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The best ways to keep your Burning Man fashion eco-friendly

How to look your Playa best with sustainable living in mind

  • Ash Lorona
  • 5 August 2019

It's crunch time. You've brushed up on your Burning Man vernacular and secured a ticket (hopefully). Now it's time to focus on the daily garb you plan to wear (or not wear!) while out frolicking on the Playa. Burning Man is a place known for its tough conditions, incredible art installations and not-of-this-world societal norms. Thousands will descend upon Black Rocky City for a week to express themselves and spark inspiration that will last all year.

It's no secret that Burning Man is a haven for creatives, meaning that along with art and music, fashion also plays an important role throughout the experience. Often, a jaunt along the Playa can feel like a DIY fashion show of sorts, but with the effects of climate change becoming a vital part of every conversation - even in discussions about festivals and dance music culture - "fast fashion" (i.e. cheap clothing produced at a high speed rate for mass market consumers) simply will not do in preparing for Burning Man, one of the world's most mindful and intentional societies.

"The term “commodity” means something that is bought and sold," writes a blog post on the Burning Man website about decommodification, one of the 10 Burning Man principles. "But the process of commodification – of turning something into a product suitable for purchase – also has everything to do with social class, with big data, with the quantified self, and with the kind of psychology that seeks to make us all simpler and shallower rather than deeper and more complex. Decommodification, then, is to reverse this process."

Sustainability is certainly encouraged by the principles of Burning Man, and all attendees are encouraged to do their part. So when planning outfits across seven days of Burning Man, how do you stay eco-friendly without sacrificing the fun of piecing together creative outfits? Here are some tips to get going.

Buy nothing

Though difficult in prepping for an experience as different from the norm as Burning Man, the ideal goal would be to purchase nothing at all and utilize what you already own or have access to to create the lowest environmental impact. Take a look at your closet, and see if you can imagine items you already have in a new way. It's time to get creative!

That bathrobe with a cool pattern on it? Wear it as a coat.

Your old cheerleading skirt from high school that still fits? You could rock that.

A Santa hat from your work Christmas party? That can also keep you warm!

Another great way to avoid purchasing new is to combine closets with a friend. Ask friends who have attended Burning Man before or borrow pieces that they won't mind if you get a little dusty... and don't forget to lend some stuff out yourself!

This will give you an opportunity to see your own wardrobe with new eyes, often helping new outfit ideas come into form.

Try purchasing secondhand

Buying second hand is a great way to be regenerative with your fashion. You also will increase your chances of finding one-of-a-kind statement pieces, for a fraction of the cost of buying new. This is also a way to be certain no one will have the same outfit as you on the dance floor.

Thankfully, fashion trends tend to be cyclical, meaning that what was once cool, will eventually become on trend again. Vintage kimonos, patterned sweaters, unique hats, silly costumes and other unique items are out there - you just have to hunt for them. Some stores are curated better than others, but the hunt is part of the fun! With a couple outings and some good research on vintage shops and secondhand stores in your area, you will be able to find all you need for hot days and cold nights on the Playa.

No MOOP!

There are very little rules about what you can or cannot wear at Burning Man (in fact, many choose to simply rock the skin they were born in and nothing else!) but the one rule you must abide by is avoiding MOOP at all costs.

MOOP stands for "matter out of place", which includes any and all materials that are not native to the desert environment. This includes all types of accessories and body decoration, like glitter, feathers, face jewels, hats, jewelry or any clothing that sheds. Before you make your way to the Playa, check your items thoroughly, and make sure they don't leave a trail behind as you dance, run and bike around.

It's important to keep this in mind for functional items beyond fashion too. Steer clear from any single use plastics or leaving behind items you'll be traveling around with like water bottles, goggles, headlamps, fans and cups by using a carabiner to hook them all together. Hook it to your holster, backpack or belt loop, leaving your hands free to steer your bike and dance around.

Support sustainable companies

If you've tried thrifting and asking friends but still don't feel satisfied with your outfits, support brands that are using sustainable materials with your purchases. More and more, sustainable brands are becoming popular and affordable, meaning that there's little excuse not to shop smart.

Wolven's mantra is to "make sustainability sexy". The brand creates psychedelic and colorful patterns for swim and athletic wear, and the best part is that it's all made out of recycled PET fabrics, which is a fancy term to describe a process that turns recycled water bottles into soft and breathable fabrics.

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Embrace your uniqueness and #makesustainabilitysexy

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Afro Blonde is an Australian brand that creates durable headwear, shoes and accessories out of old canvas tarps and tires harvested from semi-trucks and road trains. These items not only promote sustainability, but also capture the outdoorsy spirit of Australia with items meant to protect you from the sun and rough terrain for hiking excursions or a long bike ride across the Playa.

Burnt Soul is a brand that's all about body-hugging catsuits. Instead of using the traditional stretchy fabric called lycra, Burnt Soul uses recycled Life Lycra, which is made from fishing net and tulle. The company also emphasizes their small production batches to avoid overproducing and wasting materials, which is a thoughtful approach to the environment... but means that their pieces sell out quickly.

This is just a small taste of the many sustainable options that are out there for festival wear and outfits that'll keep you feeling comfortable and expressive out at Burning Man. The best approach is to buy from brands that are doing their part to make fashion more sustainable and wear them for years and years to come - at future Burning Mans and also out in every day life.

Ash Lorona is a fashion vendor coordinator based in Los Angeles.

Read this next!

The Burning Man dictionary: Playa vernacular that you need to know
Our favorite photos from the history of Burning Man
Burning Man fights back against government regulations

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