I am still quite new to the concept of sustainable shopping and conscious closets. Only about a year ago I started to learn more about this topic and more recently changing my own habits. Changing ones habits from being slightly shopaholic and always having new clothes to a more slow lifestyle is hard in itself. Trying to cultivate a sustainable closet comes with additional challenges. Since the world is mainly built on fast fashion and unethical business practices, finding sustainable options can be hard, time consuming and, let’s not forget, expensive compared to regular shopping.
So what are really the main challenges I face when trying to switch over to a more sustainable and ethical shopping habit?
Finding clothing I like
I can be quite picky with style and I tend to like a more expensive and elegant style. With sustainable fashion I feel like a lot of things are either boring and generic, as in all is made super minimalistic in black and white or that everyone is wearing the same Everlane pants, or colorful ethnic fabrics that are just not me. Honestly, I don’t really get the Everlane thing, they are a bit to everyday and plain for my taste, even if I do like some styles. Also they do not really have sustainable fabrics or processes which I would prefer. Also, I do not really feel comfortable in colors, especially when combined with crazy prints. So I tend to feel a bit lost in the middle at times. I have managed to find some brands I like, but they are few.
Finding materials I like
When I happen to stumble onto brands or garments I like, I get disappointed 95% of the time because of material mixes or poly. In my opinion you are not a sustainable brand if you mix in plastic at every chance you get. Sure, there are times when it makes sense, like in socks that would break very quickly without the add in. But in a woolen coat I really do not see the big point in adding synthetics. Synthetics are made from non renewable resources and should not be overused just because it’s cheap. They also make it impossible to recycle. The fabric recycling techniques available today cannot handle material mixes, only 100% fabrics.
Finding things that are accessible
Taking a normal shopping trip to town or the mall is really not a feasible way of shopping ethically and sustainably. The majority of brick and mortar stores are big brand and fast fashion with bad materials, bad quality and that is way too trend sensitive. So when shopping for sustainable brands you are often dependant on online shopping. I like to shop online, but since smaller brands often do not have the opportunity to offer free shipping and returns it makes it a bit risky to order when you are not sure about sizing.
Finding things that are within budget
Let’s be honest, ethically produced or sustainably made clothing is not cheap. Quality materials are more expensive than polyester and having a fair supply chain where people are being payed fair wages means more expensive end prices. I have a quite high budget and have in the later years mostly shopped in the bridge or affordable luxury category. So it is not as much of a stretch for me to be able to afford sustainable items. However, it is still very expensive especially when looking for high quality materials like cashmere and silk that can be bought for 100€ at H&M. The sustainable ditto is more towards 500€, so the difference is still noticeable.
When it comes to sustainable fashion I have come to terms with the fact that you can’t always tick all boxes. Buying something you really like, with good quality that will last a long time, that is also sustainable and ethical is like finding a four leafed clover, doable but hard. You have to compromise a bit sometimes and go with the best option available. For me, material is one of the criteria I do not like to compromise, for others it might be the ethical production. Whatever are your boxes to be ticked just remember that perfection shouldn’t stand in the way of good.