Why is sustainable fashion more expensive?
Fast fashion was built on the model of democratising fashion. The idea was that companies like H&M and Zara would recreate runway looks and fashion trends for much less, so that everyone could be fashionable.
And this idea really did revolutionise the fashion industry. Clothes were now cheaper, and you could buy the trendiest clothes of every season without breaking the bank. But we have to step and think: who had to pay the price?
The reality is that fast fashion companies took advantage of cheap labor that women in developing countries would do. In countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, women often have to choose between feeding their children or sending them to school, even after working 60 hours a week.
Fast fashion companies also have to rely on cheap fabrics - often unsustainable polyester fabric or water-thirsty cotton that relies heavily on pesticides. The result is a flimsy garment which lasts only a couple of wears before falling apart.
So why is sustainable fashion more expensive?
Eco-friendly fabrics cost more
Synthetic fabrics like polyester are made from crude oil, which means they're readily available and cheap to produce. The oil has already been extracted for other means, so it just needs to be made into fibres.
Natural fibres like hemp, organic cotton and linen are grown from plants, so they need to be harvested and processed into fibres. The plant itself needs to be watered and grown properly, and there can be some variance year to year with how much fabric yield there is depending on the weather.
For Magi, we use hemp and organic cotton to make our hemp underwear, and we source our fabrics from the same supplier Patagonia uses for their hemp fabric. It's high quality and durable, which is reflected in the price of the fabric we buy to make our underwear.
Ethical labor costs more
We're so used to buying clothes that are made by underpaid garment workers, that anything made by well-paid employees will seem expensive in comparison.
When brands make sustainable clothing that is also ethical, they need to factor in the cost of paying their garment workers a living wage. This drives up the cost of the final garment, which means sometimes the price is higher.
Sustainable fashion is still niche
Buying eco-friendly clothing is still not the norm in society. This means brands who made sustainable clothes don't benefit from the discounts that come with placing large orders at factories.
Fast fashion companies have economies of scale - they can order hundreds of thousands of units of fabric and therefore each unit is cheaper. A small, ethical brand will pay more for placing smaller orders.
It's an investment
We often buy clothes from fast fashion companies thinking it's an absolute bargain, but if you take into account cost-per-wear then sometimes sustainable clothes can be cheaper.
If you buy clothing made from a good quality fabric by skilled artisans, that garment can sometimes last decades and for many wear. Yes, it's more of an upfront investment and some can't afford this, but there are companies like Klarna or AfterPay which make investing in sustainable pieces more affordable for people.
Solution: build a capsule wardrobe
So what's the solution? We need to go against this notion of needing all the latest, most fashionable pieces. We need capsule wardrobes. This is a wardrobe that caters to your personal style and fashion needs, not fast-changing trends.
Creating a timeless wardrobe with a few statement pieces you've invested in will not only be better for the planet, but for your wallet in the long run too!