The fashion industry is one of the most influential industries in the world, with a global market value of approximately $1.5 trillion. However, it is also one of the most polluting industries, responsible for 10% of the world's carbon emissions and 20% of the world's water waste. And as the world becomes increasingly aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion, sustainable fashion is becoming more popular. However, there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding sustainable fashion

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the topic of sustainable fashion, and it's important to know what is true and false. In this article, we will debunk the top 16 sustainable fashion myths. Tag along to learn more about this.

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Sustainability is too expensive

Sustainability is not expensive

You may think sustainability is too expensive, which is often the claim for many, but that isn't true. Sustainability is all about making smarter purchases that add value to your wardrobe and won't break the bank. By focusing on clothes with longer lifespans—that won't need replacing after a few wears—you can save money in the long run while investing in pieces you feel good about wearing.

Plus, there are plenty of affordable, sustainable fashion brands out there. From vintage options to sustainable fashion labels like Veja and Outeknown, there are a dazzling array of options for all budgets. Furthermore, with so many wonderful secondhand shops popping up across the United States and online, you have many options if you're looking for even more affordable, sustainable fashion.

Sustainable materials are low quality

low quality clothing

Although many believe that sustainable materials are lower quality, Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the materials used in sustainable apparel, like hemp and bamboo, are not only of the strongest fibers out there but also produce products of high quality.

Sustainable fashion is not fashionable

Sustainable fashion is not fashionable

Another common misconception about sustainable fashion is that it is not fashionable. This is not true. Sustainable fashion brands constantly innovate and create stylish, on-trend, eco-friendly clothing. Many sustainable fashion brands are also committed to using high-quality, durable materials, meaning their clothing lasts longer and stays in style longer.

Sustainable fashion is not accessible to plus-size women

Sustainable fashion is not accessible to plus-size women

Another myth about sustainable fashion is that it is not accessible to plus-size women. While it is true that the fashion industry has historically excluded plus-size women, many sustainable fashion brands cater to all sizes. They include Poplinen, Chaliskan, and even Etsy. These brands are committed to creating clothing that is not only eco-friendly but also inclusive and accessible to all. Similarly, there are many rental services for renting plus-size clothing.

Check out these 12 best plus-size bamboo clothing brands.

Only big corporations can produce sustainable fashion

Only big corporations can produce sustainable fashion

One of the most common sustainability myths is that only large companies can make sustainable fashion. While it is true that big companies have more resources to invest in sustainability initiatives, there are many options available to smaller companies, too.

Smaller companies typically have more flexibility with their production process, which allows them to invest in higher-quality, sustainable materials than large brands may be able to afford. Smaller brands can also go the extra mile when it comes to tracking down ethically sourced materials, as well as retailers who are passionate about ethical trading practices.

 In addition to using sustainable materials, smaller brands can also take advantage of sustainable production methods that larger companies may not have access to. For example, smaller businesses are better positioned to use local resources such as recycled or upcycled fabrics and natural dyes — which may be cost-prohibitive for a large company operating on a massive scale.

Smaller businesses have access to these resources and can leverage their close-knit networks of local collaborators and suppliers for manufacturing processes like cutting and stitching, resulting in a product with a vastly reduced carbon footprint.

Specific certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) require that a company's production processes meet certain environmental standards — something many smaller companies can achieve without having access to specialized tools and machinery.

When it comes down to it, size isn't everything. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability, small fashion brands can adopt creative solutions and utilize local resources that larger companies may not even have access to. This makes them just as capable of producing sustainably sourced fashion items.

Sustainable fashion is only for women

Men and children sustainable fashion

Another myth about sustainable fashion is that it is only for women. This is not true at all. Many sustainable fashion brands cater to men and children as well. Sustainable fashion is for everyone who wants to impact the environment and society positively.

Sustainable fashion is only for vegans

 Sustainable fashion is only for vegans

Another common misconception about sustainable fashion is that it is only for vegans. While it is true that many sustainable fashion brands are committed to using animal-free materials, there are also sustainable fashion brands that use responsibly sourced animal products.

Sustainable fashion is difficult to find

Sustainable fashion is difficult to find

Some believe sustainable fashion is difficult to find, and it requires much research and effort to find sustainable clothing options. While it is true that sustainable fashion can require a bit of research, there are also many sustainable fashion brands and options available. Additionally, many online resources, such as sustainable fashion blogs like Panaprium and directories, make it easy to find sustainable fashion options.

Sustainable fashion is only for special occasions

Many believe sustainable fashion is only suitable for special occasions like weddings or formal events. This is actually not the case. Sustainable fashion brands create clothing for all occasions, from casual to formal. Additionally, sustainable fashion is not just about the clothing itself but also about the production and manufacturing process, which means that even everyday clothing can be eco-friendly.

