Sara Baldwin, 28, founder and manager of the clothing and apothecary store Lux & Ivy, entered the world of fashion by working at the Bloomington boutique Cactus Flower where, through a lucky turn of events, she became a buyer for the store. Her future with fashion would be forever changed after traveling to trade shows such as Fame in New York City and Magic in Las Vegas. Those experiences fed her obsession with fashion and also opened her eyes to the demand and waste created by fast fashion.
“When I was at these trade shows the convention centers were just filled with new clothing, all just samples, and I thought, ‘we are consuming so much,’” Baldwin says. “It really hit home for me – this problem we have with over consumption in the fashion industry. Because when you are seeing all these articles of clothing, you have to think, ‘these are just the samples,’ and there are going to be millions more that are cut after people place their orders.”
It was through her first job in Indianapolis helping consignment store District Exchange, now Amanda’s Exchange, in Carmel that Baldwin explored the “beauty of consignment” for her unique personal wardrobe.
I stopped buying new and only bought secondhand. When I was done, I would cycle things back into the store.
Unlike fast fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M, Lux & Ivy values slow fashion practices. Slow fashion is a combination of sustainable and ethically sourced resources. Achieved by using sustainable materials, slow fashion tries to have as little impact on the environment as possible and treats garment workers in the fashion industry humanely, which includes providing safe working conditions and paying a living wage.
“People want to look cool, and are very susceptible to trend cycles,” Baldwin says. “Trend cycles used to be seasonal, but now, every three weeks we have stores saying ‘this is what’s cool’ and ‘this is what you need to wear.’ I actually say, ‘screw the trends,’ because if you have your own sense of style, you don’t need to subscribe to those trend cycles.”
Baldwin’s passion for sustainable fashion and fashion as activism is helping shape her new line, ALTARSHINE, which she started with her seamstress mother, Cindy Baldwin. Inspired by the recent rise in feminism and “RESIST” rhetoric, ALTARSHINE is making tulle skirts styled with edgy jackets as well punk rock band tees designed by Abby Hart.
“We came up with a design that is inspired by growing up in the punk scene as a girl and the t-shirt proceeds will be donated to Girls Rock! Indianapolis,” Baldwin says. “The number one thing we do is use recycled materials leftover from a prior use, the second thing we do when buying fabrics is to shop for items made of one material, and we make things to last—we don’t make things that don’t have reinforced seams, we don’t make skirts that aren’t lined, and we don’t toss scraps we could use for hems,” Baldwin says.
While slow fashion can be accessible to everyone, Baldwin isn’t expecting every consumer to be 100 percent ethical all of the time.
“I always tell people to find the style they like and look for those investment pieces that they know they’re going to wear for a long time – the staples. Then with shoes and jeans, try to buy ones that are sustainable and ethically sourced,” Baldwin says. “Then add in pieces like a fun top or a cute dress. I think that’s where vintage and secondhand items can come in.”
Buying secondhand should be affordable—at Lux & Ivy it certainly is— shopping vintage can also be reasonable. Supporting brands that think beyond profits and promote responsible production will not only make you an ethically-minded consumer but may come with an added bonus of buying quality clothing that will outlast mass produced items.