Is sustainable & ethical fashion too expensive?

I was watching a podcast interview one day with someone known for her fashion sense and style. She was asked how she invests in her wardrobe and she then responded - “I splurge on jewelry and shoes, but not so much on clothing. You can get those anywhere.”

While her statement is true about the endless clothing options, it reinforces the subconscious belief that clothing holds very little value. We have been conditioned to believe that clothing is something we turn over regularly every season and every year or we are saving more by investing in cheap clothing, especially in the U.S. with holiday deals that flood our inboxes every year. We have seen evidence of this for many years with the rise of clothing waste that ends up in landfills each day. As individuals, we don’t get curious enough to ask ourselves why.

Why do we let go or dispose of clothing regularly?

Why do we donate or let go of some pieces versus others?

Why has clothing waste increased over the past few decades?

It took investing in our own clothing production for me to understand the why as it revealed a hidden and complex ecosystem that contributes to the rise of clothing waste and ongoing global pandemic that we are seeing unfold with climate change today. It also revealed how our choices significantly impact the lives of many people and garment workers around the world who rely on their jobs to support their families, along with why making thoughtful and deliberate clothing choices matter. They deserve to work in safe and clean environments, and to be compensated a fair living wage that enables them to live a quality life.

The speed in which garments are made today make it difficult to produce quality-made clothing that is long-lasting. Additionally, more than 60% of garments today are made of synthetic fabrics which reduces the likelihood of us holding on to our clothing for many years. Any clothing made of plastic does not hold its value long-term. Think about the pieces you have personally purged from your closet...

What were they mostly made of?

Do you find yourself feeling differently when you put on something that was made of 100% natural fabric versus something synthetic?

Clothing-making today is driven by volume. The more fabrics you order and the more you produce, the cheaper it is for the consumer. While sourcing for fabrics from one of our Italian textile partners, I asked why there are more options for poly blends versus natural fabrics? I was then told “there is a greater demand for synthetics versus natural fabrics.” This also means polyester or poly blends are less expensive than natural fabrics.

Our skin is our largest organ, yet many of us don’t question how our clothing choices impact our health. While there is no sufficient evidence that states the long-term implications of wearing synthetics or petroleum-based clothing over the years, there are numerous unknown chemicals that make up those garments that can potentially be harmful. We have heard stories of flight attendants who developed unknown illnesses from potentially wearing synthetic uniforms, which led one of the major airliners to invest in more naturally-made uniforms.

Sustainable change begins with us and with the choices we make on a daily basis. Until individuals start asking why, and demand transparency with better and ethically produced clothing options made of natural fabrics, it will be difficult for conscious brands to offer competitive pricing against fast fashion brands. It is simply supply and demand. Furthermore, sustainable and ethical fashion is not at all “too expensive” when you take into consideration the cost per wear and longevity of natural fabrics (with proper care) versus synthetics. The truth is, investing in cheap clothing is costing you more long-term.

Your choices have an impact in this world and the many lives that were involved in making every garment you own. If reading this sparks curiosity within you, that’s a beautiful thing. Begin by getting curious around your clothing choices and asking yourself why. You can start looking into the care label inside your garments (every garment should always have one) as a way to confirm how many garments or percentage of your garments in your wardrobe are made of polyester. This alone could spark a shift in your values and how you consume today and in the future. When you are empowered, you begin to make different choices.


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