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  • Rachel Gallagher

Sad Beige: Sustainable Clothes Are Ugly?

I was at lunch with a friend recently, where we discussed all things fashion over some pretty great crab linguine. One of the topics that came up was the horrifying speed at which we used to buy and dispose of clothes when we were younger. We both admitted that we were a lot less informed back then about the impact that our take-make-waste attitude was having on the world beyond our wardrobes and our Insta grids.

But aside from our mutual admission of past questionable shopping habits, we both agreed that even though we love the idea of having a completely sustainable wardrobe, that: “sustainable clothes are ugly”.

You might be shocked by that statement. Especially when it comes from someone who writes regularly about the types of topics that I do. But I hate to say that in my experience, the “sustainable equals ugly” thing kind of rings true. Both my friend and I love the idea of and see the value in sustainable clothes, but we don’t love the aesthetic of a lot of sustainable brands or influencers that we see wearing sustainable outfits.


Well, we both supposed that sustainable fashion is, rightly or wrongly, aligned with hippie-esque, off-the-beaten-path, bohemian, minimalist style. Which there’s nothing inherently wrong with at all, but it’s just not very us. I went through my boho phase a few years ago and while I did keep lots of boho pieces, they’re not on regular rotation at the moment.The vibe of sustainable fashion, we agreed, is raising chickens on a hobby farm, or a mum-fluencer repping a linen dress, which neither my friend nor I are the target market for.

Or on a different end of the spectrum, sustainable clothing is for the rich middle-aged wine aunt who can afford insanely expensive clothing made from top-quality fibres. She’s the epitome of a sophisticated woman with an undisclosed salary that yacht-hops for 3 months of the year. Think Chriselle Lim on summer holiday. Unfortunately, we aren’t that either (but maybe someday!)

There’s not a lot that we see in between. So, where does that leave me and my friend? Truthfully, we’re in a bit of a conundrum between wanting to look cute and feel good about what we wear on a moral and ethical level.

On the one hand, we agreed that we wanted to be trendy and colourful and interesting, escaping the go-to timeless neutrals that we think of when we hear ‘sustainable fashion’. The safe clean-girl beige of sustainability as we currently think of it, isn’t for everyone.

But on the other hand, we want to make informed and responsible clothing choices for the planet and humanity, as well as coming in on- (or preferably, under-) budget.

It was an interesting conversation, and I think probably one that will become more common among younger people as sustainable clothing becomes the norm. Where do we fit into everyday fashion? And then I thought, for brands, the question becomes: what can we do to change the perception of sustainable clothing for a younger, more vibrant everyday audience?

Over my next crab linguine – because it was too good to not revisit – I’ll hopefully have some cute and affordable recommendations that beat the sad sustainable beige.


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