10 Myths about Sustainable Fashion we Need to Destroy Right Now
While doing my little hashtag research scheme (you know, just trying to appear in Instagram top posts), I couldn't fail to realise – even though I already knew it – how popular and trendy sustainability as a whole, and more precisely sustainable fashion has become over the past few years. With almost 4 million hashtag uses for Sustainable Fashion alone, we can see there is a huge interest in the matter. I mean, there is a severe crisis going on, so it's quite reassuring to see it's not just a handful of people who care.
However, some of the things I hear or read about sustainable fashion are quite inaccurate (not to say dead wrong or pure lies), so let's bust some of these myths right now, and make sure we know what the whole thing is about. Let's go!
Myth #1: Sustainable fashion is ugly.
Right, so first and foremost, let's talk about this idea according to which, sustainable fashion is supposedly ugly. Saying such a thing is just purely and utterly false.
Let's first acknowledge that ugliness is completely subjective and doesn't actually mean anything. I mean, some people love long pointy nails; who am I to tell them it's ugly?
I guess the problem is when we start thinking of sustainable fashion as one style when really, the creation of more sustainable processes and creative techniques has nothing at all to do with aesthetics. There are many sustainable brands, and they all have their identity, their style and their aesthetics. It's far from what some might think – clothes made with plastic bottles and old tyres… Which by the way can turn out great as well!
Myth #2: Sustainable fashion offers a limited choice.
To reflect on my previous point, sustainable fashion is not as limited as most think it is. When I checked the Instagram hashtag uses for #SustainableFashion”, most of them were from small brands, designers and creators screaming to the world that they are part of the movement. I am far from knowing all of them (and I don't think it's a realistic goal), but I do know quite a lot of them, and the amount of brands trying to implement the change is only growing stronger.
Some brands also hold sustainable values but don't make it their main message; so we might not even know or think they are a part of the sustainable movement – because they look so good? – but they are!
So let's proudly claim: when we choose sustainable fashion, we open ourselves to unlimited choice.
Myth #3: Sustainable fashion is only for minimalists.
Do I need to say it again? Many brands are far from the minimalist aesthetic, and still, pull the sustainable look beautifully.
My personal preference is quite a minimalist, classic – as I like to call it – style; but I see bold and sophisticated designs every day. And you guessed it: they are from sustainable brands. If this and this are minimalistic, then I might as well stop my career as a stylist right now.
Myth #4: Sustainable fashion is for a small group of people.
Why do I even bother with this one? Let's get straight to the point – and if you read the other paragraphs, you already know what I'm going to say. The choice is unlimited, and it's for everybody. Men and women, classic and edgy, adults and children, colour lovers and neutrals. Yup! Everybody!
Myth #5: Sustainable fashion is expensive.
Right, so; this myth right here is probably one of the most believed myths about sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is expensive, they say.
I will actually write a whole post about the topic, because it requires more than a few sentences. But the argument basically goes like this: 1) We have a broken measurement scale. 2) Even with that broken tool, it still isn't as expensive as we think.
The first point is this: the reason why we think sustainable fashion is expensive is that we compare it to fast fashion prices. One thing we need to understand is fast fashion is abnormally cheap, and we are now conditioned to think everything more expensive than fast fashion is too expensive. Well, usually, sustainable brands – especially fair-trade labels – are doing precisely what they say: “trade fairly”; which means no underpaid labour, no shortcuts, and no overly cheap products. That's what it means to pay the fair price.
Once we realise that cheap garment means someone isn't being paid properly, we understand that the fair price is the right price… But we buy less because we can't afford too much of it. Which leads to the second point: CPW (what?).
CPW stands for Cost Per Wear, and it's basics maths rules. Your fast fashion piece might be cheaper, but you won't be able to wear it as many times as your well-made piece.
Fast fashion top: £5; Number of wears (before it melts in the laundry): 10
10/5=£2 per wear.
Fair-trade top: £25; Number of
£25/30 = £0.83 per wear
And that's how we prove fast fashion is more than twice as expensive as sustainable fashion.
Myth #6: Made in China means lousy quality and cannot represent sustainable fashion.
In our world, there is a shortcut according to which “Made in China” = Bad Quality. First of all, let's talk about all the pieces technology we own, most of them are made in China, and we trust they are good because of that. We associate good technology with Chinese factories. So why are we so quick to associate this same label with bad quality garments? The answer is simple: the price point.
When it comes to our smartphones, we pay several hundreds of pounds and dollars for it, and we are happy with the quality. When it comes to our clothes, we don't want to pay for quality. China has some of the best manufacturers in the world, but we don't want to pay for it; so they have to cut their expenses; it's that simple. Some of the most renowned luxury brands in the world have some of their manufacturing process happening in China, and nobody complains about the quality; why is that? Yup, you get what you pay for, that's it!
