becoming a conscious consumer
Megan McSherry, @acteevism on TikTok, was one of the first sustainable TikTokers I came across. Using popular trends and audio clips on the app, Megan collates guides on everything from greenwashing to thrift flips.
Through TikTok and her blog, Megan champions her own form of activism – acteevism. This form of activism has a distinct focus on campaigning for change, both socially and environmentally, through conscious consumerism. Her content is centred around equipping her audience with the right knowledge to make small and meaningful steps to be a more conscious consumer.
What first attracted you to TikTok for sharing your acteevism and thoughts on sustainability?
I have had a sustainable fashion blog for about 8 years now and have expanded onto other platforms like Instagram and YouTube to talk about sustainability and fashion, but I initially downloaded TikTok for fun. I had the app for over 6 months before I started creating my own videos.
It wasn’t until I figured out the TikTok algorithm and learned that regardless of how many followers you have your content can be seen by millions of people on the app that I started taking it more seriously and using it as an extension of my other social media platforms to talk about sustainability. Also purely from a creative standpoint, TikTok was such a different type of content than I was used to creating so I had a lot of fun making videos!
Your acteevism is based on making change through conscious consumerism, what is your advice to someone wanting to become a conscious consumer?
My biggest piece of advice is to ask yourself a lot of questions before you buy something. The most important part of conscious consumerism is being aware of your purchase decisions and the implications they may have, so slowing down the purchasing process is important.
These questions will reduce impulse purchases of things you don’t actually need and will ensure you’re really conscious of what you are consuming and why.
STAN and the rise of upcycling on TikTok
As well as helping activists like Megan share their positive message, TikTok is proving to be the perfect platform for new sustainable brands. Tristan Detwiler, founder of STAN, is one brand owner who is utilising the platform and also sharing his tips on upcycling.
Inspired by the surf culture of Southern California, STAN repurposes antique textiles and upcycles these into relaxed styles. Each piece is handcrafted and incorporates design techniques like quilting – a style that was seen at London Fashion Week.
From showing the process of creating one of STAN’s unique jackets to a quick guide on how to upcycle your own t-shirt, Tristan is sharing the incredible storytelling abilities of upcycling.
Upcycling is a big part of your brand STAN, what advice would you give to our readers on upcycling and how to ignite new life into their old clothes?
Sustainability is not only a burgeoning topic in the realm of fashion, but it’s necessary in order to fight the harm we do to our planet. And it’s attractive because a re-made, or upcycled T-shirt breathes more life than a $4.99 T from H&M.
I find textiles as old as 140 years old, forgotten over time, and unveil their stories of travels, ownership, wear, mending and love. Some have been gifted, tattered and passed down over generations; now I’m creating pieces that allow another person to continue and share a unique story of time but in a different form such as a jacket.
This is the extreme end of upcycling, but I started my brand, STAN, by thrifting for vintage clothes. I was attracted to the most used, broken and tattered clothing because that meant it would have the richest stories to tell. I learned basic sewing to mend and patch old denim, T-shirts and jackets by searching on You-Tube, “How to sew a patch on jeans”. Anyone can do this to not only make their old jeans usable again but to make a unique statement in fashion.
As well as spreading greater awareness for sustainable fashion and inspiring others, has TikTok helped to grow your business? And would you recommend that other sustainable brands start using TikTok?
Tik Tok has allowed me to expose Stan so organically and with so much positive reception. I have grown an audience that believes in sustainability and storytelling, in a very short time. I get replies with such inspiring and loving comments from true fans who often convert to followers on Instagram and subscribers on my website STAN. I truly recommend that any brand, business or creative uses TikTok to promote sustainable awareness.
andagain and luxury sustainable labels on TikTok
Luxury sustainable labels are also utilising TikTok to share their incredible work. The New York-based brand, andagain, creates behind-the-scenes videos on how they create their luxury sustainable pieces.
On a mission to create the most sustainable luxury fashion label in the world, andagain uses deadstock fabrics and zero-waste processes to create truly stylish and meaningful collections. The brand also shares its innovative way of repurposing deadstock and off-cuts into a whole new zero-waste textile.
Through TikTok you share a behind-the-scenes look at how you design and make your garments and unique zero-waste textiles, do you think more brands should operate with this level of transparency through platforms like TikTok?
We absolutely love showing the behind the scenes of our entire process because it really opens people’s eyes to what goes into creating a garment. I would love for more brands to show this kind of content.
Nowadays, it seems that everything brands do is behind closed doors but when people are asking for sustainable and ethical practices in business, the only way to verify this is through radical transparency.
As a luxury sustainable fashion label, what response do you get from your followers and viewers on TikTok?
A lot of the response we get is positive and supportive! There is still a decent amount of people who need more explanation of sustainability, and why what we are doing is so important. Another interesting result of our TikTok account is outreach from individuals with scraps or extra fabric that they are looking to donate to us.
The future of TikTok and sustainable fashion
The content created by each of these incredible TikTokers demonstrates how the platform has become a place not just for entertainment but also for education. From brand marketing to sustainable activism, TikTok has clearly become a place for creators to inspire change through creativity.
Another key factor in the app’s future is, of course, its audience. When speaking with Megan, she spoke of how TikTok has opened up a new audience for sustainable content – A younger audience that is eager to learn more about sustainability and inspire change.
As andagain emphasised, TikTok is already influencing the industry. In the last year, many brands have already made the leap to TikTok, including Calvin Klein and Fenty Beauty. TikTok creator, Charli D’Amelio, was even invited to the Prada Milan Fashion Week show to share content on her channels. With over 800 million active users, it is no surprise that brands are turning to TikTok.
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TikTok has given activists, designers and consumers alike a new platform to share their creativity and passion for sustainable fashion. Whether it’s through viral dance routines, informative clips or how-to- guides, TikTok is the ideal place to share the importance of sustainable fashion.
As the andagain team accurately said, “TikTok is simply a means of spreading this voice even further, which it absolutely is!”