The True Cost of Sustainable Fashion: Why Sustainable Fashion is expensive, yet so cheap

The True Cost of Sustainable Fashion: Why Sustainable Fashion is expensive, yet so cheap

Sustainable fashion has gained significant attention in recent years as consumers become more aware of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. However, one question persists: Why does sustainable fashion come with a higher price tag compared to fast fashion? In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to the cost of sustainable fashion, shedding light on the price paradox.

Ethical Production and Fair Wages

Sustainable fashion brands prioritise ethical production and fair wages for garment workers. Unlike fast fashion brands that often rely on exploitative labor practices, sustainable brands ensure that workers are paid living wages and provided with safe working conditions. According to Fashion Revolution's Fashion Transparency Index, 248 out of the world's 250 largest fashion brands do not disclose how many workers are paid a living wage. This commitment to fair treatment incurs higher production costs but ensures better livelihoods for those involved in the production process.

Premium Eco-friendly Materials

Sustainable fashion brands prioritise the use of eco-friendly materials, which contribute to the higher cost of their products. These materials include organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and recycled fabrics. Organic cotton, for example, requires sustainable farming practices, such as avoiding pesticides and reducing water consumption. According to Statista, the average price per pound received by farmers for upland organic cotton is $0.69 to $2.40, compared to an average of 86.4 cents for conventional cotton. The higher cost of eco-friendly materials reflects the sustainable practices employed and the absence of harmful chemicals, making them a more environmentally responsible choice.

Small-scale Production

Sustainable fashion often embraces small-scale production or made-to-order models to reduce waste and overstocking. Unlike fast fashion brands that benefit from economies of scale, sustainable brands focus on quality over quantity. This approach incurs higher production costs per unit, as it requires more attention to detail and ensures garments are made with care and durability. By producing in smaller quantities, sustainable brands can avoid excess inventory and minimize waste, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and responsible production process.

Transparency and Certification

Many sustainable fashion brands invest in transparency and third-party certifications to back up their sustainability claims. Certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Fair Trade ensure adherence to environmental and social standards. These certifications involve rigorous audits and assessments, which come at a cost to the brands. However, they provide consumers with confidence and trust in the brand's commitment to sustainability. According to the Ethical Fashion Report 2020, only 10% of the 150 brands surveyed could show they paid a living wage to their workers throughout the supply chain, highlighting the importance of transparency and certification in the sustainable fashion industry.

Balancing Affordability and Sustainability

While sustainable fashion may seem expensive initially, it offers long-term value and sustainability. Sustainable garments are designed to be durable, timeless, and versatile, resulting in a lower cost per wear compared to fast fashion items. For example, a £10 fast fashion dress worn only twice costs £5 per wear, whereas a £90 sustainable fashion dress worn at least 30 times costs only £3 per wear. By investing in higher quality, long-lasting pieces and adopting a "buy less, choose well" mindset, consumers can align their budgets with sustainable values and contribute to reducing the overall environmental impact of the fashion industry.

Changing Consumer Demand

Consumer support plays a pivotal role in making sustainable fashion more accessible and affordable. By choosing brands with strong eco-credentials, demanding transparency, and supporting sustainable practices, consumers drive the industry to prioritize sustainability. Increased demand for sustainable fashion leads to greater investments in sustainable materials and technologies, which can ultimately lower the overall cost of sustainable fashion. Consumer choices have the power to shape a future where sustainability and affordability go hand in hand, making sustainable fashion accessible to all.

The higher price of sustainable fashion reflects the true cost of ethical production, premium eco-friendly materials, responsible practices, and certifications. It is a reflection of the value placed on fair wages, worker well-being, and environmental conservation. By understanding the reasons behind the higher cost of sustainable fashion and embracing conscious consumption, we can contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry. Together, we have the power to shape a future where sustainability and affordability are not mutually exclusive, making sustainable fashion a viable choice for everyone.

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1 comment

Interesting read.

Kwame Nyantakyi

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