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Meet sustainable fashion influencer Bianca Foley

Bianca Foley, an advocate for sustainable fashion, utilises her Instagram profile to educate her followers on sustainability.

All fashion enthusiast-turned-influencer Bianca Foley desired was a plain white T-shirt, but she was astounded to discover 19 pages of the same white garment during an online search. This abundance of seemingly unnecessary choice sparked her interest in sustainability.

“I just wanted a white T-shirt,” Foley told The Big Issue. “I went on ASOS and there were 19 pages [of them]. I was like, ‘Why are there so many? Why is the company not just selling one perfect white T-shirt that fits everyone?’”

Since then, Foley, 34, has grown her profile as a fashion and sustainability influencer, content creator and co-host of Sustainability Influenced, a podcast which she describes as directing her audience through the “minefield” of sustainability.

With over 14,000 Instagram followers, Foley has made a name for herself in the field of sustainable fashion by showcasing her sense of style, as well as enriching her online followers with advice on consumerism, rental fashion and how to maintain an ethical wardrobe.

In 2021, the term “sustainable” was at the forefront of public discussion as there was a tremendous rise in environmental consciousness to safeguard our planet — specifically during and after the United Nations’ Cop26 climate conference in October.

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One positive outcome of the conference was that the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was renewed with new commitments, including the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, and procuring environmentally acceptable raw materials by 2030. Among the 130 brands that signed the charter include top fashion labels Burberry and Nike.

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Foley began her journey 10 years ago with the launch of Love Food Love Fashion, a lifestyle blog that offered advice on fashion and beauty. Three years later, she started her first e-commerce brand, GLDN, a company designed to limit excessive purchases and encourage shoppers to build a capsule wardrobe — a limited number of items that can be reworn time and time again.

“I had this real thing against buying all the time,” Foley said. “I didn’t want to design any new things because [there are] plenty of designers out there. There’s plenty to choose from.”

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“I’ve always had this thing against buying every trend and buying everything that comes out because fashion moves so quickly. So I chose the best pieces from particular well-known brands and sold them on my site.”

Foley is conscious about the goods she sells; she wishes for a more sustainable and ethical fashion sector where humanity and the environment prevail. She points out there is a distinction between sustainability and ethical fashion, however.

Sustainable fashion focuses on the environmental impact of manufacturing clothing, while ethical fashion places a premium on social responsibility and worker protection throughout the manufacturing process.

“You can have an ethical fashion brand that isn’t sustainable,” explained Foley. “If you’re producing at a rate of 300,000 garments per year, you’re not thinking about the afterlife of your clothing.”

As for ethics, recent research from the Clean Clothes Campaign found that garment workers were owed an estimated between $3.19 billion and $5.78 billion in wages during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Instagram, Foley has also been a long-time supporter of rental fashion, which she says is simple and effective way to keep up with latest trends without feeling like you’re hurting the planet.

Rental fashion allows individuals to rent an item for an event or for a specific period. These items can vary from clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery.

“I used to see my mum come home in princess gowns, and she’s like, ‘Oh, I rented it.’ I absolutely adore rental fashion, I think it’s a great way forward,” Foley said. 

But the fashion influencer warns that if people aren’t careful, eco-friendly rental fashion can play into the culture of fast fashion as individuals continuously purchase new items to rent in order to keep up with the latest fashion trends. 

 “I’m starting to see that the other side of rental fashion where there is this question that in order to keep your wardrobe, current and rentable, I’m seeing a lot of people feel the pressure that they have to keep buying things in order to rent them out,” said Foley.

Foley encourages people to be more mindful. “For me, it’s about shopping second-hand and only really buying what you need.”

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