You may have read recently that I’ve taken a deep dive into sustainable and mindful shopping. My approach has involved finding every cool Gen-Z talent I can possibly follow because, yes, they all have that off-duty cool-girl look, but also because they are just so damn informed. Case in point: my newest friend Jenny Welbourn of Where I Live. Her YouTube channel documents everything from her mindful morning and evening routines down to her plant-based diet. But we’re here to talk fashion, and I soon realized Welbourn and I had something very much in common: Our love for jeans.
Any fashion editor or influencer will tell you Levi’s® are a mainstay staple in all of our wardrobes. It really is no different for Welbourn, who told me she turns to Levi’s® denim—from the new Loose Straight silhouette she’s convinced me are spring’s best jeans, to the vintage styles she’s been wearing on repeat for years—on the daily. It’s this newest style that she’s been wearing on repeat. “I was so excited to see this fit. I know I’ll wear them until I’ve ripped through the butt and get them repaired after. It’s beautiful to experience life through a pair of jeans. I love to see Levi’s using Cottonized Hemp, which is a healthier fiber for our planet, and their resources to develop the same great feel of classic cotton denim,” she tells me.
I was so impressed with how effortlessly Welbourn spoke to the stylistic and ethical traits of the jeans, I had to get her advice on how she approaches a mindful lifestyle. “There’s really no way to do it wrong as long as you are trying. While as consumers we have the ability to use our voice and vote with our dollar, there should also be accountability for corporations. Doing what you can to be more thoughtful is important, however, I never condone judgment or shaming individuals for not being perfect. Everyone has different needs and resources, and this is an extremely complex issue,” she says. Having such a kind and patient approach made it so easy to ask Welbourn all my questions about sustainable shopping, and because I learned a thing or two from her generosity, I shared more of our conversation below.
When did you start shopping sustainably and what inspired you to do so?
I grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado, and fashion became very important and exciting to me early on in my life. I dreamt of moving to New York City, and after saving up the coin to do so, I realized once I got here that things were a bit different than I pictured. I went from shopping at my small-town mall to seeing fast-fashion shops on almost every block, which made me realize just how much people buy (including myself). When I started learning more about production, exploitation of workers, and the environmental impacts of fast fashion, I quickly shifted my behavior. At a point when I was feeling the least connected to nature in my life, I starkly met this new information, which allowed me to shift my goals. If I was going to stay in the fashion realm, I wanted to see how I could contribute to doing it differently. I also realized that buying mindlessly never made me feel good anyway—just a quick high.
For someone who is just starting to shop sustainably, can you give them a starter pack?
The starter pack is a new mindset: Shift into wanting to do better, learn as much as you can, and feel the connection we all have to each other and the earth. As for your closet, start with well-made basics: jeans, blouses, socks, underwear, a jacket, and work from there! Those pieces will give you the most CPW (cost per wear) if they are something you reach for frequently over the course of many years!
What’s one major thing you look for when you’re adding to your wardrobe?
When I’m shopping for a new item, as opposed to secondhand (which is my first option always), I always check to see if the brand I’m shopping has any certifications from GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Certified B Corporations, Fair Trade Certified, etc. When I was looking for jeans I’d live in, I noticed that every product on Levi’s has the certifications listed and tells you why each piece is sustainable. I always look to see where brand’s items are made and how they pay/care for their workers throughout the supply chain. It’s of foremost importance to me that brands are not exploiting their workers. I prefer to shop at womxn- and BIPOC-owned brands, and I try to shop small when possible.
What are some red flags to look out for when shopping sustainably?
I think Greenwashing usually comes from grandiose, vague claims. If you have the time, look into those big claims and see if there is real supporting evidence. Sending an email to a brand to ask for more detail is a great way to get more information while also having your voice heard to say that these practices are important to you. Also, just because something is sustainably made doesn’t mean we should go overboard on shopping. The goals should be to shop better, shop less, shop for longevity.