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6 myths about ethical fashion


Ethical fashion is a term loaded with so many assumptions, many of which aren’t true. It’s time to straighten them out. I'm here to debunk 6 common myths about ethical fashion in 2015 and beyond:

1. Ethical fashion is too expensive

I admit, some ethical fashion out there is considerably more expensive than non-ethical alternatives, and while many people do want to be ethical the price is too much to ask. But this shouldn’t put you off buying ethically, because in fact there is a huge amount of affordable ethical fashion. A few great examples include Beaumont Organic, Monkee Genes, and ASOS Africa. 

ethical spinning.jpgImage: Nicolás Boullosa/Flickr

2. Ethical fashion is (unstylish or) ‘granola’

One of the most common myths is that if you want to be ethical you have to opt for hemp t-shirts or hand-me-down clothes that are decades out of style… or weren’t ever in style to begin with. However, more and more ethical brands are producing incredibly stylish products – from smart wear to active wear and a vast range of accessories. Style is mostly first in the ethical fashion world of today and there are more options than ever to suit your style preferences. Wardrobe updates as well as timeless pieces are available from many up and coming brands. Check out Baserange, Della LA and Soko.  

3. You can’t buy ethical fashion from brands you already know and love

Actually, mainstream fashion brands are rapidly changing to incorporate ethical fashion throughout their business. More obviously there are stores like H&M and Marks & Spencer that feature ethical ranges. Some are making more progress than others, but the good news is there is a lot of progress being made. There are also more and more mainstream brands that are wholeheartedly ethical, such as People Tree and the super cool Reformation. Ethical fashion is on the rise, working its way into the mainstream, and there are many options on the high street to shop ethically.

ethical wool.jpgImage: Nicolás Boullosa/Flickr

4. Ethical clothes are always made from hemp

Hemp, while obviously a lovely ethical material, isn’t always considered the most stylish and versatile. This can be something newbies in ethical fashion are repelled by, but let me dispel this myth – the majority of clothing in ethical fashion is not hemp. Zady’s eponymous line, Matt & Nat, and Eileen Fisher are some great ethical fashion brands where hemp isn’t necessarily involved. What you need to know is what materials are more ethical or sustainable than others. For example, collectively farmed and free-grazing Peruvian Alpaca is better than Mongolian cashmere, vegan leather actually animal-friendly versus ordinary leather, and Tencel saves buckets of water over cotton.

5. 1-for-1 models are good

Ah, controversial. This comes back to the whole ‘teach a man how to fish’ analogy.

It is widely believed 1-for-1 models are good and ethical – and I’m not saying they’re not... but let’s discuss this. 1 for 1 models are the system where for every one item purchased in store, one item will be donated to someone in the world who is in need. Seems good, right? Sure, it makes us feel good, but it’s rarely as good for the people and communities receiving our donation. By providing someone in need with a product for free (let’s call it a t-shirt) the demand for production of t-shirts in the community is reduced. If there’s no demand, there’s no supply and thus the local t-shirt producer in this community runs out of work. Not really a sustainable solution, hey? In reality, schemes that train communities with the skills to create their own products are far more beneficial in the long term, i.e. Trade not Aid (The Citizenry is a perfect example of this).

6. If a brand has one certification it means the products are completely ethical

Another slightly controversial topic: just because a company has one type of certification, it does not mean they are all-round ethical. This covers the greenwashing effect that many companies employ to convince customers that they are ethical in order to boost their sales. Manyo companies who greenwash their customers are actually capable of doing a lot more, socially and environmentally, which would make them much more ethical. At the same time, if a company is seeking ethical certifications to improve their impact and demonstrate this, then it’s something to be celebrated and rewarded. The moral of the story? Shop wisely, and find out the full story behind the products you are buying.

ethical fashion choices.jpgImage: Nicolás Boullosa/Flickr

Next time you’re browsing for something new to add to your wardrobe and one of these myths pops into your head, remember ethical fashion can be stylish, affordable, and together, we can put the meaning of ‘good’ back into the goods we are buying.