Busting 2 Ethical Fashion Myths
There's a lot of misinformation and misconceptions regarding the switch from fast to ethical fashion. 'It's too expensive', 'it's too hard', 'I can never find anything in charity shops', 'it won't matter if I quit fast fashion, I'm just one person', etcetera. With confusion rife, I thought I'd take the time to bust two of the biggest myths on this topic, so that hopefully by the end of this article, you'll realise quitting fast fashion isn't as out of reach as you think.
"Ethical fashion is too expensive, I can only afford high street clothes"
One of the many concerns I hear from people who want to make their wardrobe more ethical, is that they would, but it’s too expensive – this couldn’t be more untrue. While many people may look to bigger, sustainable brands like Organic Basics and Reformation, which admittedly to come with a hefty price tag, the cheapest place to find ethical fashion is your own wardrobe. Simply keeping or upcycling what you already own is free (with maybe the odd expense for fabric scissors and a sewing kit).
Alternatively, if you find yourself in desperate need of new ethical clothes then your local charity shop or second-hand sites, like Depop and eBay, are your cheapest bets. Charity shopping in particular is full of environmental benefits, as not only does your purchase go towards a charity, it also reduces annual clothing waste – between 2018-2019, 339,000 tonnes of textiles were saved from landfill as a result of charity shopping in the UK, which inadvertently lowers the landfill tax for local councils, freeing up money to be spent elsewhere. When shopping on Depop, in order to keep it as environmentally friendly as possible look for sellers who use recyclable or biodegradable packaging, or who offer bundles, thereby reducing the need for multiple orders. Already the effects of Depop, and other second-hand online shops, are being felt by corporate fashion giants. “Money is coming out of the mainstream market because of this way of shopping, particularly in Generation Z,” Lorna Hall, head of trend forecasting firm WGSN, told The Guardian in 2018.
Finally, for when charity shops, Depop, and your own wardrobe won’t do, there are a number of ethical clothing businesses out there that specialise in high quality, long-lasting products. While they do often come with a startling price tag, it’s important to remember that as traditionally fast fashion consumers, we aren’t used to companies selling clothes at a fair price. Garment workers in the UK are typically paid between £2.50-£3 per dress – these wages are illegally low. So, while a £1 bikini from Missguided or £4 top from Boohoo might save you a few pennies, remember that the person who made it is likely being denied a living wage just to satisfy our greed for newer, cheaper, faster fashion. However, when looking for ethical brands always be sure to do your research and beware of greenwashing. Here are a few brands as recommended by The Good Trade.
"It won’t make a difference if I give up fast fashion, I'm just one person"
Another myth I often hear is that it won’t give up a difference if one individual gives up fast fashion, especially when the clothes have already been made. Again, this is completely false. By buying any item at any frequency you are contributing to consumer demand, which companies then use to predict future trends and churn out new collections.
The biggest fast fashion brands, like Inditex (parent company of Zara, Stradivarius, Bershka…) and H&M group (parent company of H&M, Monki, COS, & Other Stories…) work on a system of ‘supply chain agility’. “Above all else, in supply chain terms, agility means responsiveness to demand, not just with regard to volume, but also to what consumers want to buy or order”, the Logistics Bureau states. This means that feedback is gathered in-store and online at the point of purchase, so whatever you buy, even if you don’t shop there very often or intend to wear this piece of clothing for a long time, will skew this supply chain a particular way, prompting more or less of certain items to be made. Thus, your purchase does not get lost in the system – it becomes part of the system.
Image: Sara Kurfeß