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Why is Sustainable Fashion Expensive?

Published on 09 Jan 23, Updated on 13 Jan 23.
Why is Sustainable Fashion Expensive?
This article will explore why sustainable fashion comes with a higher price tag, examining factors such as quality materials, slow production processes and fair labour practices.

Table of contents

Sustainable fashion is becoming increasingly popular as people become more aware of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing choices. However, sustainable fashion can often be more expensive than traditional clothing, leaving many people wondering why this is the case. This article will explore why sustainable fashion is expensive, examining factors such as quality materials, slow production processes and fair labour practices. By understanding these elements, we can gain insight into why sustainable fashion may cost more but also how it offers long-term benefits that make it worth investing in.

What is sustainable fashion and why is it becoming popular

Sustainable clothing is the concept of designing, producing and consuming clothing in a way that is environmentally friendly and socially responsible. This approach to fashion involves using materials that are organic, recycled or sustainable, as well as utilizing production methods that reduce energy consumption, water waste, and chemical inputs while also providing fair wages and safe working conditions for garment workers.

Sustainable clothing is becoming increasingly popular as people become more conscious of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing choices. There are several reasons why sustainable clothing has gained traction in recent years, from increasing awareness around issues such as climate change and exploitation of garment workers from most fast fashion brands to the emergence of new technology that enables more efficient production processes and transparent supply chains.

Sustainable fashion industry vs Fast fashion industry

Sustainable fashion

The ethical fashion industry is growing rapidly and becoming more mainstream, with estimates showing a significant increase in global sales of sustainable fashion over the last five years. According to a report by Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group, ethical fashion has seen an average yearly growth rate of 14 per cent since 2015 and the global market size is expected to reach $96 billion by 2021.

This rapid growth can be attributed to several factors, including increasing consumer awareness surrounding environmental and social issues, as well as new technologies that enable more efficient production processes. As consumers become increasingly willing to pay higher prices for sustainably made clothing, there is an increased demand for products that are both eco-friendly and ethically sourced. This has encouraged many large fashion companies to adopt sustainability initiatives such as sourcing materials from recycled or certified organic sources to reduce their impact on the environment.

In addition, sustainable practices and ethical labour practices have become an increasingly important part of ethical fashion. The industry has embraced fair trade principles to ensure garment workers are receiving livable wages and working in safe conditions while also providing them with access to education and training opportunities. This commitment to ethical labour not only helps improve worker rights but also increases the overall quality of the garments being produced.

These efforts to make fashion more sustainable have come at a cost, however, as high-quality and sustainable materials such as GOTS-certified organic cotton or recycled materials tend to be more expensive than those used in traditional clothing production. Furthermore, slow production processes due to longer lead times often require larger investments of time and money resulting in higher prices for consumers. Nevertheless, these efforts also result in superior quality garments that last longer than traditional clothing while reducing environmental impacts - making them worth investing in for those looking for fashion that is both stylish and responsible.

Fast fashion

Fast fashion brands are the largest contributor to unsustainable fashion, with estimates showing that it accounts for around 70% of global apparel sales. Many fast fashion brands are characterized by their emphasis on quantity over quality and the use of cheap, disposable materials such as polyester or nylon. These materials are not only bad for the environment in terms of water pollution and energy consumption but also hurt workers, who often face long hours in dangerous conditions and low pay.

These practices have caused immense strain on the planet's resources as well as human rights abuses, which is why many consumers are now turning away from fast fashion for more sustainable alternatives. Fast fashion companies have responded by introducing new initiatives in an attempt to reduce their environmental footprint and improve working conditions; however, many argue these measures do not go far enough to address the underlying issues within the industry.

Recent studies conducted by McKinsey & Co suggest that despite efforts to curb its negative impacts, fast fashion continues to be a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, water waste and worker exploitation across the globe. According to their report, emissions from textiles production were responsible for 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2018 - an increase of more than 50 per cent since 2000 - with most of this pollution coming from traditional apparel production methods. Furthermore, up to 93 per cent of all textile waste ends up in landfills every year due to its non-biodegradable nature.

