Sustainably in Style: A look at the impact of fashion on our world


Hannah Michelle Bussa

Models walk down the runway at Omaha Fashion Week wearing the sustainable designs of Elem by ML. Photo courtesy of Heather and Jameson Photography.

During the last weekend of August, designers from the Omaha area came together to showcase their collections at Omaha Fashion Week. Among those designers was UNO student Makayla Leiting.

Leiting is a third-year UNO student and the owner of her sustainable fashion business, “Elem by ML.” After being asked to design for a Philippine indigenous art show, she wanted to continue to showcase her Filipino culture and work with the indigenous communities in the Philippines. When starting her business, she decided to make it both ethical and sustainable.

“The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries, and it is mostly the production factories to blame,” Leiting said. “The emission of greenhouse gases tops the airline industry.”

Another designer at Omaha Fashion Week, Lauren Glowacki of Elle Glo Apparel, also spoke about the pollution caused by the fashion industry.

“The fashion industry is a major polluter,” Glowacki said. “I’ve learned so much about how terribly the fashion industry affects our world. Change needs to happen soon to create a better future.”

Both designers pointed to fast fashion as a major issue in the fashion industry.

“Fast fashion also contributes to environmental damage,” Leiting said. “Popular companies sell trendy clothing for cheap prices, but there comes a heavy price tag for what happens behind the scenes. From the man-made material used and the unethical treatment of workers manufacturing the clothing, I find that it outweighs the ‘unbeatable’ price of the clothing any day.”

Leiting’s business is completely sustainable.

“The fabrics I use are hand-woven and the material used to make these fabrics are locally grown in those communities and naturally dyed,” she said. “Everything is made without any big production facilities, meaning that emissions are kept low.”

Glowacki also showcased a zero-waste collection at Omaha Fashion Week.

“For my collections, I use materials that are safe for the Earth – fabrics that are organic, 100% cotton, bought from thrift stores, or heading to landfills due to companies overbuying stock,” Glowacki said. “This season, all my fabric scraps were made into bags, patchwork hats, masks, and flower cut-outs.”

People who buy clothing can take steps of their own to help take care of the environment by shopping at brands that promote sustainability.

“Fashion lovers looking to become more conscience of their effect on the planet should start by doing a little research,” Glowacki said. “There are amazing articles, books, and documentaries that will open your eyes to what is truly going on behind the scenes. It is more horrifying than I ever imagined.”

Leiting says another way to do your part to protect the environment is being conscious of the businesses you shop with.

“Make sure you are contributing to a business that you stand for, from the materials used to the way the company treats their employees” Leiting said. “One way to make a positive impact is to shop locally – you could even support a fellow UNO student—me!”

Leiting also encourages donating old clothes and keeping an interchangeable wardrobe for the future.

“The easiest thing we can do is stop buying fast fashion, even though it is cheap and accessible,” Glowacki said. “Second-hand shopping is a great way to spend a little money and help limit the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills.”

You can find both designers on Instagram: @elembyml and @ellegloapparel.