We study complicated sciences, maths and history, art and literature, but we actually know very little about some of the most basic things in our life. It seems like it’s been only few years since we started asking: hey, are you not curious about what’s really in your food? And we are slowly, but surely, becoming more conscious and knowledgeable with our food choices. But the fashion industry is 15 years behind the food industry in terms of public awareness. We wear clothes every day and spend ridiculous amount of time and money shopping to fill our wardrobes. Luckily, it doesn’t really affect our health like food does (which is also not entirely true), but it definitely wouldn’t hurt knowing a bit more about it. Or at least getting rid of the common misconceptions about the quality of clothes. Inspired mostly by comments found on social media, but also beliefs of my friends and family, here I am bringing the truth that will let you shop in peace.
Polyester is (not) your enemy
If you at least take a second to look at the fabric composition before you take that top to the checkout, then it’s already a great step towards being a conscious shopper – yay, well done! Then you should also already know that 100% polyester tee is not worth what it says on the price tag. And most of the time it’s true. Polyester is a synthetic fibre produced in a chemical reaction between acid and alcohol. Does it sound like something you would want to cover your skin with? No. But it’s the cheapest fibre that has dominated the industry. We all know that fast fashion brands use polyester to keep their prices low. But so does COS, or Alexander Wang. Why? Because polyester ≠ polyester. Just like there is good quality cotton and bad quality cotton, there is good polyester and bad polyester. And don’t get me wrong, better put that 10 € top from Primark back on the shelf. But there is a reason why more expensive brands also use this fibre. High quality polyester can be an easy alternative to silk, but cheaper, wrinkle resistant and easier to clean. When blended with natural fibres like wool or cotton it can improve its durability and make your favourite clothes last longer, which is why you’ll find this mix in many coats or jeans. So next time you go shopping, remember that polyester is not the devil and use your common sense. If a certain brand’s product doesn’t meet your quality expectations, it really won’t make a big difference if you’re buying polyester or cotton.
Tip: this doesn’t apply to basic t-shirts. Polyester in basic t-shirts is just wrong.
Made in China vs Made in Europe
This is a really popular belief not only in fashion, but all kinds of products. How many times have you heard that made in China = cheap, won’t be wearable after the first wash, not sustainable and unethically produced? On the other hand, buying clothes with Made in Europe label is seen as something to be proud of. It makes you a conscious consumer paying fair price for the product quality, investing in local economy and happy lives of European garment workers. Unluckily, the reality is not so black & white, it’s more 50 shades of grey. In reality the EU labelling regulations are not as strict and it’s not even legally required to state the country of origin on the label. And as long as the product was finished in an European country – as little as just attaching the care label is enough – it can be stated as the country it originated from. Very often the fabric is sourced from a different place than where the product is sewn and finished. What is also worth remembering is that Asian (or Indian) garment manufacturers are not all equal, just as European factories are not all ethical and sustainable. You can read more about it here or here.
The REAL jeans
If you’ve ever worked as a sales assistant for a denim company you know this type. The guy who comes into the store to ask for a fit that’d been cancelled seasons ago, sees “2% elastane” on the label and storms out of the store throwing a “back in the days you had real denim, there is no real jeans anymore!” before you have a chance to say anything. But hey, it’s 2017, not 1880s. Our lives moved on, the textile technology moved on and so did the denim industry, adapting the product to the modern consumers (who are not cowboys anymore). The truth is, the way your jeans look or feel is affected by many other factors than just the fabric composition – such as the fabric’s weight, the weaving process and the wash. The reason for that 3% of elastane in your jeans is simply your comfort. And it prevents your jeans from going baggy in the wrong places (saggy bum – no more!) Sometimes you’ll find jeans made of cotton/polyester blend – again it’s not the retailer saving money on the fabric, but to improve the fit and the durability of the product. Of course I mostly mean brands that specialise in denim. 20 € pair of jeans is probably not going to be so durable, no matter the fabric content. 100% cotton content won’t tell you anything about the quality of jeans, and neither will added elastane or polyester. It all depends on what you’re looking for in the end product and what “real jeans” means to you – whether it is vintage raw denim, a stonewashed slim or a blue skinny.
Quite a heavy start huh? If you agree or disagree, or if you have any other ideas of the common misconceptions, I’ll be more than happy to hear about it!