The situation is even worse when it comes to garment workers, who often work long hours under unsafe conditions while earning poverty wages due to a lack of regulation and enforcement within the industry. Research suggests that garment workers around the world earn an average wage that is significantly lower than those in other sectors (around 20 per cent lower than minimum wages). Moreover, garment workers often experience harassment and discrimination daily due to their status as vulnerable populations.

Overall, it is clear that fast fashion continues to be a major threat to both our planet's resources and human rights across the globe. Despite efforts by some companies to reduce their environmental footprint through sustainability initiatives and ethical labour practices, much more needs to be done if we want to make real progress towards creating a more sustainable future for everyone involved in fashion production - from producers, manufacturers and retailers down through consumers themselves.

Why is sustainable fashion expensive

Materials

Sustainable clothing often uses higher quality materials than traditional clothing production, which leads to higher prices for consumers. These materials are typically more expensive because they are sourced from reputable suppliers that use organic and environmentally friendly practices, so the cost of production is much higher. Additionally, many of these fabrics use recycled or regenerated fibres which require more labour and resources to produce - leading to a higher cost for sustainable fashion brands.

Organic textiles such as cotton, linen, hemp and wool are becoming increasingly popular due to their natural properties and biodegradability. However, these materials also tend to be more expensive than synthetic fabrics due to the fact that they require specialized farming techniques meant to reduce environmental damage such as water pollution and soil degradation. Similarly, eco-friendly dyes used in sustainable clothing production are usually derived from plants or minerals - making them more expensive than traditional chemical dyes that can pollute waterways and harm local ecosystems.

Recycled materials are another major component of sustainable clothing production since they help reduce the number of resources needed for new garments while also keeping waste out of landfills. Many brands have started using recycled plastic bottles - turning them into fabric - to reduce their carbon footprint; however, this process is more time-consuming and costly than traditional methods so it often results in higher prices for consumers compared to fast fashion prices. Similarly, some designers are now producing garments made from upcycled textiles such as vintage clothing or scraps from previous collections to reduce waste; however, these pieces tend to be much pricier due to the extra labour involved in sourcing the materials and craftsmanship required for each garment.

More sustainable materials include Tencel, which is made from wood pulp, and Peace silk, which uses a process that doesn't harm the silkworms. Both are much more expensive than traditional methods due to their ethical production processes and higher quality of materials.

Overall, it is clear that sustainable clothing is often more expensive because it relies on materials like organic fibres, eco-friendly dyes and recycled fabrics that require additional resources and labour costs during production. Despite being pricier than traditional clothing items though, these efforts result in superior quality pieces that last longer while also reducing environmental impact - making them worth investing in for those looking for fashion that is both stylish and responsible.


Organic cotton is one of the most used materials in sustainable fashion

Living wage

The cost of sustainable clothing is not only affected by the quality of materials used, but also by the labour involved in the production of these garments. All too often, garment workers are underpaid and overworked to meet the demands of fast fashion companies who prioritize quantity over quality. This type of unethical labour practice has been linked to mistreatment, unfair wages and violation of human rights - something that many sustainable clothing labels are trying to address through fair trade and living wage initiatives.

A living wage, as opposed to a minimum wage, is a salary amount that allows a worker to afford necessities such as housing, food and healthcare - allowing them to lead a dignified life. Unfortunately, garment workers in many countries are paid far below this standard due to low wages and long hours. As such, ethical and sustainable brands have taken steps towards ensuring that their workforce is compensated adequately for their work by committing to pay each worker a living wage.

Though this may increase production costs for sustainable fashion brands, it helps guarantee better working conditions and improved quality of life for those involved in making our clothes - creating an environment where everyone’s contribution is valued equally. By doing so, these companies are helping change the way we think about our clothing purchases by making sure that no one involved in the process becomes a victim of unethical labor practices.

In addition to paying living wages, many eco-friendly brands have also committed to providing their workers with benefits such as health insurance or access to childcare programs in order to ensure that their well-being is taken care of at all times. Though these types of initiatives can significantly increase production costs for sustainable clothing producers, they help create more equitable working conditions while giving consumers peace of mind when it comes to buying ethically made garments.

