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7 common myths about ethical & sustainable fashion, debunked

Polly Polly 08 Dec 2020 7 common myths about ethical & sustainable fashion, debunked

Are you a conscious consumer who does their best to make ethical and more sustainable choices every day but struggles with conversations with your friends or family members who use arguments against ethical and sustainable fashion? Or have you heard something that has given you doubts about buying ethical and sustainable clothes?

Often, when having a conversation with someone who is sceptical about slow, ethical and sustainable fashion, we hear them saying that they can't afford it or that buying clothes from fast fashion companies is actually a great thing as it provides jobs for people in developing countries…

You might want to scream inside and call them out on their misconceptions but at the same time, you might be quite unsure about how to properly debunk these myths surrounding slow, fair and more environmentally-friendly fashion. Or, it might be possible that you start to have doubts yourself- Is fast fashion that bad after all? And can one person make a real difference?

Well, today is your lucky day because, in this article, the 7 most common arguments, (or maybe we should say myths) used against fair and sustainable fashion are debunked. You can get inspired by these rebuttals when the myths or arguments are thrown at you. But remember, carefully listening to the doubts of your friends and family members is a great starting point. Then, explaining, motivating and inspiring in a compassionate way is even more important than proving that the other side is wrong.

Myth #1: Ethical and sustainable clothes are unaffordable

Probably the most common argument against buying ethical and more sustainable clothes ever: fair and sustainable fashion is too expensive and I can't afford it. Is this actually true? Well, when you compare a sweater made in an environmentally-responsible way and by workers who actually get paid a living wage, it is quite unsurprising that it will be more expensive than the sweater for 5 euros from a fast fashion company.

However, there are plenty of expensive items from a fast fashion company too - as they need a lot of money (not for the workers in their supply chains but) for advertising and marketing. This means that some ethical and sustainable clothes might sometimes be in a similar price range than the unethical and harmful alternative.

The most important thing, however, is to realize that being a more conscious consumer does not mean that you go from shopping every weekend at fast fashion companies to shopping every weekend at slow fashion companies - that wouldn't be so sustainable, would it? When you aim for conscious consumption, your mindset changes.

Suddenly, you don't feel the urge to follow the latest seasonal trends but you look for versatile clothes that are easily combined with other items. Instead of buying five shirts and five jeans that would together cost 150 euros, you might choose to spend this money on one pair of jeans and one shirt that are more sustainably- and ethically-made.

When you discover a hole in your cardigan, you don't throw it away but you try to repair it. You don't buy from fast fashion companies (or at least, try to reduce your purchases from these companies) but you discover the magic of second-hand shopping, thrifting or clothing swaps. Instead of trying to have as many items in your wardrobe, you might want to start your own vegan capsule wardrobe.

Some people even choose to use the cost-per-wear technique. Because a sweater that costs around 4 or 5 euros is likely to be of poor quality and therefore, will be damaged soon after the purchase, it forces you to buy a new sweater. To break this cycle that seems to be super cheap but is actually costing you a lot of money, you start to look at price tags differently. As the saying goes: “We're not rich enough to buy cheap things.”

Therefore, you calculate the price of an item based on how often you wear it. So, a sweater that costs 50 or 60 euros, is made ethically, more sustainably and is of good quality will last you a long time and therefore, you “pay” around 50 cents per each wear, if you wear it more than 100 times!

Changing your mindset, followed by changing your (shopping) habits, will transform your perception of fashion and clothes. And this way, wearing ethical and more sustainable clothes could become cheaper than buying from fast fashion companies.

And remember, just because some clothes are very cheap, it doesn't mean that someone, who you can't see, is not paying a high price - whether it is our planet, the animals exploited by the fast fashion industry or the many workers who need to spend the night in the factories because they work for 16 hours a day just to get paid below the minimum wage. The price is way higher than the one printed on a price tag, try to keep that in mind.

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“clothes with price tags”

Myth #2: One person can't make a difference

“One T-shirt or pair of jeans won't make a difference,” said 17 millions of people. This argument has some truth in it - if you would be the only person on earth trying to find more sustainable alternatives, you wouldn't probably find any (except wearing second-hand clothes from your grandma's wardrobe).

But you are not the only person on this planet striving to be more mindful about their fashion choices. “If everyone would do it, then…” - for this to be true, 'everyone' includes you too, so the sooner you'll join, the better!

You would be joining a movement that fights against the exploitation of workers, animals and the destruction of our planet and aims to create a fairer world. A movement that consists of many individuals who know that as consumers they have power and vote with their wallet for the future they'd like to see. And you can be part of the movement while enjoying all the perks that (slow, ethical and sustainable) fashion offers.

We should all try to be the change we want to see in the world. Not underestimating our power and influence. How many of your friends listened to your book, restaurant or recipe recommendations? Why do you think that it would be different in case of the clothes you wear? You get a compliment on your new vegan-leather shoes and you can reply: “Thank you, they are actually from an ethical company that is carbon neutral and this is actually a vegan leather!” You don't have to have thousands of followers on your Instagram to 'greenfluence' your surroundings.

