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Why Is Ethical and Sustainable Fashion More Expensive?

Consumers often excuse the price of ethical and sustainable fashion by selling under the pretense of it being “elite” and “exclusive”. I myself have previously spent endless amounts of time, adding my favourite ethical products to my basket, giving myself a pat on the back for doing my bit for the environment before reaching checkout….ouch! The countless outfits planned in my head now may as well be a dream as no way can I afford some of the price tags that come with buying sustainable clothing.


The price of a tremendous amount of sustainable clothing is arguably a huge milestone when it comes to people making the right choices when it comes to purchasing a product that is better for the environment and where fast fashion is triumphing. However, what fast fashion brands fail to mention is that if you are paying the same price for your t-shirt as say your lunch for the day, someone or our planet is being exploited for that.


So the question still remains, why is ethical and sustainable fashion so expensive??


The easy answer is that it simply costs more money to make a product responsibly. With some exceptions, it’s not green driving the high cost of ethical fashion. It’s the complete opposite and here’s some reasons why:




After looking at various resources, the cost of labour in the production of ethical and sustainable clothing seemed to be a predominant factor in the cost of production. This is mainly due to the extra steps taken to ensure the standard of care is taken when producing businesses products.  


Sadly, with a lot of fast fashion brands the workers in the supply chain are simply being exploited, not making a living wage. A recent study showed that 93% of garment workers aren’t paid enough to live on. Most consumers only tend to think about the material cost when buying products, however a large cost when producing ethical products is not just in the fabrics, but ensuring every human being in the organisation is paid fairly.


Certifications and Transparency


Fair working conditions doesn’t just come down to the wage itself, nor does sourcing a sustainable material come down to the cost of the material. There’s also the paperwork and documentation involved to prove it. While certifications aren’t the only way to ensure just treatment at the heart of the fashion supply chain, they do establish standards between brands and their workers: and therefore, trust between brands and consumers. Certifications and the regular audits that accompany them can be expensive, showing up in the final cost of the garment.


Exclusivity vs. Transparency

One bright spot in the cost of ethical fashion is that you know why it costs more.

Ethical and sustainable fashion is more expensive than fast fashion. But the reverse is not necessarily true:  Expensive (luxury) fashion isn’t necessarily ethical or high quality. While brands such as Michael Kors claim luxury, they release no transparency of what went into their products.Many ethical brands are very transparent about their practices and where the money goes. You can be sure you're paying for a quality product and not the logo.

When considering new, ethical and sustainable garments, it’s important to expand our understanding of “inclusiveness.” The factors contributing to ethical fashion’s higher price points - fair labour, safe workplaces, organic and regenerative materials and small-patch productions -- prioritizing the dignity and safety of garment workers, their communities, and the long-term sustainability of the planet.

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