While it's pretty clear buying from clothing stores with eco-friendly, sustainable practices is better for the environment and factory workers, many consumers still opt for clothes from big fast-fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21. To understand why, we asked A Plus staff and readers what prompts their buying decisions.
Their answers revealed a number of misconceptions people often have about sustainable fashion. So, in an effort to give people all the information they need to make smarter buying choices that can actually help the environment, we decided to debunk six myths about sustainable fashion here.
#1. "It's all hippy style stuff."
Don't get us wrong. There's nothing wrong with a beige flowy skirt, but sustainable fashion goes way beyond that. There are plenty of ethically-produced, eco-friendly brands out there that cater any taste. The Zady collection, for example, is brilliant if you are looking for timeless elegant pieces. Reformation makes dresses and jumpsuits that fit like a glove. Kitty Ferreira is all about city chic, while People Tree is great for cool laid-back designs. KowTow is ideal for those who are into minimal looks.
Whatever floats your boat.
#2. "It's hard to find."
Sustainable clothing stores might not be on every corner, but finding them is just one Google search away. If you are feeling too lazy to do your homework, check out Zady or Ethica. They've done all the research on sustainable fashion brands for you already.
You can also do a quick Google search on where your local thrift shops are. Vintage stores or websites selling pre-owned clothing like Poshmark, Vestiaire Collective or Vinted are not hard to track down, and buying used clothing helps expand the lifespan of garments. After all, dressing sustainably is all about cutting down the number of new clothes made and shopping less, but better.
#3. "It's expensive."
Sure, sustainably produced garments are likely to be more expensive than Forever 21, H&M or Gap. But if a dress costs less than a Frappuccino, this probably means it has a hidden cost far worse than money — often this price comes in the form of exploited garment workers who earned below a living wage to make that cheap dress.
Everlane is a great source for reasonably priced sustainable clothing. Their T-shirts range from $16 to $35. Though that may be more than what you'd usually pay for a tee, try thinking about pay-per-wear as opposed to pay-per-garment. A cheap item likely won't last you very long, while a well-made garment can be worn multiple seasons in a row. In the end, you will get your money's worth and reduce the number of garments in our already overflowing landfills.
Some industry experts even say buying expensive clothing is a good thing. Marc Bain, a fashion reporter at Quartz, argued your next clothing item purchased should, in fact, be "so expensive it hurts."
"For more than a year now, I've set myself a simple goal to [to spend at least $150] for every clothing purchase [...]," Bain writes. "It's enough that it causes me to seriously hesitate, which is the real point. It forces me to think about just how much I want that item of clothing, how much I'll wear it, and whether I think the value it offers is worth a significant cost. Importantly, $150 is also enough that I can't make these purchases all the time, at least not without sacrificing elsewhere or going broke. It's an investment, rather than the cheap buzz of getting something new."
#4. "Sustainable fabrics suck."
While linen and hemp continue to be some of the most sustainable fabrics because they require no, or very little, chemicals to grow a crop, the evolution of sustainable fabrics goes way beyond the two. Cupro, a textile made from upcycled cotton, is resistant to stretching and hyperallergic. Tencel, which Reformation refers to as the "Beyonce of fabrics," is made of wood pulp, and is both biodegradable and recyclable. Even better, it's naturally wrinkle-free. What's not to love?
5. "Whatev, I can just recycle my fast-fashion items."
Last month, H&M held World Recycle Week, asking consumers to bring their unwanted items to the stores to be recycled. While programs like this certainly help, they aren't the answer because materials used by fast-fashion brands are often not recyclable to begin with.
Polyester, for example, is a synthetic fabric many fast-fashion brands rely on. It is not biodegradable, and has overtaken cotton as the world's most dominant fabric because it's durable and cheap to produce. It is often blended with other fabrics to improve the final look of fast-fashion garments, and makes up more than 50 percent of our clothes. This, along with similar blends, poses a serious threat to our environment.
"The technology does not yet exist to be able to recycle blended fibers from reclaimed clothing," Fashion Revolution, a grassroots movement campaigning for sustainable fashion, explains in a statement responding to H&M's World Recycle Week.
If we want to actually close the loop, we need to really start paying attention to labels and caring about the materials used to make our clothes.
#6. "It's not going to make a big difference in the grand scheme of things."
It's an easy argument to make. But the same one could be used for any other social, economic or environmental issue. Why should stop bullying that kid if others will anyway? Why should I stop littering in the streets while others still do? Why should I stop buying clothes that support exploitation of workers and damage nature?
The answer is simple. Because the change has to start somewhere and it could be YOU.
Now, let's go make a difference.
Any sustainable fashion myths that we missed? Let us know in the comments.