Sustainable fashion is not versatile

 Sustainable fashion is not versatile

There are claims that sustainable fashion is not versatile and that creating various looks using sustainable clothing is challenging. However, sustainable fashion brands create clothing in various styles and designs, and many sustainable pieces can be blended and matched to create a variety of looks.

Donating clothes to charity is always sustainable

Donating clothes to charity is always sustainable

While donating clothes to charity is a kind gesture, it is not always the most sustainable option. In fact, many donated clothes end up in landfills or are shipped overseas to developing countries, where they can harm local textile industries. Donating clothes responsibly and only when they are in good condition or considering other options such as upcycling or recycling is important.

Learn more about upcycling and recycling here.

Sustainable fashion is only for minimalists

Sustainable fashion is only for minimalists

Another misconception about sustainable fashion is that it is only for minimalists. While minimalism and sustainability often go hand in hand, anyone can enjoy sustainable fashion regardless of their style. Sustainable fashion is about making more conscious choices and reducing waste, not limiting personal expression.

It's expensive to make affordable, eco-friendly fashion

eco-friendly fashion

Do you think sustainable fashion has to be expensive? Not true! You can totally make high-quality eco-friendly clothing and still make it affordable for everyone. Here's how:

  • Low-impact materials: It all starts with using low-impact materials like organic cotton, hemp and even artificial materials like polyester made from recycled plastic. All of these are incredibly affordable while still being sustainable and friendly to the environment.\
  • Manufacturing processes: Many sustainable companies use digital printing to create their designs instead of traditional screen printing, which saves both energy and water during production. You can also reuse byproducts from other processes and fabrics during production — for example, cutting off scraps from t-shirts and reusing them as patches or decorations on other garments instead of simply throwing them away
  • Sustainable Business Practices: By reducing packaging waste or using eco-friendly shipping options like carbon offsetting or reusable mailers, clothing manufacturers can add value without racking up additional costs — making their products more affordable in the long run.

Ethical and organic materials are the same thing

Ethical and organic materials are the same thing

Another common sustainable fashion myth is labeling ethical and organic materials as the same thing. While many times these two are linked, they are, in fact, different.

Organic materials refer to fabric created from natural sources such as cotton, silk, wool, and hemp. It's important to remember that these materials are grown organically but not necessarily ethically.

It's very common for organic fibers to be produced by farming processes that do not consider the well-being of workers or animal welfare. By contrast, when a brand uses ethical materials, its suppliers take extra steps to ensure that workers and animals are cared for properly and given fair wages or treated humanely.

So while organic materials may be harvested in an environmentally friendly way without using pesticides or fertilizers, it may not be ethical in terms of labor practices and animal welfare standards. For example, some non-organic cotton companies may pay their workers fair wages despite using non-organic cotton production methods.

The takeaway here is this: when shopping for sustainable fashion items, pay attention to the organic and ethical aspects of any products you're considering purchasing. Don't just look at how it was made, but also where and by whom!

You'll want to look for brands that prioritize ethical labor practices or, better yet, support organizations working to improve safety standards in countries worldwide.

Luckily, several companies are leading the charge here—brands like Prabal Gurung, Reformation, and Stella McCartney highly value ethical practices and sustainability.

Durable clothing isn't necessary if it's eco-friendly

Durable clothing

Also, many believe that if a garment is eco-friendly, it doesn't have to be durable. Unfortunately, that's yet another myth about sustainable fashion. Sustainable, eco-friendly clothing can and should be designed to last longer than its fast-fashion counterparts.

When manufacturers take the extra time and effort to consider sustainability when producing their products, they should also consider how long the garment will last.

This includes using better quality materials, reinforcing seams and other details, sizing the garment carefully so it won't stretch out of shape over time, and even employing methods like triple stitching for extra reinforcement at pressure points like shoulder seams or cuffs.

Manufacturers and consumers alike have to ensure that sustainable fashion is created with durability in mind. It's important to research which fabrics are most durable while still being sustainable — this could include organic cotton or bamboo blends — as well as considering things like triple stitching and better quality closures like metal buttons or zippers instead of plastic ones which can become brittle over time.

Look for garments designed well by companies you know that use ethical manufacturing processes to increase their longevity in your wardrobe.

Fast fashion is cheaper than sustainable brands

Buying from a good brand is enough

Are you getting a better deal with fast fashion brands? No, you are not! On the surface, the prices of sustainable fashion labels can be higher than that of fast fashion items.

However, if you look at the cost per wear metric — how much an item costs you each time you wear it — your wallet will save a lot for choosing sustainable apparel in the long run.

Sustainable garments tend to be more expensive due to their use of resources, such as organic fabrics and production processes that are labor-intensive and involve multiple steps.

Fast fashion brands can produce clothing quickly and cheaply because production is less resource-intensive as they typically use cheaper synthetic materials and mass-production techniques.

On the other hand, sustainable garments often last for years or even decades due to the fabrics' quality and the production techniques employed. With each wear, you'll gain a financial return on your purchase without compromising your style or values.

