CRANBERRY TWP — Tory Grewar did not make your run-of-the-mill resolution at the start of her new year.
The Seneca Valley High School soon-to-be senior vowed to stop shopping anywhere that sold clothes considered to be “fast fashion” — cheap clothing produced rapidly by retailers in response to constantly changing style trends.
“By the time the new year rolled round, my resolution was to completely stop my unethical purchasing,” Grewar said. “It has been a bit of a challenge, but I would never go back.”
The Cranberry Township resident said for her ethical purchasing is buying only what she needs and will wear for an extended period of time.
“Also, making an effort to buy secondhand and making an effort to buy from companies that produce sustainability,” she said.
Popular brands for teenagers, such as Abercrombie, American Eagle and H&M, don't fit the bill for Grewar. She said she's emailed many of these companies, asking them about their labor standards and production process. She hasn't really gotten a response.
She first got into activism with Fashion Revolution — an online global advocacy group based in the United Kingdom — through YouTube, she said, when she was a freshman in high school.
“As a freshman, I was still very naive and did not understand entirely what slow fashion entailed,” she said. “I made an effort to only buy natural fabrics and garments with 100 percent of one material.”
Grewar, 17, recently jumped all in, though, and she's taken to the social media site Instagram to get her message out. She posts pictures of her clothes for her 600 followers, questioning the brands she used to buy and sharing statistics on the fashion industry, labor standards and climate change.
On July 20, she also finished taking a four-week online course through Fashion Revolution.
Grewar said the class taught her how the fashion industry works and who is involved. It also taught her a lot about the United Nations' sustainability goals, how the fashion industry is linked to those goals and also how the industry abuses them.
“It's not only a human rights thing,” she said. “It's a climate issue thing.”
She decided to enroll at the start of the summer because she said wanted to become more educated on issues pertaining to the fashion industry and learn how to be a stronger advocate.
“When you just get your information from online and other people, it's really easy to get misinformation,” she said. “I don't want to be proliferating misinformation.”
Grewar wants to use what she's learned in class to continue educating her peers online.
“If I influence my followers, they can talk to kids they know, and soon it will become much bigger,” she said.
She's also working to organize a screening for the documentary “The True Cost.”
“A few months ago, I watched 'The True Cost,' and it really highlights the impact our clothing habits have,” she said.
When it comes to shopping secondhand, Grewar said she uses a lot of online sites.
She also likes going to local consignment shops.
“It's a little bit difficult and stressful, like if you're looking for something you need for a specific event,” she said.
Plato's Closet in Cranberry Commons is one secondhand clothing store Grewar likes. It's geared toward teens and young adults in their early 20s.
Kayleigh Roberts, a floor manager at the Cranberry Township store, said she likes working at the store for reasons other than the clothes.
“I'm a big environmental activist,” Roberts said. “A lot of people think trash is the problem, but throwing away a bag of clothes in the trash is a problem, too.”
Local teens can donate their clothes and make some extra money, too, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the price tag the secondhand store puts on their donated clothes, said Roberts.
Roberts also said shopping secondhand can be cheaper. She said you can purchase some brands at nearly 70 percent off the original price.
“People think I might just be working here because I like clothes,” Roberts said. “But it feels good to make that small difference in the environment.”
Small differences are what Grewar is all about, too. While she's made a big commitment to cutting out fast fashion in her life, she said she doesn't believe everyone needs to take that route.
“We don't need 10 perfect ethical consumers,” she said. “We need thousands of imperfect consumers who are making an effort.”