Victoria Zhang is a first year Rotman Commerce student and winner of our Sustainability in Fashion Instagram challenge. To win the challenge, Victoria showed her creative side in a TikTok where she styled a staple white button up in four ways, highlighting that for her, sustainable fashion is all about creating “a myriad of outfits from versatile items”. We had the pleasure of learning more about Victoria and what sparked her love for both fashion and sustainability. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Until now, I have lived in Seattle, Washington for my entire life. I have a profound love for my hometown and a subsequent obsession with coffee, evergreen trees, and the city. I became passionate about environmental protection when I saw acres of forest being cut down just a few streets away from my home. Growing up in the PNW, nature is an integral part of my life and I hope to help preserve it. I also enjoy creating; whether it’s music, film, art — it doesn’t matter. Just the feeling of being hands-on, or simply making something, gives me so much gratification. I would love to create a fashion line one day. Right now, I’m working on some preliminary sketches for a collection!

When and how did your love for fashion begin?
My love and interest for fashion was a quiet development. It started with little things, like window shopping and watching runway shows, that turned into researching trends, sketching collection concepts, and planning photoshoots. I noticed myself starting to get into it more and more until I was suddenly looking at Vogue magazine and stalking Paris Fashion Week 24/7.

I think fashion, in particular, interests me since it can be so diverse. No one collection is the same and it is truly a reflection of the creator. Each individual has a different style and I think that’s what makes fashion so valuable to me.

What does fashion mean to you?
To me, fashion is a means to show yourself to the rest of the world. What you wear can be a reflection of who you are, your personality, and character. That being said, I will admit that this can sometimes be over-exaggerated. Fashion can also be something as simple as wearing what makes you feel good and comfortable. Regardless, I think that what I choose to wear displays glimpses of my personality—like a real-life easter egg.

What you wear can be a reflection of who you are, your personality, and character.

How would you describe your personal style?
I feel like I need to preface this by saying I have had all too many style crises. I used to be very confused about what my own style was because there wasn’t one, clear and definitive style. There was a time where I would only wear tracksuits and hoodies with the occasional sparkly headband.

Now, I would describe my style as classic and elegant. I am very inspired by European fashion. I love timeless and Parisian looks that go to show how sometimes, less is more. That being said, I also like to explore different trends that appeal to me. Most recently, I have discovered my love for bucket hats, and I don’t think it’ll go away anytime soon.

What are your favourite brands and why?
Madewell is definitely one of my favorites. Their pieces are, as the name suggests, well made. I appreciate how they make classic and basic garments that don’t succumb to fast fashion trends.

For designer brands, I love ISSEY MIYAKE. Each of their collections has such a strong personality that truly inspires me. It’s interesting because the garments from this brand could not be farther from my personal style. For me, I find that my connection with a brand stems from how I see their concepts rather than the clothes themselves.

Being from the west coast, I feel obligated to include Patagonia. Their background and mission supports everything that I value in sustainable fashion and activism. Plus, their items give me nostalgia and a certain comfort. It reminds me of home.

Why do you believe sustainable fashion is important?
The fashion industry is largely responsible for the “constant consumerism” mindset that is especially prevalent in youth culture. I think that we, as consumers, sometimes feel pressured to keep up with trends and we supplement this by purchasing products that do more harm than good. Hence, sustainable fashion is necessary for giving consumers the option to buy eco-conscious without having to sacrifice style. As well, sustainable fashion stems beyond just the environment. Ethical and environmental justice are part of the fashion industry’s responsibility as well. I feel hopeful for the future of sustainable fashion since more brands are shifting their practices for the better.

Sustainable fashion is necessary for giving consumers the option to buy eco-conscious without having to sacrifice style.

Do you have any advice for students who are trying to be more responsible consumers, but still want to be fashionable/trendy?

Oftentimes, media portrays sustainable fashion as buying from big, slow-fashion brands. But this mindset isn’t always reasonable. I think that it’s important to remind ourselves that shopping responsibly can be something as simple as thrifting or repurposing old clothes. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big change, every purchase has an impact, which is inspiring to think about.

Personally, something I do to be aware of my own shopping habits is to keep an ongoing list of all the pieces that I love or want to buy. Then, I can see what I keep gravitating towards and know what clothing I prefer. I tend not to purchase anything that isn’t on the list and it makes shopping less overwhelming. I think that simply thinking twice before purchasing has a more profound impact than we think.

We would like to thank Victoria for taking the time to answer our questions and share with fellow students the importance of being mindful and conscious consumers. Check out her latest creative projects and portfolio on her website or on Instagram.

– Katie Brasseur