Over the years the power of bloggers & influencers has skyrocketed. In exchange for money, clothes, handbags and lavish trips around the world, many bloggers use their influence and popularity to promote / praise fast fashion brands and the individuals that profit from it.
While it’s not necessarily the influencers responsibility to educate others on the social & environmental effects of fast fashion, IMAGINE if they used their platforms to instead promote ethical and intentional shopping.
That’s exactly what Emily Mills aims to do. Once a consumer of fast fashion, Emily now strives to use her platform of 12.4k to promote conscious shopping and share her love of vintage shopping.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
EMILY MILLES: My name is Emily Mills, I’m 22 and consider myself a wearer of many hats (literally and figuratively). I recently graduated from the University of Portland and have a full-time job at Blossom Brothers, a wine spritzer company based out of Portland. In my spare time, I work as a freelance photographer and enjoy taking cutsie photos for the gram. I would describe my style as eclectic and having no rules. I am in no way a minimalist and love my cluttered closet that I have filled with vintage and thrifted gems. I think that when people think of sustainable fashion they only think of hemp dresses and flowy linens, but I am here break that assumption.
Has being an influencer affected your outlook on fashion? If so, how?
I’ve been “influencing” for about 4 years. Initially I used my platform as a secondary modeling portfolio. But, when I found out modeling wasn’t my passion I began to focus mainly on fashion. In the beginning of my exploration into fashion, I was contacted by many fast fashion brands like Shein and Zaful land felt excited to be recognized by a brand with a large following. I began to need to update my feed more and felt like it was a necessity to continue to work with these fast fashion brands that could send large amounts of cheap clothing at a small cost to them. I also began to reach out to other brands just to feed my need for more things to wear and post about on Instagram
Why do you think so many bloggers/influencers choose to partner with fast fashion giants like Pretty Little Thing and Forever 21 despite their impact on communities and the environment?
I think many other influencers feel the same and don’t have, or at least start out with, a strict filter for brands because it’s often necessary to work with larger fast fashion brands to be able to update content and gain reposts. I also think it makes feel people important when brands that have a global presence reach out to work together.
What made you decide to stop working with certain companies?
I watched the documentary “The True Cost” a few years ago and it really opened my eyes to the environmental and socio-economic impacts of fast fashion on our world. I was able to look at myself and see that I was becoming materialistic and greedy to the point that I felt like I was having a direct impact on the wellbeing of the planet and people. I also realized that my posts that promoted fast fashion could have an exponential impact as more people would buy and post about these fast fashion brands.
Do you ever feel tempted to go back?
Sometimes when I need a basic white t-shirt, and I can’t find one at the thrift store, I am so tempted to buy one from Forever21. But I told my friends and family that I am sticking to only buying secondhand clothing and they help me stick to my guns. Eventually I find a killer white vintage T that is soft as could be and I’m glad I didn’t give in.
How did you get into vintage shopping?
I started collecting vintage when I was 7 or 8. My mom, sister and I always enjoyed going estate sale-ing on the weekends. I have a massive collection of vintage hats (it’s unnecessary) as well as vintage dresses and silver. My passion for vintage has flourished over the years and finding an amazing deal gets me hyped! You all can catch me in local retirement communities at 9am lining up to get in the doors of estate sales.
What was the first vintage piece you ever bought?
One of the first pieces I bought in elementary school was a hot pink velvet bee-hive hat from the sixties. I never wear it, but I love to own it as part of my vintage collection.
What are some of your favorite vintage shops or places to shop?
To be totally honest, Portland has a very overpriced and over-picked vintage and thrift market. I have a few vintage stores I like to go to: The Yo Store is amazingly curated, Magpie has a fun vibe and Hatties is great for when you need something cute to dress up. I very rarely thrift in Portland. My best tip to people wanting to score at a thrift store is to hit up the burbs and the boonies. People in rural communities often keep things longer and when items are donated there is a higher chance of finding vintage pieces at a lower cost. When I go on road trips I plan out what thrift stores to stop at along the way.
What are some tips you’ve learned to find good pieces while vintage shopping?
My advice is to dig through every rack. That means men’s, women’s and even kids. Finding amazing things doesn’t happen quickly. The hunt is timely but the reward is often priceless.
What advice or tips would you give to some who is new to the ethical/sustainable fashion movement and wants to start?
As a young woman on a budget I understand the want to have a positive impact on the environment and society but also to need to manage a budget. Ethical brands can often be out of budget but a consignment store or boutique thrift store is a great place to start. You can find clean and curated pieces that won’t seem as daunting as rummaging through the Goodwill bins with medical gloves on.