6 Stereotypes about Alternative Fashion
Alternative fashion. Slow fashion. Ethical fashion. These expressions that we’re seeing more and more frequently signal a new phenomenon that is slowly spreading across the globe. Alternative fashion is a fashion that strives to be: more honest, more transparent, and more responsible, from both an ecological and a social perspective.
People are becoming increasingly aware that dressing well doesn’t just have to do with style but has become an ecological and social matter as well, and that that’s okay! Nevertheless, some negative stereotypes still exist around the topic of ethical fashion. In fact, statistically speaking, only 1 in 8 people currently consider durability of their clothing when shopping (source Greenpeace).
Here are 6 stereotypes surrounding alternative fashion that we’re here to dispel.
1- Dressing well isn’t important
At first glance, dressing well can seem superficial. It’s reasonable to think that, in order to take care of ourselves and the environment, it is more important to pay attention to what we’re eating than what we’re wearing. After all, we’re not eating dresses and handbags!
So we can agree that it is more important to eat well and organic to stay healthy. Because at the end of the day, clothes stay on our skin, and don’t go inside of our bodies, right? Think again! The vast majority of clothing products created by big clothing brands contain (among other things) traces of NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates), a chemical that is particularly toxic and acts as an endocrine disruptor in humans.
In addition, people tend to forget (or ignore) that the fashion industry is the second highest polluting industry in the world. Therefore, it is high time for us to change the way that we dress and consume fashion items.
2- Enough is enough
This next part, then should come as no surprise. It’s as if we are now being overwhelmed by “excess.” Too many restrictions, too many constraints, too many things to change in our daily lives in order to limit our environmental impact. Reducing how often we use our cars, traveling in planes less often, eating organic, sorting recyclables, etc. Thinking about making so many changes can make some people feel discouraged. And considering all of these changes, the choice of what they wear, for many people, is not a priority. Incidentally, I hear a lot of people around me say, “In reality, everything is bad for our health and for nature. If we listen to what everyone tells us not to do, we’ll never do anything again. We won’t live anymore!” And so they don’t change anything, or even worse...they simply close their eyes to the problem.
3- Alternative fashion is better, but too expensive
Now let’s address the financial aspect. It’s no secret that the ethical fashion products often cost more than large clothing brands. That’s plain to see. Take H&M, for example. You can say what you want about H&M, but it’s practical and inexpensive. You find everything you need for next to nothing.
But is the cost really nothing?
True, it’s not expensive if you don’t consider the very real price hiding behind each article of clothing and accessory — that is to say, the ecological and social cost. From the water waste, to the massive use of pesticides that are banned throughout Europe (mainly for the production of cotton), toxic dyes that end up in rivers, CO2 emissions, synthetic materials whose particles we find in our bodies, horrible working conditions for the men, women, and children that make the clothes...and I’ll just stop my list there.
Of course, alternative fashion offers products that are relatively more expensive, but that’s the price of quality items that are healthier, more durable, and more transparent. Alternative fashion brands prefer to guarantee fair salaries for those who work for them, rather than pad their bottom line.
4- Alternative fashion is ugly
This cliché comes up frequently. When some people hear the term “alternative fashion,” the image of a hippie with long hair who wears hemp jewelry and big, itchy wool sweaters immediately pops into their heads.
Obviously, this stereotypical mental image is nothing more than that, a stereotype! It is entirely possible to be stylish and elegant (whatever your definition of elegance may be ;)) with ethically-sourced clothing and accessories. Nowadays, you can find absolutely anything you need — dresses, purses, shoes, sweaters, lingerie, anything! — no matter your taste or style.
But keep in mind that typically, alternative fashion brands offer collections with a timeless style that you cannot find in large clothing stores. Incidentally, this also works in their favor. Their goal is to not cater to short-lived trends, and therefore not encourage overconsumption.
5- Alternative fashion is not very widespread
For many, alternative fashion is still an obscure concept with few brands that represent it. The fact of the matter is that the ubiquity of larger clothing brands, with extensive publicity and thousands of stores around the globe, easily overshadows locally owned businesses.
Yet, today, there are several smaller labels that offer original collections and boast more ethical fashion. Whether it’s local artisans, eco-friendly, vegan, fair trade, ethically-sourced, made in Europe (or elsewhere), there is no lack of options. In reality, all that these brands are really missing is visibility!
If you would like to learn about some such brands, we encourage you to download our style guide. We have highlighted all of our personal favorites ;)
6- Difficult to Tell which Brands are Actually Ethical
It’s true that it’s not always easy to distinguish between what it truly ethical and what is not. The term “eco-friendly” has become a selling point for many brands, and large companies are masters in the art of greenwashing.
Now, add the structural difficulties specific to the world of fashion. For Daniela Kistler of Public Eye and the network of NGO Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the extremely complex supply chain and multitude of actors who make up the textile industry make it very hard to regulate.
In order to make sure that a brand is actually ethical, there are a few things you can research: what their values are (their slogan), where their products are made, what materials they use, and how many different collections they have (a large number for a small brand would be suspicious). These few checks can help you to more easily identify the integrity of an alternative brand. In case of doubt, don’t hesitate to email them with your questions.
Photos: Honest by. Sport collection
Photography by Bruno Pieters Hair & Make-up Gina Van Den BerghModels: Inge Geurts, Raymond Pinto, Charlene Tyberghein, Vyvy Zwevenepoel, Nicolas Mortelmans