Ultimately, investing in better quality clothing from sustainable sources may become even more cost-efficient than buying from fast fashion brands: Here are more reasons to go for sustainable fashion brands:

  • The added cost in investment may add up to similar or less than buying several cheaper items over a few years.
  • Furthermore, plenty of discounts are available on high-end sustainable clothing, so keep an eye out for those!

Buying from a good brand is enough

 Buying from a good brand is enough

It's easy to think that buying from a well-known and respected fashion brand is enough for making an ethical shopping decision. After all, these brands have a good reputation for sustainability, so you can tick that box and move on. But there's more to it.

Some brands do indeed make sustainability pledges, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're meeting them. Just because a brand says it's sustainable doesn't mean it actually is.

Sure, you can make sure the materials used—whether natural or synthetic—come from sustainable sources and the production process is compliant with social and environmental standards. But that's only half the battle.

The other half has to do with how long the clothing will last: no matter how sustainable something is when it gets made, if it constantly needs replacing, then it can't be considered 'sustainable.'

So even if you buy from an ethical brand, there are still more factors you need to consider when determining whether or not your purchase is truly sustainable: Here are some of them:

  • Does the material used in the clothing last? Natural materials like cotton or wool can be durable and resist wear better than artificial fabrics like polyester or nylon.
  • Is the item built to last? You should expect items from ethical fashion brands to have good construction and seams that will stand up to regular use without wearing out quickly or coming apart easily.
  • Is its care instructions eco-friendly? Look for companies who recommend eco-friendly cleaning options like hand washing and line drying instead of energy-draining machines like washing machines and dryers for better sustainability performance of your garments over time.
  • Does the company have a commitment to circularity? Whether it's by offering repair services or providing guidance on how customers can keep their clothes looking great longer through proper upkeep, these are all small steps that add up when opting for sustainability.
  • Manufacturing processes: Are their manufacturing processes transparent? Do they use renewable energy sources during the production process?
  • Waste management systems: Do they have adequate waste management systems in place for their factories and other operations?
  • Social accountability: Are there rigorous standards in place for their workers and suppliers to ensure ethical labor practices?

Also, watch for certifications and labels — such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), or Fairtrade — indicating that a brand meets specific sustainability standards. However, don't be fooled by false claims! Be sure to look into whether the certification or label is from an independent body that actually verifies the company's claims.

Your clothes were made in the country listed on the tag

Your clothes were made in the country listed on the tag

It is a common misconception that the country listed on the label of your clothes indicates the origin of the entire production process. While it is true that the clothes may have been made in that country, the tag fails to disclose the intricate chain of labor involved in manufacturing them.

The label on your clothes is only a tiny piece of information that reveals limited information about the garment. It does not reveal where the cotton used in the garment was farmed, where the fiber was spun into yarn, or the various stages of transportation and manufacturing the apparel underwent before reaching the store.

Many clothes are produced through a global supply chain, with different stages of production taking place in different countries.

Raising worker pay will raise customer pricing

Raising worker pay will raise customer pricing

You might think it's inevitable that raising workers' wages in sustainable fashion production would lead to a price increase for consumers. However, the reality is that if you improve working conditions and raise workers' wages, it can positively impact a company's overall profit margin.

Organizations that pay their employees more can often benefit from better productivity as workers become more motivated with improved wages. Moreover, raising pay can also attract better talent and reduce costs associated with training for new hires.

All of this leads to lower overhead expenses for sustainable fashion producers and, ultimately, higher profits for them. With a healthy profit margin, there would be no cause for price increases.

The bottom line is that raising worker pay should not be viewed as an expense but rather an investment in employee loyalty and building up the customer base. Apparel producers then stand to gain more as customers know they're buying ethically sourced fashion every time they shop with them.

Companies are ultimately responsible for creating a safe work environment and fairly compensating their workforce.

Customers will support them when they prioritize these values:

  • Educate people on the cost of production
  • Champion ethical standards in all aspects of the company, including material sourcing
  • Invest in technology & practices that ensure fairness & transparency to workers & customers

Sustainable fashion is only about clothing

Sustainable fashion is only about clothing

Finally, one common misconception about sustainable fashion is that it is only about clothing. While sustainable clothing is an important part of sustainable fashion, it is not the only component.

Sustainable fashion also encompasses sustainable production, ethical labor, and materials. Additionally, sustainable fashion is not just about the clothing industry but also about challenging the consumer culture that fuels the fast fashion industry and promoting a more mindful approach to consumption and waste.

Wrapping it Up

Sustainable fashion is not a passing trend but a necessary shift in the fashion industry that is vital for our planet's and society's health.

While there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding sustainable fashion, it is essential to recognize that it is for everyone, regardless of their style, budget, or lifestyle.

We can work towards a more sustainable and equitable fashion industry by challenging these myths and engaging in sustainable fashion practices.

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About the Author: Geri M. Vin

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