How can we balance style with sustainability?
We, as consumers, can limit ourselves to a purchasing from only handful of brands that offer styles that we like and whose products are sustainable. In doing so, we would probably miss out on brands with great styles that were produced unsustainably, or that have highly sustainable products, but just-ok styles.
The strongest style or fashion statements are probably not made with the highest levels of sustainability (unless it was designed by Stella McCartney). And brands with great stories about their traceable and sustainable supply chains might offer styles that are minimalistic and “safe,” less fashion-risky.
What would it take to not have to compromise one or the other? The responsibility starts with the brands. If all brands made all of their products sustainably, the world would be better, environmentally, socially or both, depending on each brand’s sustainability goals. and we wouldn’t have to compromise on style.
What keeps brands from making and meeting their highest possible and most impactful level of sustainability goals? Unsurprisingly, it’s the cost.
Organic cotton requires costly certifications. Biodegradeable nylon costs more than regular nylon. Cellulosic fibers traceable to sustainable forests costs more than its non-traceable counterparts. In order to protect their margins, brands would pass these costs to the consumers by raising prices.
Here’s the thing though. By having the ability to get the styles we want, without compromising based on how they were made, we would actually end up buying less clothes over time. We would be buying into our personal style, not into the trends of fast fashion or the safety net of minimalist collections. We would actually want to wear those pieces more, and keep them for longer. So, even though each piece costs more, we would buy less and buy better, and not spend more on clothes over time.
Just as brands can improve and evolve toward thoughtful sourcing processes, consumers can improve and evolve toward thoughtful purchasing decisions. Together, brands and consumers can help the transition toward more sustainable apparel and make a positive impact on the world.