Why is ethical fashion so expensive?
Most of the people who have ever explored the world of sustainable/ethical products of any kind have noticed that the prices are a bit higher than what they’re used to seeing. So, why is that? Let’s jump into this conversation specifically regarding the fashion industry and flesh out two big reasons why ethical clothing often comes with a higher price tag.
Almost all garments made by fast fashion brands contain synthetic materials (plastic), which are much cheaper to make, in order to increase their profit margins. When these synthetic materials are washed, they shed microplastics into the water, which ultimately end up in our oceans and eventually the seafood we consume. Alarmingly, findings from a study published in January 2021 noted microplastics in a human placenta—potentially causing life-long health issues, as the microplastics act as endocrine disruptors (1).
Ethical brands aim to avoid the continued pollution caused by the creation and use of these synthetic materials and instead opt to use natural or plant-based fibers. As these fibers cannot be made in a factory (with the exception of some plant-based synthetics), they take longer to produce and are not as readily available. Therefore, the cost is innately higher. The benefit to using these fibers is that they don’t contain problematic plastic and are naturally biodegradable. They also tend to last much longer and can be passed down through generations, keeping more textiles in loving homes and out of landfills.
What’s the cheapest way to get something done? Do it yourself! OR, as many fast fashion brands choose to do, force someone else to do it for little-to-no pay with zero regard for that person’s needs, rights, or even age! Yikes. I shouldn’t need to explain why that’s just overwhelmingly not okay. Garment workers are damn talented and deserve to be paid as such.
It's important to consider that one way or another, someone is paying the price for fast fashion garments. We cannot continue to condone slave labor in order to save ourselves a bit of cash. Brands are ultimately in control of which factories they partner with and can ensure that the men and women making their garments are receiving their share of the profits. When everyone along the supply chain is paid fairly, the end retail price for the garment naturally goes up. This is where a lot of the added cost of ethical clothing originates. I'd say money well spent.
To get an even more impactful picture of some of the issues regarding labor in the fast fashion industry, I highly recommend the movie The True Cost which can be watched for free on Tubi.
Materials and labor are just two reasons for the higher cost of ethical fashion—there are many others we can chat about in the future. It’s clear to see why it is extremely beneficial and increasingly important to consider supporting ethical brands when purchasing garments. Ensure the brand you are purchasing from is one of trusted ethics and then pay for the higher-priced, higher-quality garment. It will treat you well for many moons and only get better with time. On top of that, you will be supporting the life and talent of someone who truly deserves it.
Thanks for reading friends!
1. Antonio Ragusa, Alessandro Svelato, Criselda Santacroce, Piera Catalano, Valentina Notarstefano, Oliana Carnevali, Fabrizio Papa, Mauro Ciro Antonio Rongioletti, Federico Baiocco, Simonetta Draghi, Elisabetta D'Amore, Denise Rinaldo, Maria Matta, Elisabetta Giorgini, Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta, Environment International, Volume 146, 2021, 106274, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106274. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412020322297)