Young Promotes Sustainable Solutions in Fashion
With a little help from her friends, Grace Young has pulled together an eclectic, all-gender, all-inclusive, all-sizes fashion show promoting sustainable solutions. The show is meant to help reset what Grace feels is often the “toxic mindset” created in society by the fashion industry.
“I want people to know there’s no shame in shopping at your local thrift stores and buying second-hand. The luxuriousness that we see in the media now and in the fashion world now is not what it seems. It is almost completely made up by society,” says Grace. “I just want to urge people to be sustainable and think about what they wear and think about what they’re representing when they wear it.”
The Guilford High School (GHS) senior hopes the outcome of her fashion show will help to create a healthier fashion environment. Her work will tackle fashion industry issues ranging from toxic manufacturing practices to disposable clothing, misrepresentation of body image, and lack of diversity among models.
As part of her Mastery-Based Diploma Assessment course at GHS, Grace developed her sustainable fashion show as her final project. She’s grateful to her GHS teachers for encouraging and inspiring her. Grace’s show will debut as one of the final projects senior students will share on Gala Night at GHS on Thursday, Jan. 12.
“Seniors in this class are creating projects to find solutions to relevant and universal issues,” says Grace. “My project targets this inquiry: How can we, as a society, practice/promote a healthy environment within the fashion industry? There are many aspects of today’s fashion industry that are unsafe and unhealthy for the models, manufacturers, and prospects involved. My goal is to show our community that there are ways to prevent the toxic mindsets and toxic practices that exist in the fashion industry.”
Grace also wants to help consumers change their minds about supporting fashion industry businesses offering “... unsustainable, fast-fashion,” she says. She also wants to help break the societal cycle of investing in what is branded as “luxury clothing.”
“Sweatshops are a real thing. These are real situations and circumstances that people undergo, and we aren’t thinking about that when we watch Fashion Week. We aren’t thinking about that when we see the model on the billboard. We need to start considering what effect we are having on others when we do something like purchase a top you think is cute. Or when you see those really nice new boots, you need to think about the origin of them and think about what you’re doing before you do it.”
Grace says several of her GHS peers are also working to advocate for the concept of sustainable clothing, whether as a part of a school project or just on their own.
“There are kids in my school who create Instagram accounts just to sell their unused clothing as opposed to just throwing it out and have it be environmentally unsafe,” says Grace. “So it’s not just me. There are many, many kids in our school, even if they know it or not, who are making a difference in helping to make the fashion world sustainable.”
An avid thrift store shopper, Grace, who won the GHS Class of 2023 “Best Dressed” Senior Superlative, wants her project to help demonstrate the very achievable and fashionable use of second-hand clothing. That can be done by wearing pieces in their original form or those which have been “upcycled,” or as DYI (do-it-yourself) clothing.
Another goal of her project is to create a healthy, welcoming, no-judgment zone environment for her show’s 20 to 25 models, all friends from GHS.
“In my show, I want the models to be in the most comfortable environment possible,” says Grace.
She notes that many teens come up against body image issues created by unrealistic fashion industry standards.
“Eating disorders and self-shame, things like that, are way more common than I thought. There’s always this societal pressure that you cannot talk about things like struggling with food and your mental health.”
Another issue Grace wants to address is the need for more body-type representation and greater racial diversity among fashion models.
“It’s really a struggle for people of color to make it in an industry like that, so I really wanted to advocate for racial discrimination and body image issues.”
For her show, Grace’s models are also helping to style and choose the clothes they’ll wear and the song playing when they walk out.
“I wanted it to be an all-inclusive type thing. There is no theme for them besides that healthy space. It’s for them to have fun and for me to help show support for the models and sustainable clothing.”
In addition, Grace wants her fashion show to help promote local second-hand businesses and enterprises. That can mean simply inspiring someone to shop at her favorite thrift store, Guilford-based Hole in the Wall (which benefits nonprofit Guilford A Better Chance). Another place consumers can support is The Rack, a thrift-clothing/fundraising pop-up shop founded by her friend, Branford High School senior Evie Mollow.
Grace also has collaborated with Mollow to promote The Rack within the Jan. 12 fashion show at GHS. The show will include some pieces from Mollow’s inventory. Learn more about The Rack at star-caterpillar-fstm.squarespace.com.
The show will also feature Grace’s own crocheted handmade clothing designs, from hats to blouses and more. Grace regularly shows and sells her fashions through her Instagram account (@ggraycrochet).
During the pandemic, Grace picked up crocheting as a hobby.
“I would not have started learning if I was not stuck at home,” says Grace. “I stayed with it and [it] evolved into a passion.”
Grace says she’s that GHS student who can be seen crocheting away during her free time at school.
“Whenever I have time, I squeeze a project in.”
There actually isn’t much downtime outside of Grace’s academic, arts, and sports commitments. She swims year-round as a club swimmer with Soundview YMCA and was one of three captains of the 2022-’23 GHS girls’ swimming and dive team. Grace has committed to swim at Central Connecticut State University next year.
While she’s not sure what she wants to major in, it’s likely to be tied to design and business, Grace shares.
“I’m very excited for next year,” says Grace. “Until then, I just want to finish out the school year strong and get involved in things that I love.”