Why Does Ethical Fashion Cost So Much?
When you compare the prices of ethical fashion labels to high street brands, it can be a little alarming! But why is the price point so different, and long term, is fast fashion really cheaper?
Ethical fashion brands are certainly more expensive, even when they're making more 'basic' pieces. Bags are certainly always one of the more expensive products someone can buy, no matter where they're from. But how is it possible for there to be two very similar looking bags, but one costs almost $200 more?
The ability to sew and put together from scratch an entire dress, a shoe, a bag, a shirt, is phenomenal. Anyone who has tried to sew something for the first time soon realises it's incredibly complicated, even with more basic styles. When it comes to bags there is pattern making, stitching, adding in pockets and lining, zips, hardware (and that hardware has to come from somewhere, too!), so many elements.
Imagine you were incredibly skilled and could make a bag flawlessly. It would still take quite a long time, and any speediness in the production is thanks only to your craftsmanship and experience. You'd want to be paid well right? How much would you think is fair?
This is the primary reason ethical fashion is more expensive, people are paid for their skill, and they are paid enough that they can actually afford their living expenses.
The Oxfam 'What She Makes' report showed that in Bangladesh, one of the leading garment producing countries, the equivalent of only 20 cents from a $10 t-shirt goes towards paying factory wages. And for the average Australian garment retailer's supply chain? Only 40 cents.
From the Kinds of Grace pineapple leaf leather alternative collection.
Materials that are more ethical and sustainable are more expensive. Synthetic leathers like PVC are far worse for the environment than PU, the material Kinds of Grace primarily uses, and is often cheaper. Even within the PU synthetic leather options there are variables as to what is more sustainable, and sustainability comes at a price. Pineapple leaf leather Piñatex, is even more expensive, but it costs the earth far less, even helping support our environment and communities in many ways.
Leather is often made out to be such a luxurious material, but there is nothing luxurious about an animal bleeding out in an abattoir, their skin being ripped off and soaked in chemicals. Further, an incredibly high proportion of animal skins come from countries that are statistically high risk for unethical worker treatment, environmental violations during production, and a lack of animal protection laws. That 'Made in Italy' label just means the bag was made there, not that the animal was killed there - not that that makes it any better.
Good materials cost more.
Economy of scale
Big high street labels produce a huge amount of product. In part, they're able to afford to do so because it's far cheaper to run a business which does not pay workers fairly, and which does not consider the environmental impact of their production.
When a brand does produce very large amounts of a product, they cost even less to make, too. Material producers may give discounts to brands buying a significant amount of their product, for example. Shipping costs for products no longer seem so expensive, because they're split between such a large quantity of sellable items. In fact, factories may offer discounts on garment production to brands bringing in a lot of business, despite the detrimental effects such a discount would force on garment workers.
Cheaper products, and lots of them, does not mean better.
Buy well, buy less
It's been researched and found that people only wear 20% of their wardrobe regularly. Fast fashion marketing makes us feel as though we need new things, all the time. But it's not the case. If we bought less things, and only things we really loved, we wouldn't have a wardrobe where 80% is barely touched.
We'd also be able to afford to buy ethical garments and bags that are made fairly, because we aren't buying such a large quantity of clothing. Ethical fashion pieces are made well, and so they last well, too. An ethically made bag is your friend for years to come. This is a benefit of slow fashion.
Next time you're thinking of buying something, consider buying ethical.