Being glamorous has a surprisingly large impact on water, global climate change, and toxic pollution. Fast fashion enables us to fill our closets with more clothes than we actually need, to follow trends and to always have something new to wear but according to Yael Aflalo of sustainable fashion brand Reformation in an interview with Huffington Post, “fashion is third most polluting industry in the world” after oil and agriculture.
Trying to save the world by being mindful of every issue is near impossible but being conscious and making small changes in our behaviour each day can lead to the right change.
One way you can do so is by choosing sustainable fashion. The latter is defined as “an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.”
Often, people shy away from sustainable fashion because they think it doesn’t look good or it’s too expensive but these are only myths that fuel the popularity of fast fashion even more. These misconceptions about the challenges surrounding sustainable fashion need to be addressed and so I explore five of the most common myths being circulated about ethical clothing to help you perceive it in a new light.
Myth #1: It’s not stylish.
When you learn that a pair of jeans uses between 1,000 and 3,000 gallons of water – polluted water that is “released directly back into our rivers, lakes, and oceans” and if you knew that cotton, which is used to make many clothes, soaks up 11-12% of the world’s pesticides then the issue of style doesn’t seem like such a priority. Having said this, if you do a quick search online, you will find several brands selling ethical clothing that is beautifully made and stylish like Mina & Olya and Kitty Ferreira UK to mention only two.
Myth #2: It’s not made of good quality.
It is ironic that so many people perceive fast fashion as being of high quality but they don’t correlate sustainable fashion with this trait. Fast fashion is churned out for the masses in a short time to stimulate consumption which means there is less time for workmanship. So naturally quality suffers.
Clothes made from organic, renewable fibres is less toxic, more durable (depending on how it’s maintained after purchase) and timeless. By making the choice to cut back on your consumerism, and being more aware of where and how your clothing is made, you will be help to reduce the environmental impacts of fashion.
Just remember to focus on higher quality and lower quantity, and purchase things you will wear and is built to last.
Myth #3: It’s expensive.
If you compare it to fast fashion then yes, it will be dearer. Not always, but generally.
While there are companies who will state that they are able to keep prices low due to the economies of scale that come with the large scale mass production efficiencies, you still need to dig deeper to ensure that this is in fact true.
The question you have to ask yourself is why you expect things to be cheap and what cheap fashion prices mean. Are the workers getting paid a living wage? What about the fabrics, are they organic or cheap nasty polyester?
It is well documented that growing organic cotton will cost more. Jasmin Malik Chua said it best in her Tree Hugger article when she stated that growing organic cotton “free from the trappings of GMO, chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers, would actually cost more to grow, but the truth of the matter is that these toxic shortcuts are precisely what enables farmers to keep their costs down.”
With sustainable clothing brands, the priority is to provide workers with a living wage and safe working conditions, so that they can produce well-made products while working decent hours. People and planet are just as important as profit.
Myth #4: You need to give up designer brands.
This is not true at all. From Elle Magazine to Vogue online, more sustainable fashion designer brands are being given the spotlight and being exposed to those who want to wear ethical clothing that is part of the luxury sector.
From Stella McCartney and Svilu, to other designers like Kowtow, Freedom of Animals and more, these designers prove that you don’t have to choose between ethical clothing and designer wear.
Myth #5: It is difficult to find.
As more and more people start to wake up from their mindless consumer habits, sustainable fashion is becoming more palpable, and brands are becoming easier to find.
In fact, as consumer demand has grown, even department stores such as David Jones (part of the second largest department store group in the southern hemisphere) are trying to win customer loyalty and gain market share by being the first to announce its commitment to stock all ethical products in its stores.
What used to be the exception is fast becoming the fashion rule and with increasing consumer demand we will see more ethical products fill mainstream stores.
Conclusion: The idea of sustainable fashion for me started when I was feeding my girl in a breastfeeding dress which I had bought from an ethical clothing store online. Knowing that with one fashion choice I was helping to make the world for my little girl a cleaner place for her to enjoy was the start of a love affair with everything sustainable. There are so many misconceptions about sustainable fashion but I am committed to busting these myths so that we as a people have a chance of saving the world, not just for ourselves but for future generations too.