1 Thing the Ethical Fashion Community Needs to Stop Saying

I want to preface this by saying that yes, I am a member of the ethical fashion community, and yes, I do care deeply about this topic. I’m all about it. But I also want to be honest with all of you, and if there’s something floating around that I don’t necessarily agree with, I want to share that with you, too. That being said, there is something I have heard within the ethical fashion community that just didn’t sit right with me since day one, and today I want to address it. You may have stumbled across something along the lines of this:

“Fast fashion produces poor quality clothing. It’s just going to fall apart after 2 washes.”

I see the logic there, but I have to disagree.

Fast fashion doesn’t always mean poor quality clothing.

Now I’m no expert on fabrics and clothing quality, but I do know this – I have pieces in my closet that I bought 6 years ago from fast fashion retailers that I still wear today. Not even just one or two pieces that somehow survived, but multiple pieces that haven’t ripped or “fallen apart in the wash”. I have jeans, shirts, even outerwear that has stood the test of time and many, many wears and washes. Some of them of course came from retailers who were not necessarily super-cheap (think Express) while others from retailers who reside in the lowest of the low price range (think Urban Outfitters).

I know I’m not alone in this because I have pieces in my closet that are hand-me-downs from my mother, dating to over 10 years ago. My younger sister has things in her closet that have passed through both my mom’s and my own closet before landing in hers and continue to be washed and worn. I have friends who, if they are still similar in size to their high school days, have clothes from their teen years that they still wear today.

On the one hand, we can think about this and say “Hey, that’s great! Why bother buying more expensive clothes if the cheap stuff will last just as long?”. But that’s not my point. Some of that cheap stuff will not last that long, and when making purchases, ethical or not, we should most definitely try our best to buy higher-quality, durable clothes. My point here is that this should serve as an example as to what clothes is capable of when we take care of it. It’s a pretty simple idea. Don’t toss clothes all over the floor. Fold it neatly. Wash it according to the proper wash instructions on the tag, and hand-wash delicates. Hang things to dry instead of using the dryer. Don’t aggressively rip buttons open and yank at zippers.

Something that I had always thought was common sense, it turns out, actually isn’t. And I think it’s causing a problem in our wardrobes. So let’s stop telling ourselves (and others) this lie about cheap clothes that falls apart. Sure, some does. But if we consciously care for our clothes, their lifetime might just surprise us.

Do you agree with this? Is there anything else the ethical fashion community needs to stop saying? Let me know in the comments below!

1 Thing the Ethical Fashion Community Needs to Stop Saying | The Curious Button

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  • I’ve often thought this is an unhelpful argument – because a lot of us know it not to be true, and it’s not the real point. I think it’s perpetuated by spokespeople from the fashion industry because they want to encourage people to ‘invest’ in top end brands, to distract from what can be just as exploitative production.
    My nephew is currently wearing a cardigan that I bought 15 years ago from H+M, and is now on its 7th child, with loads of wear from each one!

  • I agree with your general point and actually, if you think about it, being real about the good quality of some fast fashion makes the ethical issue even more prominent: if the costs aren’t cut with the quality they’re cut with the cost of labour, they were cut somewhere to cost that little…

  • Interesting post and I used to agree. Nowadays, however, I disagree hugely. To me, the quality of the item is not just reflect in its longevity, but also in the way raw materials are used (sustainably or unsustainably) and how easily it can be put back society after you’re done with it.

    Moreover, while a couple of years or ten years to humans seems like a long time for clothes to last, in the grand scheme of things, it is very little time. The long-termconsequences of fast fashion far outweigh its immediate gratification.

    I do, however, definitely agree with the amount of care we give to our clothes being vitally important.

    Peace and love.

  • I have some pieces that have stood the test of time that definitely are part of the fast fashion catagory so I would agree with that statement. In the end i think ethically or sustainable pieces made has more quality control which usually makes them last longer. I believe the argument is do you care who made them or if it has an affect on the earth or the price.

