So, why is sustainable fashion so expensive?
There are many reasons to participate in the “slow fashion” movement and start shopping sustainably, but the greatest barrier is its financial cost. When 1 in 7 people in the United States live below the poverty line, is it any wonder that some find it hard to justify breaking the bank on one garment when they could purchase multiple items for the same amount of money?
For those who can afford to splurge on ethically made apparel, but still don’t really understand the importance of it, it helps to know exactly what goes into making a sustainable garment from start to finish and how that leads to higher prices.
Organic Crops Used to Create Textiles
Textiles made with organic elements typically come at a higher price due to the cost of growing organic crops. These crops are low-impact and grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetic modification. There are very strict federal guidelines in place for products to be certified organic, which means it is more expensive to create organic fabrics than conventional ones.
Made-to-Order Sustainable Fabrics
The use of sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester is usually expected in the world of sustainably made garments, all of which are made to order. This means the cost savings otherwise accrued by mass-producing these fabrics are not available. However, this also means the excessive waste that comes as a result of mass production is eliminated.
Fair Wages and Safe Work Conditions for Garment Workers
Ethical and sustainable brands pay their garment workers a fair wage and make sure that they have access to safe work conditions. This is in stark contrast to fast fashion brands, which may rely on sweatshop workers to do their manufacturing, which saves companies money on labor costs.
Responsible and Planet-Friendly Manufacturing
A top priority is the health of the planet, meaning that the environmental impact is taken into consideration at every step of the manufacturing process for sustainable fashion. Factors like water usage, energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste production are always top of mind.
Cost of Certifications
When shopping for ethically and sustainably made garments, it’s usually recommended that shoppers look for third-party certifications to verify the claims that brands make. Certifications such as Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), OEKO-TEX Standard and EcoCert are a few to look for. Just remember that there are costs associated with applying for these certifications, including fees for the standard itself, certification bodies, auditors and travel costs.
As you can see, sustainable fashion is quite literally the antithesis of fast fashion. However, for all of the unethical aspects of its production, fast fashion brands make fashion more accessible and affordable to the masses. So how can consumers who are not able to purchase sustainably made clothing still participate in the slow fashion movement?
Here are some tips on how to build a sustainable closet without breaking the bank:
- Shop your closet: The most sustainable option is always to use what you already have. Think of creative ways to upcycle a garment or play up an outfit with accessories.
- Host a clothing swap: Find some friends or family members who have extra clothes in their closet they no longer wear and host a swap. This is a great opportunity to get some new-to-you clothing at no cost.
- Buy vintage or secondhand: Buying secondhand clothing creates less waste by saving a perfectly good item a trip to the landfill, with the added benefit of saving some money yourself.
- Consider renting clothing: Clothing rentals are no longer reserved for special occasions. Services like monthly subscription boxes, peer-to-peer apps and many others make it possible for consumers to rent everyday looks on a recurring basis.
- Create a capsule wardrobe: Focus on purchasing just a few key, sustainably made garments that you can use as staples in your wardrobe. Investing in some long-lasting and repeatable items will reduce the need for you to purchase cheap pieces more often.
Lastly, the most important tip of all: reduce your consumption.
If you have the tendency to over-consume fast fashion, and merely switch to overconsuming slow fashion… are you really making a difference? The ultimate goal is to become a conscious consumer, and hopefully, these tips help put you on that path.