The only reason why buying “made in China” would be against sustainability altogether would be when it comes to the impact on the environment. If it's made in China, it has to come to us somehow… And this might cause harm to the environment, yes. But it's a different topic, nothing to do with quality.
Myth #7: “Sustainable” means “green” and is about the environment.
I feel like this probably requires me to write a full article, but to make it simple:, sustainable fashion does not necessarily mean “green”. There are some coinciding parts and elements, but sustainability is much more than just being “green” and caring for the environment.
Sustainability is about “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”; and stands on three main principles: economic, environmental and social. So yes, the environment is to take into consideration, but it's far from just “going green”:
- Social. Making sure to avoid at all costs brands who are known to work with factories, manufacturers and countries that do not respect human rights and exploit vulnerable people (often women and children).
- Environmental. That's where some people get mistaken and think it's about “going green”; which doesn't actually mean anything. As said earlier, I will write more in depth about it, but it's about lowering the impact on the environment, more than going green. This includes trying to support brands that create less pollution, trying to shop locally to minimise the travelling of goods, avoid animal exploitation when possible – but beware, not all vegan products are sustainable! -, and many more elements that can't be summarised in “just go green”.
- Economic. Now, this is the one some people will flat out refuse to here, but fast fashion is actually destroying the economy… Sorry fast-fashion lovers, but it's true… The law of “ever cheaper” is killing smaller brands and independent designers, leaving us with the giants of the game who are in there for the profit. It is capitalism, yes; it is speculation, yes; but we need to realise the message we are sending as consumers, when we refuse to pay more than a couple of pounds for a piece of cheaply made garment, instead of investing in a local ethical artisan. It is also about boosting the economy and using our power, as customers, to create a change.
Myth #8: Donating to charity shops is a good enough action.
So we don't want to consume less, and we make ourselves feel better by doing an annual cleaning and getting rid of our old (and not so old) clothes, thinking it will help a less fortunate family. We are donating… to charity… Or so we believe…
The issue that we encountered is that we consume so much that we donate too much. We donate way more clothes than there is demand for in charity shops. That's why the clothes are sent overseas, in countries with an economy not as thriving as ours, and they get sold again… At ridiculously low prices. And the result is exactly the same: we kill the economy once again, but this time, we kill theirs.
Myth #9: Vegan leather is sustainable.
Here again, I think it's a topic that deserves more than just a few lines, but I'll try and make it concise and straightforward. Is vegan leather a sustainable alternative to real leather?
First, we need to understand what vegan leather is actually made of. While it reduces animal exploitation and all issues coming from intensive farming and the leather tanning process – extreme pollution and release of unnecessary toxic chemicals, vegan leather is not always as sustainable as it seems. Polyurethane and PVC materials used to make faux leather goods have their own sustainable challenges, their own environmental problems.
For a quick comparison, we can notice that faux leather isn't as long-lasting as real leather. Moreover, genuine leather breaks down easily and is biodegradable, while faux leather can be much more damaging to the environment. Needless to say that making faux-leather made from petrochemicals is not sustainable or renewable. Thankfully, faux-leather can also be made from other materials, and if it's the case (even though it's quite rare for now), then it's all good!
So, in conclusion, faux-leather can be sustainable, but it often isn't. When it comes to buying quality sustainable clothing, you might consider your values and put one first – veganism or environment? – As at the moment, that's often the choice you have to make when considering leather goods. Technology on the matter is improving though, so there is still hope.
Myth #10: Sustainable fashion is not for eager fashion enthusiasts.
If “eager fashion enthusiast” means “luxury lover”, then it is not true. Some fashion designers have been standing and advocating for sustainability for a long time – hello, Stella McCartney! You can still enjoy luxury goods while lowering your impact and making conscious choices.
Now, if “eager fashion enthusiast”, for you, means “following all trends”, then yes, it's going to be difficult to keep up. And it's a good thing, let me tell you why.
Following trends is both a waste of money and a waste of yourself. Knowing the pace at which trends come and go, it is impossible to keep up without spending crazy amounts of money. So you will tend to buy fast fashion – that'll still add up to a nice sum! Buying fast-fashion will mean poor quality and these clothes will end up in the bin – or worse, charity! – pretty fast.
So yes, be a fashion enthusiast, know the trends and pick and choose those that suit you, your style and your personality. Invest in good quality items, and keep them, wear them and enjoy a perfectly curated wardrobe!
If you need help figuring out your style and your personality, see here how I can help you with that.
And… that's it! I feel like that's quite a few myths we've busted today. Can you think of any more I didn't address? Let me know in the comments.
Jeremiah 7:8 - Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.