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“be the change”

Myth #3: At least people in developing countries have a job

“Well, at least the workers don't have to become criminals or engage in prostitution.” Let's hope that the bar of the ethics and compassion we as a society have is way higher. If your friend would be struggling with their job - either with their boss or low pay, they wouldn't probably get the same reaction. Of course, it is easier to show compassion to our friends but the workers whom we’ve never met but produce our clothes deserve compassion too.

And it doesn't have to be difficult. The fast fashion industry cares (a lot) about money. So, if they notice that their profits are decreasing and the consumers are more interested and inclined to buy from fair and more sustainable companies, they will change their practices. The change might not be driven by altruistic reasons but motivated by profits - but what matters is that the working conditions and wages will improve for a huge number of people working in the industry.

For this change to happen, you could reduce or completely stop buying from fast fashion clothes and instead, increase the demand for clothes from ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion brands.

There will always be a need for workers who produce clothes, shoes and other fashion items because the clothes production won't just disappear. But the unfair and dangerous practices and working conditions in the fashion supply chain might. And we truly hope they will.

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“sewing clothes”

Myth #4: Ethical and more sustainable clothes are ugly

This might have been true about 20 or 30 years ago. Unfortunately, some people still believe that sustainable fashion is just batik T-shirts or super old and damaged clothes. But this must be the easiest argument to rebut. After all, the most unique and chic clothes are found in second-hand and thrift stores or at clothing swap events. And have you seen the clothes that we offer in our department store? Just check these out, who would describe them as ugly?

And if you hear your friend or family member saying this, the nice way to prove them wrong is to show them the collection of ethically-made and more sustainably-produced clothes you own!

Myth #5: There is a limited option of ethical and sustainable clothes

Another myth that is so easy to debunk. Again, just look at our department store. For women, you can find more than 3500 clothing items, 800+ pairs of shoes and 950+ bags and purses. And men don't have limited options either: you can find more than 1900 clothing items, 350+ pairs of shoes and 250+ bags. The opposite is true: there are so many options that it is difficult to choose which one to buy! And the number of products we offer is increasing every day.

This is not only about our department store, ethical and more sustainable options are becoming more and more popular and therefore, the options are everything but limited. You can also see more clothing swaps being organized or the second-hand stores having more clothes to choose from.

So this argument should be corrected to: “There are so many options of ethical and more sustainable clothes that I cannot decide which clothes to buy and which cool and ethical brand I want to support!” A completely different dilemma, right?

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“a person going through clothes”

Myth #6: It takes too much time to research if the brand is ethical and sustainable

The truth is - the fashion industry is very complex and not transparent enough. Therefore, it might be difficult to get to the nitty-gritty information you would need to be completely sure about your ethical and sustainable fashion choices.

But, good news: there is no reason to do a job that was already done by someone else. For instance, when you find something nice you'd like to buy from our department store, you can be sure that it is vegan, ethical and as sustainable as possible. We have carefully chosen every brand, seller and item that is on our website based on our criteria.

Also, we have quite a few useful blogs:

Just remember, if you have a question related to slow, fair and sustainable fashion, there is a huge chance that somebody had the same question before you. Therefore, it might be quite easy to get an answer very quickly. And there is no need for perfection, the important thing is to try your best, learn and become a better consumer day by day.

A tip: some useful resources might be: Fashion Revolution, our carefully selected criteria and you might also take a glance at Good on You.

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“laptop, glasses and paper with notes”

Myth #7: As a vegan, I am already doing enough good in the world

Vegans are often asked to meet some extraordinary requirements: 'vegans should never go on holidays by plane, use any kind of plastics, support any kind of large corporation' but at the same time 'they should increase the demand for vegan products'… The things we ask from vegans are a bit unfair and they can get overwhelming.

Vegans don't need to be perfect in every aspect of their lives. Everyone has some negative impact on the environment, including vegans.

But we should never have the feeling that we are perfect - there is always a room for improvement. And as the fashion industry is incredibly harmful to the environment - it emits more carbon than all international flights and maritime shipping combined1 - and exploits our fellow humans, maybe it is the time to consider changing our fashion habits too.

Compassion is not a limited resource, and if you were able to change your eating habits, making the change in what you wear will be a cherry on a cake for you!

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“laptop, glasses and paper with notes”

Here you go: 7 most common myths about the slow, ethical and sustainable fashion - debunked. Now, you are better prepared for the next conversation you will have with a slow fashion-sceptic.

Just don't forget to show understanding and compassion to the person you are talking to. Positive encouragement and explaining everything in a friendly way is essential in every conversation you will have.

And if you are tired of explaining the same thing again and again, we have a tip for you: save your time & energy and send them this article! :)