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One of the biggest misconceptions about living a greener life is that you need a lot of time and money—two luxuries not a lot of people have. Case in point: the clothes we wear. Like “fast food,” “fast fashion” provides a fix that’s at once cheap and quick. But like, say, the pink-slime that tries to pass itself off as a quarter-pounder, any initial thrill soon wears off. As deeply unsatisfying as disposable clothing is in the long run, however, a large swath of the population still believes it cannot afford the time, effort, and budget to shop more ethically. The good news is this is simply untrue. Here are five myths about sustainable fashion we’re going to bust.
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1. SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS UGLY
Anyone who still associates green fashion with hemp sacks and Birkenstocks needs to take a deep breath and join the rest of us in the 21st century.
It’s easier than ever to find sustainable styles that are as chic as their conventional counterparts. Want basics? Head to Everlane and Zady. Looking for something for your bicycle commute or a hike along the Rockies? Try Nau or Patagonia. Conquering the boardroom? Check out Elsa and Me, Rallier, or Brave GentleMan. How about the boudoir? Turn your dial to BASE Range, Daisy & Elizabeth, or Naja.
“Sustainable” is an ideology, not an aesthetic. Bolstered by the increasing variety of sustainably produce textiles and fibers, ethical brands today can take a design-first approach to their wares—just like their conventional cousins.
“Sustainable” is an ideology, not an aesthetic.
The reverse is also true. Accepting that they must “evolve or die,” many of the world’s biggest luxury labels are embracing cleaner materials, supply-chain transparency, human rights, and climate action.
If you need more convincing, just look at the number of planet-friendly suits and gowns that are appearing all over the Hollywood red carpet. Granola, they are not.
2. SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS EXPENSIVE
This might have been true years ago, when eco-fashion was just a glint in someone’s eye, but the explosion in the number of responsible brands, plus the adoption of direct-to-consumer or online-only business models, has also translated into more-competitive prices.
Sustainable fashion may never reach the “clothing by the pound” prices that fast-fashion retailers push, but that’s because brands like Forever 21 choose to ignore issues such as “living wages,” worker safety, and environmental responsibility in favor of rock-bottom prices aimed at stimulating consumption, not to mention deepening their pockets.
Consider also what you’re paying for in terms of the garment’s lifespan, i.e., its “cost per wear.” A high-quality $50 blouse is a much better investment than five poorly made $10 blouses that disintegrate after a single wash.
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3. SUSTAINABLE FASHION HAS LOUSY QUALITY
Where does this one even come from? Most ethical-apparel companies abide by “slow fashion” principles, which favors quality rather than quantity.
Fast fashion, in all its ultra-trendy and “planned obsolescent” glory, cannot even begin to compare when it comes to quality.
4. SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS HARD TO FIND
A quick search online quickly disproves this myth. If Google isn’t curatorial enough, there’s also this humble website, which specializes in seeking out the greatest and latest in the ethical-fashion scene.
5. SUSTAINABLE FASHION MEANS GIVING UP ON DESIGNER LOOKS
In 2013, PPR Group, the multinational conglomerate that owns luxury stalwarts such as Alexander McQueen and Gucci, changed its name to Kering to signify the company’s new “caring” approach to creating fashion.
Chanel even did a “green” collection for spring, complete with “high-fashion ecological” materials such as wood chips, “wild cotton,” cork, linen, hemp, raffia, and recycled paper straw.
And let’s be real, you don’t get more couture than Chanel.