While talking about sustainability and consumerism, it's crucial we talk about clothes. The fashion and textile industry is one of the biggest polluters and biggest source of waste in the world. And, with fashion trends and seasonal drops, clothing is a huge contributor to the culture of consumerism we live in.
Of course, I'm a huge fan of retail therapy myself, and clothes are a huge part of self expression for a lot of people. So, we're debunking some common myths about clothes and fashion to help you get the most out of you closet and ensure that your clothes aren't having a negative impact on the environment.
Myth #1: You need to wash your clothes after every wear.
I know this might seem gross at first glance, but the pattern of washing clothes after every wear is a recent development with the decline in the quality of clothing. In reality, the only clothing you should wash after every wear are underwear and workout clothing after a workout. We've included some great graphics from ThredUp to illustrate how many times you can wear a piece before washing it.
Washing clothing less can often prevent the fabric from breaking down as fast, extending its lifespan. When your clothes break down in the wash and you have to replace them, this is contributing to a market strategy called planned obsolescence. This means companies intentionally make products that will become unusable within a short amount of time, saving the company on high quality materials and production and increasing their profits because people replace their products at an increased rate. And, of course, less washes means less water and energy used on washing your clothing, helping the planet in another way!
Source: ThredUp, @thredup on Instagram
Myth #2: You an only be fashionable if you keep up with the trends!
Microtrends tend to come and go at a faster and faster rate, meaning you can spend money on pieces that are out of fashion by the time you've worn them a few times. This increases clothing waste and doesn't help you develop a sense of style. In a society built largely on consumer culture, this is a hard habit to shake. But, just because you want to be environmentally conscious doesn't mean you don't get to shop or have cute clothes.
A really sustainable way to think about the clothes you wear is the capsule wardrobe method. This encourages people to establish a closet of staples they wear all the time, in a color palette they reach for all the time anyway. Try to make sure they are high quality and simple enough in color and style that you can build off of them in a number of ways. These pieces will help you reduce your consumption because they should be timeless pieces you can use for years. This way you have a base to create endless outfits with once you mix in more unique, fun pieces. This is where shopping comes in ;) Of course, it's best to shop thrift or vintage for the fun, more statement pieces and this will mean your closet is super unique as well.
Myth #3: The more expensive the clothing, the more sustainable/ethical.
For better or for worse, this is not true at all! Just because the price point of, say, Urban Outfitters is higher than a brand like Forever21 does not mean that Urban Outfitters' material, production processes, or labor is any more sustainable or ethical. Even designer brands with very high prices do not sustainable practices, meaning that the price point doesn't reflect anything about a company's values.
While it is often the case that sustainable alternatives are more expensive due to the materials and production processes, higher prices don't automatically mean better ethics. On the bright side, this means that some sustainable brands are actually more affordable than their competitors. An example of this is that Girlfriend Collective's leggings (made of recycled plastic water bottles) are actually around $20 less than their competitor Lululemon's non-sustainable leggings. Unfortunately, this does mean that making informed and environmentally conscious purchases requires a lot of research and sifting through companies that are not very transparent about their practices.
Myth #4: Donating clothes is eco-friendly.
This one is a huge bummer. Unfortunately, a huge majority of clothes that is donated to thrift stores or charity shops is shipped overseas to developing countries. In theory, this is to support their resale markets, but in reality, the huge amounts of clothing negatively impacts their local clothing suppliers. And, given the egregious quantity of used clothing that comes out of the US alone, most of it goes to sit in landfills. According to CNN, only around 10% of the clothes donated are actually resold out of thrift stores.
The more sustainable option for clothing is to get it repaired or alter to extend its life, or repurpose it into something else. Of course, this is hard to do with fast fashion pieces that are not the highest quality. This is why investing in high-quality pieces is important to having a sustainable closet! And, it goes without saying that this would be a lot less of problem without overconsumption, so be conscious with your purchases and don't over-buy. Buying less and only items you know you're going to wear often and for a long time helps reduce this problem.
Check out this article from CNN for more sustainable fashion myths debunked: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/common-myths-about-ethical-and-sustainable-fashion-sept/index.html
We hope these were eye opening for you and give you a chance to look at your closet with a fresh set of eyes! Your closet is a great opportunity to make sustainable choices and
See you soon!