We’d imagine that most people would say they’d prefer to buy clothes that are ethically made and sustainable. They’d like for the people who make their clothing to earn a living wage, and have the planet be protected in the process. So why is fast fashion such big business? Why isn’t the slow fashion model catching on more quickly? Why aren’t more people asking who and how their clothes are made? The truth is that, while we’re all eager to shop in a way that’s consistent with our values, it can seem daunting to rethink our own attitudes about clothing and really commit to changing our buying habits.
But here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be so hard to shop our conscience. Today, we take a look at some of the myths surrounding adopting a slow fashion lifestyle, and show the reality of buying ethically and sustainably:
Myth: I can’t afford slow fashion.
Reality: For sure, clothes that are ethically made usually translate into a higher price tag per garment. But that doesn’t mean a bigger budget for clothing is a must as well. The slow fashion model is about using your purchasing power strategically -- buying fewer pieces and investing in a wardrobe that is built to last. Your per wear cost might actually go down by following the slow fashion model.
Myth: I can’t figure out what’s ethically made and what isn’t.
Reality: It’s true that it’s hard to look at a label right now and trace the environmental or social impact of a garment. However, you can let the internet take some of the work off your hands. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition offers a tool on its website called The Higg Index, which works as an indicator of a product’s life cycle from raw goods to finished product. It’s still in its infancy, but it, other apps and sites like it will likely be the standard sooner than you think. For now, try a simple search terms like “slow fashion brands” or “ethical fashion” to yield plenty of information to take with you on your next trip to the mall.
Myth: I need to be up with all the trends.
Reality: It’s only recently that the fast fashion industry has started pushing a shorter and shorter trend cycle. And they aren’t churning out more product so you will look hip; they’re doing it to sell more clothing. It’s all about the bottom line. When we realize that we don’t need to believe everything the fashion industry tells us, we become more empowered consumers. Why not shop at our own pace instead of being dictated to by fashion merchandisers whose only incentive is to get us to buy more? Or how about transcending trends altogether? American style has always steered towards clean lines and functionality. Try investing in quality basics and use strong accessories to make your wardrobe pop, instead of buying that crop top from Forever 21 that you’re likely to be embarrassed that you bought in the first place.
Myth: I need a ton of clothes to mix and match and add variety to my wardrobe.
Reality: Again, slow fashion is about strategic shopping. It’s smart to have a single piece that adds breadth and depth to your wardrobe. Instead of buying many pieces, you buy one and use it in different ways. It’s just that simple. Here’s a garment so versatile that it goes beyond traditional classification altogether. In one piece, the sharmbaa multi-shrug is a cardigan, a tunic, a wrap, a shawl, a shrug, a scarf, belt and a sarong. There’s no better way to multiply your style exponentially. Plus the sharmbaa brand practices ethical standards and is an eco-conscious company, making it a win-win for the world.
Myth: I donate my clothing to charity, so I don’t just throw it away after I’m done with it.
Reality: Did you know that only 10% of clothing that’s donated actually gets repurchased? Much of the rest is shipped offshore to become another country’s textile waste problem. Of course, donating clothing is a better option than adding it to the trash heap, but let’s take it one step further. How about buying less in the first place?
Myth: No matter what I buy, my clothes wear out and I just end up having to replace them.
Reality: There are simple ways to care for your clothes that will extend their life cycle. Try washing your clothes less often. Even the CEO of Levi’s confessed to not washing his jeans in a year during a 2014 interview, and is an advocate for the “Stop Washing Your Jeans” campaign. If that’s a tad bit on the extreme side, you can also try using cold instead of warm water, as well as choosing to air dry some of your clothing over the shower rod in your bathroom or on a clothesline. Did you know that the lint you remove from the dryer each cycle is actual fuzzy, little proof of your clothing breaking down? Plus, washing and drying a t-shirt in high temperatures accounts for approximately 60% of the energy used in its life cycle. Low temperatures are friendly to your clothing and the environment.
Myth: “Green fashion” is for tree-huggers not fashionistas.
Reality: Sustainable design in the fashion industry has come a long way from the days of hemp ponchos. Today, it’s getting easier and easier to hit highs marks for style, as well as socially conscious and eco-friendly. In two words: Stella McCartney. She’s just one of many designers creating socially and environmentally responsible clothing that looks as good as its footprint.