One of the main questions and often complaints I hear is why is ethical fashion so expensive? It’s a fair question. When we’ve been used to paying $5-$10 for a t-shirt at Walmart or forever21, a $30-$40 t-shirt can seem crazy expensive!
I get it. And it was the main reason why I fought the idea of ethical fashion for a long time. I just didn’t think I could manage to do it. I love clothing and fashion. Investing in one $40 t-shirt meant I only had one instead of 3 or 4 I could get for a lower price.
But my perspective changed after I watched a documentary called “the true cost”. You may have heard of it, it’s a popular documentary and at the time of writing this post, it is available on Netflix Canada.
The documentary gives us a look at the factories and people all over the world who make our clothing and begs us to ask the real question “who really pays for my clothes?” It’s easy to think that a $40 item you could get at Walmart for $10 is expensive. That’s the way we’ve been taught to think.
But not only does the quality of the item play a role in the price difference, the quality of the life of the person who made it does as well.
Why is ethical fashion so expensive?
In order to breakdown the barrier between us and ethical fashion, we have to reframe our mindset around what “expensive” really is. We could easily flip the switch and say that the cost of fast fashion is too expensive. After all, lives are on the line.
So let’s breakdown the costs.
Cost of materials: $7.71
Labour: $0.80 – a few dollars
Total cost: $16.01
Retail price: $20
It seems pretty affordable. But the materials are cheap and the labour is even cheaper. Some garment workers are paid a few dollars an hour, some a few cents. Some only earn for what they finish.
Cost of materials: $17
Total cost: $53.30
Retail price: $60
Notice what a HUGE difference there is in the cost of labour and materials? With ethical fashion, you may be paying more than you’re used to, but you know that the worker who made that piece is working a dignified job and their pay shows it. As well as that piece of clothing is made with better materials and will last much longer than something so cheaply made.
In order to get past these barriers we need to not see ethical fashion as expensive, but as what something made correctly and fairly should cost.
So, why is ethical fashion so expensive? It’s not. Not when we look at the true cost and see that what we have been paying for clothing has come at the cost of human lives and the life of our planet.
I encourage you to simply start looking at it differently. It’s not a habit we can necessarily pick up overnight. It’s a conscious effort. Instead of asking why ethical fashion is so expensive? Start asking “why is this t-shirt at the mall so cheap?” it helps to reframe the question.
Here are some more really helpful resources:
How to curate a conscious closet from scratch
How to shop ethically on a budget
How I’m transitioning my wardrobe
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