  • I would agree that fast fashion brands can make good quality clothing that lasts.. but in my opinion it’s never ethical. The whole principle of fast fashion is it’s mass produced, sold through quickly (put on sale) and new clothes are pumped out each season, sometimes six times a year. That, in itself, can never be compatible with ethical fashion; the entire principle of fast fashion is built on making cheap and selling quick.

  • Great post! I also have pieces from fast fashion retailers that I bought years ago and still wear. How I see fast fashion is more in becoming outdated because the styles follow obvious trends that could look awkward for some people to wear after 6 months, when the trends are no longer “cool”.

    • Hi Asmin, I’m glad you like it! You’re definitely right – fast fashion definitely dates itself very quickly. Just one of the many reasons slow fashion is so much better 🙂

  • I agree and it is counter intuitive to progress when I see these statements. Not everyone who is building a wardrobe can afford ethical designs and not everyone finds success at thrift stores. This type of attitude caused me to tune out for several years until I was able to find a system for buying less that worked for me.

    • Hi Shahna, you’re totally right – not everyone will find success through the same methods. I’m glad you finally found a system that works for you!

  • Yes, taking care of clothing makes it last longer – whether that means putting an apron on while cooking to catch flying tomato sauce or avoiding the dryer. But also certain fabrics, like denim and fleece are more durable – whether made in a sustainable/ethical way or not. For the last few years knits have been super thin and poorer quality and those in particular wear out/rip/distort faster. In contrast nylon and polyester garments from the 60s and 70’s still seem indestructible! There are lots of factors to consider and balance, but it’s a great point that fast fashion does NOT automatically mean clothing with a short life span! Thank you for this post.

  • I’m currently wearing an H&M cardigan I bought at least 4 years ago and it’s held up quite well. I do think, however, that a lot of brands that aren’t even considered fast fashion – I’m thinking particularly of department store brands – are cutting costs by reducing the fabric and stitching quality on new clothes. Old Navy is also one of those brands with clothes that just falls apart, too. So it’s less about generalizing and more about having a good sense of what types of fabrics, weaves, stitches, and brands hold up over time.

  • I think you make some great points! It can be easy to generalize when it comes to fast fashion, but I think these blanket statements can be harmful, as you mention. I think something we could focus on instead is the trend-driven buying, as mentioned above. A lot of what is sold by retailers is meant to go out of style quickly, pushing us to buy more and buy often. Classic pieces go a long way. Great post!

  • Love the post – some fast fashion will last if you take good care of your clothing, but the point isn’t just will it last or not, the point is how many humans did it harm and does it continue to harm in its creation. ‘Fast fashion’ is cheap fashion and the mathematics behind the price of a shirt that is more than likely to disintegrate in less than 30 wears and end up in the landfill adds up to exploitation. For me, the environmental impacts are also super important as the tainted water and wasted resources which happen in fast fashion’s production cause continued harm to the communities who produce the clothing, the wildlife in that area and the biosphere as well. If you LOVE and can’t live without a fast fashion item, then by all means get it, if you are acting on impulse as Joanne and all of us have, then one should personally examine their choices. Higher price doesn’t mean higher quality, but it sometimes means fairer pay. But unless specifically stated by the company, it probably just means more money for shareholders :s But I 100 agree we should take better care of our clothing and indeed, there are many fast fashion items, like jeans, which can last a quarter lifetime! Awesome article xoxo

    • Hi Holly Rose, yes, I totally agree. Ethical and sustainable fashion is a very multi-faced issue, meaning that thinking independently about everything on a case-by-case basis is often needed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Yes I agree with this! I made the “mistake” of writing a post called dear cheap t-shirt. And what I was frustrated about was not the price per say, but the fact that I didn’t need it, it was trend driven, and totally irrational to want. But price does not mean bad, and I should know that.
    hehe that’s my confession, but I truly agree.

    • Hi Johanne, thanks for sharing! You’re totally right, low price doesn’t mean low quality, just as higher price doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality! It’s a complicated issue.