Sustainable Fashion Demystified:
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
debunking 3 common myths
One of the most common pieces of feedback I receive when discussing sustainable fashion with my friends is the consistent feeling of being overwhelmed and discouraged. Considering how most of the discourse around sustainable fashion often revolves around an “all or nothing mindset", it’s easy for one to fall into the trap of believing change is too hard— or that attaining a sustainable wardrobe is “impossible.”
Perhaps you’ve also felt overwhelmed or discouraged: guilty for contributing to fast fashion waste but unsure how or unmotivated to seek an alternative. If that’s the case, let’s unpack three common misconceptions about the (sustainable and fast) fashion industry together.
Myth #1: In order to have a sustainable wardrobe, you must buy all your clothes from expensive sustainable brands.
On one hand, sustainably and ethically produced clothing tends to cost more simply because they have more realistic price tags. As Nizzoli from Project Cece precisely assesses, ethical clothes have higher prices to account for “[production] practices that take both the planet and garment workers into account.”
However, they don’t have to be unreasonably expensive! You can find many affordable independent designer brands like Natalia Trevino Amaro or consider browsing trusted online resellers like ThredUP, Depop and Poshmark.
With this being said, you don't always have to buy new clothes in order to curate a sustainable wardrobe. In fact, a vital part of the sustainable fashion journey is becoming more mindful of your consumption. While buying an ethically produced organic cotton shirt is better than a poorly made fast fashion alternative, ask yourself “do I even need another shirt or do I have something similar in my closet already?”
Myth #2: Starting a sustainable fashion journey means completely cutting out fast fashion brands.
While this may be my hottest sustainable fashion take, I firmly believe in the importance of viewing sustainability within fashion from a holistic perspective. In essence, navigating a balance between sustainable production (as a designer), mindful purchases and consumption and consistent recycling (i.e. upcycling clothing).
Since purchasing clothing is just one piece of the puzzle, extending the life of fast fashion clothing can sometimes be as effective as buying new. Similarly, fast fashion is often seen as a more accessible clothing alternative to expensive sustainable fashion brands.
Thus, rather than trying to completely cut out fast fashion brands initially, consider prioritizing your consumption habits instead. Some questions to ask yourself when shopping could include:
How long can I try to wear this piece? Is it more than 10 times a year?
Do I actually like this item or is it simply cheap?
Bonus: Is there potential to upcycle this item later on?
Myth #3: Luxury brands are expensive and thus we can automatically assume they’re more sustainable and ethical
One of the most common misconceptions is that higher price always correlates to higher quality; consequently, some may also assume that this perceived higher quality guarantees higher standards for sustainability and ethics.
Although luxury sustainable brands do exist, pricing is only one factor consider when trying to figure out whether a brand is sustainable and ethical. It’s not a secret that garments made from ethically sourced or environmentally-friendly materials will have higher price points than those relying on synthetic materials; however, it’s also important to research a company’s sustainability and wage transparency when deciding how sustainable and ethical a company is. A great resource to accomplish this goal is exploring a brand’s rating on the Good On You app.
Ultimately, building and maintaining a sustainable wardrobe is far from the “all or nothing” narrative. Rather, it is an imperfect journey with direct environmental and social impact.
Hopefully, debunking these three common myths demystified the sustainable fashion journey and encouraged you to continue pursuing yours!