Overall, it is clear that labour plays an important role when it comes to the cost of sustainable clothing - having significant impacts on both production costs and pricing for consumers alike. By committing themselves to pay living wages and providing additional benefits for their workforce though, these sustainable fashion brands are helping make real progress towards creating a more just world where everyone involved in producing our clothes can enjoy equal rights and opportunities - something we should all support if we want future generations to be able to enjoy stylish yet responsible clothing options.


Working conditions and living wages have been one of the biggest drivers for sustainable fashion


Supply chain

The supply chain for sustainable fashion is a complex network of raw materials, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers that requires careful planning to ensure that every element is ethically sourced and produced. As such, it can have a huge impact on the cost of sustainable fashion items due to the increased resources needed to guarantee that each step in the process meets the standards required for eco-friendly production.

For example, many sustainable fashion companies are committed to using organic fabrics and recycled materials in their designs to reduce their environmental footprints. This can be much more costly than using traditional fibres as these materials require additional resources and time during production - such as specific machinery and expert knowledge - which can add extra costs to the end product. Similarly, sourcing materials from responsible communities or small-scale producers can also require additional investments into ensuring that they are paid fair wages while still guaranteeing superior quality pieces.

In addition to this, sustainable fashion producers often strive for transparency when it comes to their supply chains. This means taking steps towards ensuring that all elements involved in production are traceable and ethically sourced - something which requires additional investments into verifying the legality and safety of each step in the process. By doing so, eco-friendly brands help make sure that their garments meet high standards while also improving conditions across multiple aspects of the industry - such as by providing better working conditions for garment workers or reducing pollution through eco-friendly production processes.

Overall, it is clear that sustainability has its own set of challenges when it comes to production costs - making them an important factor when considering how much an ethical garment will cost both consumers and producers alike. Though these efforts may add extra expenses onto the final price tag of sustainable fashion items, they help create an industry where everyone involved in making our clothes enjoys equal rights while allowing us all to enjoy stylish yet responsible clothing options too.

Long-term benefits of sustainable fashion


High quality and sustainable fashion usually has a much lower cost per wear compared to fast fashion. Infographics from Make it British.


Sustainable fashion items are often designed with longevity in mind, as many sustainable fashion companies strive to create pieces that will last for many years while also reducing their environmental impact, unlike ultra-fast fashion brands. To achieve this, sustainable fashion brands focus on high-quality materials and slow production processes that use fewer resources while ensuring the best possible results. As such, these garments are usually of a higher quality than traditional clothing - meaning they can last longer and require fewer replacements as time goes on.

For example, eco-friendly materials like organic cotton or recycled fabrics help reduce waste and pollution associated with traditional production processes. This not only helps improve the environment but also allows for stronger yet softer fibres which can better withstand wear and tear over time - resulting in garments that are more resilient and less prone to damage during everyday wear. Similarly, the slow production processes used by ethical brands also ensure that each garment is made with care and precision - further increasing its durability while helping guarantee a better fit too.

In addition to this, many ethical brands also strive towards offering repair services for their garments - a practice that has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its positive effects on both sustainability and long-term savings. By providing customers with an easy way to get their clothes mended when needed, these companies help keep valuable resources out of landfills by prolonging the life span of their products and diverting them away from being discarded prematurely. Similarly, some sustainable designers also offer an upgrade option which allows customers to trade in old pieces for new ones - further encouraging shoppers to invest in timeless designs rather than trend-driven items which have a much shorter lifespan.

Overall, it is clear that sustainable fashion offers numerous benefits when it comes to longevity - making them an excellent option for anyone looking for clothing items that will stand the test of time without compromising on style or quality. By investing in ethical pieces made with environmentally friendly materials and slower production processes, conscious consumers can enjoy beautiful garments while helping make real progress towards protecting our planet too – something we should all strive towards if we want future generations to benefit from stylish yet responsible clothing options too.

Conclusion

Shopping sustainably can appear more expensive at first, but in the long run, conscious consumers save money when they purchase from sustainable brands that pay their workers a fair wage and use small-scale production lines.

When opting for a sustainable brand, you opt for a better quality product and also the cost per wear is significantly lower as you can wear these clothes several times instead of spending more money on a recurrent basis when you choose a fast fashion brand.

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