By Ameera Steward
For the Birmingham Times
Although Birmingham’s sustainable fashion community is made up of small businesses, they are collectively taking big strides to make a change.
Sustainable fashion is a movement centered on fostering a shift toward fashion products that prioritize ecological integrity and social justice; the term refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly and socially conscious.
A big part of the sustainable fashion business model involves social media, which is the platform most of these local business owners use to educate their audience and customers about sustainable fashion, the effects of their fashion choices, and how they can make better choices.
Here’s how Collin Balentine and Jordan Joiner encourage sustainable fashion in the Magic City.
With a focus on encouraging sustainability, Balentine, 23, and Joiner, 24, launched their repurposing and reselling business, Ragz Vintage Clothing, on Instagram (www.instagram.com/ragzvintage). The partnership was an idea they’d had for years, but it became a reality at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, while they were quarantined and decided to face their pile of vintage clothing and “throw it on Instagram.”
Both Balentine and Joiner grew up in Harvest, Alabama, shopping in thrift stores and “second-hand places.” Plus, they both have a profound love for vintage clothing because it’s nostalgic, usually one of a kind, and “if you go for what’s already here, you honestly are doing a huge number for the environment,” said Balentine.
“I feel like everybody relates to [thrifting and vintage shopping] because a lot of times you can find stuff from your childhood, stuff you liked or saw growing up, maybe something you knew your parents liked and you found a shirt they used to like,” Joiner said. “I just feel it’s relatable to everyone, and it’s only a matter of time until everyone finds an old piece they really, really like.”
Balentine noted that consumers who focus on sustainability are conscious when choosing clothing that is not being made now, clothing that is not creating a carbon footprint by being made in a factory and shipped across the country or the world.
“It’s just an easy way to make things that are already existing exist longer without going to the trash,” he added.
Balentine and Joiner met through friends during their sophomore year at Sparkman High School in Harvest.
“One thing about our high school, … even though there were a lot of different cliques throughout the school day, once the bell rang everybody kind of met up to hang out,” said Joiner.
The Ragz Vintage Clothing partners had thought about going into business together years ago. As they got older and ideas and funds came in, it was easy for them to get started.
“We are really good friends, and we hang out outside of work,” said Balentine. “[Joiner] lived with me in my apartment for a bit, and we’re very comfortable with each other, … so it just kind of flowed naturally. … We both have sort of the same kind of fashion sense, we both love vintage things, … but we also have our own take on it. I think that was a good influence on our business.”
Click one of the links below to read more about Birmingham’s sustainable fashion scene.