Why is sustainable fashion so expensive?

The cost of ethical or even just simply independent fashion was in question ever since it started... As a sustainable creator I face this question all the time and I thought maybe together we can successfully answer it!



So first of all, what is sustainable fashion?

According to Wikipedia:

Sustainable fashion (also known as eco-fashion) is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice.[1] Sustainable fashion concerns more than just addressing fashion textiles or products. It addresses the entire manner in which clothing is produced, who produces it, and how long the life span of a product is before it reaches the landfill. This sustainable movement combats the large carbon footprint that the fashion industry and fast fashion have created by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.[2] Reducing the environmental impact of fashion can combat air pollution, water pollution and overall climate change that could possibly prevent millions of premature deaths over the next century.

Source


Simply speaking it's a way of making and selling fashion with the regards for our planet and people involved.


So what contributes to the price?

  1. Cost of materials

  2. Cost of labour

  3. Volume of products created & sold

  4. Costs of running the studio/warehouse

There's definitely more aspects to it, including all the marketing costs, etc. But let's focus on these bits as in my opinion they are the most crucial to people who decide to make fashion.


Large companies find ways to cut these costs with lowering production costs and increasing volumes of products, which very much contributes to what makes them unethical in the first place!

For example underpaying their workers and sourcing cheaper and cheaper means of production. If we now look at small businesses who often produce locally and even just by the owners themselves (helo!), this becomes impossible. Part of ethical fashion is taking care of the workers and ensuring they have a decent quality lives in the least, what means that the customer can happily enjoy the products knowing that making them did not come at someone else's cost.


But ok, it's not only about the workers. There's always the environmental impact. Let's have a look at the fabrics.

From the perspective of someone who obsesses over fabrics way too much I can testify - they are pricey! Especially when you cannot justify to buy them in bulk. And if you cannot afford to produce millions of items, like large shops can, you are shopping retail- small quantities from businesses who are also trying to make a profit. So sadly, the costs of your materials jump sky high. But on the plus side, you only buy what you need and you can put more effort into sourcing the most eco-friendly fabrics.


Now let's talk about organic fabrics, materials that are made in a cleaner way. Organic farming is often done without using large machinery and those pesky pesticides that encourage growth. What means growing fibres takes more time and labour. In my personal experience my fabric cost increased by 3-4 times since I made a change to organic production. Plus they are sadly not easy to find, which gladly slowly changes for the better.


However, what you're left with is long lasting, high quality material that's made with love for the environment and specialists who can manufacture it.


But let's get back to the volume of products made.

Artists who handmake their garments can only do so much in a day, and I truly believe that's what makes the clothes so much more precious. Did you know average high street company releases new collection every single day!

That's absolutely incredible but also pretty wasteful. With that many new lines, the life of a garment is not very long and the massive waste it generates (already included in the price) directly contributes to pollution. Fashion industry releases 10% of all carbon emission, what's more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year (UNECE, 2018).

For a smaller creator the process of making garments is much less economical, so they cannot afford to throw away thousands of dresses a day (not that anyone would like to do it).


As each item is handmade, the production is slower and more expensive as each garments gets more attention; As well as more intentional, as with made-to-order movement items are only made if someone wants to buy them.


There is so much more to the matter, but I can only be so preachy for a day! So let's look at what can be done:


If you want to live more sustainably simply practice more mindful shopping. Buy only the clothes that really make you happy and only when you can afford to. Instead of replacing your wardrobe every season, why not buy pieces that live longer and can make you happy for years to come. If that £200 dress lasts you years of memories and feeling good, is it really a waste of money?


Let me know your thoughts and how you feel about the costs of sustainable fashion.


And if you'd like to know more (from far better writers), check out these articles: