Why isn't sustainable fashion more affordable? Eco-friendly and socially responsible fashion usually cost more than fast fashion. Conscious and ethical apparel is more expensive for good reasons.
Sustainable fashion doesn't encourage consumers to spend tons of money on trends that only last a season. Slow fashion labels aim to offer gear that you want to wear every day for a long time.
In the sustainable fashion movement, ethical brands and retailers focus on quality and not quantity. They use a unique combination of environmentally friendly fabrics, colors, and patterns to create timeless looks.
Sustainable fashion products are expensive but well worth it. Quality has a price. It costs money to provide an amazing purchase experience, customer service, and high-quality products.
Eco-friendly fashion brands are disrupting how clothing is usually produced and sold. They ensure that supply chains remain ethical and sustainable.
They generally have low production volumes and use high-quality materials. They invest in talented people and must sell at a higher price point. Many steps in the lifecycle of clothing items contribute to the final price.
Here are 8 huge reasons why sustainable fashion is so expensive.
1. Raw material costs
Sustainable fashion requires high-quality raw materials that usually cost more. The manufacturing of exclusive ecological products demand fabrics made of natural, organic, or recycled materials.
The main drawback of environmentally friendly fibers is their high cost. They are still in low demand, have limited availability, and costly production processes.
2. Costly manufacturing
To create higher quality items that last, clothing construction and finishing need to be excellent. Durable, comfortable, and stylish clothes have clean cuts, perfect shape, and fit. No irregularities, misalignments, or defects.
The best techniques and production tools cost time, labor, and money. On the other hand, cheap clothes have low fiber strength and poor construction.
3. Timeless design
Sustainable fashion brands encourage consumers to buy less but higher quality. While fast fashion retail giants want you to spend more and more as often as possible, responsible labels reject excessive consumerism.
They design classic and timeless clothes that last beyond the season. As you wear the same clothes many times over, higher prices are necessary to cover expenses between each purchase that should happen less often.
4. Recycling is expensive
Many sustainable apparel brands use recycled fabrics for their new collections. They convert textile waste and used garments into new clothes to minimize their environmental impact and divert them from landfill.
Reusing, recycling, and repurposing old clothes create value and is the more responsible approach to fashion, instead of promoting the throwaway culture. But recycling costs resources and money.
5. No greenwash
Fast fashion brands often make misleading claims about the environmental impact of their business activities. They try to appear more sustainable to appeal to conscious consumers and increase their profits.
Ethical brands also promote their sustainable fashion initiatives but without misleading buyers. They are more expensive but provide proof, extensive information, and certification standards to ensure trust, transparency, and authenticity.
6. Certified materials and processes
When buying sustainable fashion, look for relevant certification standards that testify to the eco-friendliness of clothes as well as their ethical and fair production.
Sustainable brands usually use certified materials and factories to manufacture their products. Unfortunately, certification processes take a long time and are very costly.
7. Support to nonprofits
Many conscious fashion brands help charities and non-profit organizations. Some even give back to the community and donate a portion of their profits to support a good cause.
Instead of investing back into the business or paying shareholders, they decide to make financial or clothing donations to support disaster relief, welfare, education, community programs, or environmental protection.
8. Ethical supply chains
There is a dreadful price difference between fast fashion and sustainably made clothing for good reasons. One of them is to reduce the impact on farmers and garment factory workers in supply chains.
Many fast fashion brands use sweatshop-like working conditions to produce their clothes. Cases of child labor and modern slavery still happen today.
Ethically made items cost more but guarantee a decent living wage, fair, and safe working conditions for employees in the fashion industry. Companies selling extremely cheap clothes exploit people and the planet to do so.
Even if fast fashion is very cheap, the environmental and social costs are humongous. Many sustainable clothes are incredibly expensive but ultimately, as the demand rises, sustainable fashion can become more affordable.
“There’s a perception that sustainable fashion is expensive - this isn’t necessarily the case. As innovations become more mainstream, [it] drives the prices down. There’s a shift that has to happen. It’s supply and demand; as demand evolves, the industry is working to match this demand.”
- Brittany Burns, Director of Strategy at Fashion For Good
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.