Sustainable Fashion – What is it?
This can sound intimidating, but it is quite simple. Sustainable fashion is fashion that creates an overall positive impact on the environment, community, and physical garment produced by the fashion industry. Sustainability in fashion is understanding the impact of the entire lifecycle of clothing. It ensures there are positive impacts throughout the process. The lifecycle encompasses the entire production process, supply chain, consumption, and end-of-life stages.
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This year, I want to learn more about sustainable fashion and maintain a mindful wardrobe. I will be decreasing the number of purchases I make and focusing on these three simple things:
- Recycle clothing I do not wear or need
- Extend the wear of pieces I already have
- Buy less
- Shop my closet first, before buying new
Three Categories of Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion is the umbrella term for three subcategories. To fully understand what sustainability in fashion is, it is important to know these terms.
This is the community impact of occupational standards in factories. Ethics can cover several things, but the two obvious are fair wages and safe working conditions. In general, ethical fashion is more expensive because the brand likely provides fair wages and good working conditions. Labor is one of the most expensive components when it comes to pricing clothes.
Several fast fashion brands have often been criticized for the harsh working conditions of their factory workers, in addition to many workers earning below a living wage. Meaning, they do not earn enough to support their basic needs. This is one of the reasons why clothing can be sold at steep discounts.
This is the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Eco-fashion involves materials made from renewable sources, the responsible management of material waste, recycling, renewable energy, carbon-neutral shipping, and product transparency.
Beware of Greenwashing! Fast-fashion brands want consumers to believe they are sustainable, so they use more eco-friendly materials in a small number of items, however their overall business model does not support sustainability.
*TIP: Unsure what a brand stands for, visit the about page on their site. Here, you can find information on sustainability initiatives. Often, if a brand is primarily sustainable (and not greenwashing) they will provide full transparency regarding their sustainability initiatives across the entire business.
This is the idea of appreciating and maximizing the wear of clothing we already have.
It is slowing down our purchasing decisions and really considering whether we NEED to purchase an item. An example is purchasing just one quality t-shirt each year, instead of purchasing 5 t-shirts.
There are over 50+ micro fashion seasons today. At one point in time there were only two seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Brands make huge profits by turning over low-quality products at a high pace. With this turn over, consumers are flooded with endless marketing tactics leading them to believe they need the newest items, when really, they don’t.
This is not to say that you cannot have great pieces from fast fashion brands. You can! And if that’s what is in the budget for you right now, take the time to try on each piece before you buy.
TIP: If shopping fast fashion, do not go in with the “haul” mindset. If everyone does this, brands would be forced to have a slow mentality as well.
Misconceptions about Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion is overpriced
After reading the above information, it is important to understand that each aspect of sustainable fashion (eco, ethical, and slow) plays a role in the brand setting the prices for their clothing. Brands that do not participate in any of these initiatives are able to set lower prices because they do not have the overhead costs associated with sustainable initiatives.
Therefore, sustainable clothing is not overpriced; it is simply a fair price. Many sustainable brands, like Quince, will provide full breakdown of their product costs. When we (the consumer) have this information, we can appreciate our clothing more.
For me, I think longevity of clothing is important when considering the pricing. Having quality, durable pieces means I could potentially get more wears out of the item. Thus, I will save more money in the long term.
My FAVORITE thing about sustainable fashion is knowing the PEOPLE behind the scenes (factory workers and families) are treated fairly. Knowing a company supports their workers, makes the higher price tag comforting in a way.
You either buy sustainable or fast fashion, there is no in between
There is an in between, especially if affordability is imperative to you. You should always shop within your budget. If fast fashion is what you can afford, I think the key is to be mindful of quantity and to not have a “haul” mindset when shopping.
It is important, too, to take care of fast fashion clothing in the same respects we do for higher priced items. The more care and attention given to ALL clothing, regardless of brand, the longer we will wear it and the less often we will be shopping for replacements.
Slowly start incorporating sustainable brands by saving to buy one quality item (jean jacket or white tee) that you can wear all year for years to come!
SAVINGS TIP: Another great option, if you need to be mindful of budget, is to shop second hand! This is a great way to contribute to sustainable fashion
Next week I will share 20 affordable sustainable fashion brands with you! There are several ways you can save!