The cost of sustainable fashion

I’ve previously spoken about the privilege that comes with being able to afford to shop sustainably. People are often deterred by the price of sustainable fashion versus the cost of fast fashion. But, I truly believe that if you are able to afford sustainable fashion, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t.

If we look at why sustainable fashion is more expensive than fast fashion, then the price difference may be less of a shock. This post isn’t for those who have no choice but to shop fast fashion, but it’s for those who are actively involved in throwaway culture.

The demand for sustainable fashion is growing, but the majority of manufactured garments are for the fast fashion industry. There is a long way to go before demand affects pricing. If we begin to look at price tags and look at the real cost – environmental and social impact – then we may begin to see a further influx of people choosing sustainable.

‘Cutting costs = cutting corners’

Firstly, the big factor is manufacturing – because most sustainable brands are independent businesses that produce less, they have to sell for more. As said previously the cost is often seen as a deterrent, but because sustainable production isn’t the norm it costs more to manufacture sustainable garments. If we also take into account fair wages, and keeping environmental impact to a minimum, these costs begin to stack up. But, these higher costs mean you get higher quality items that will last longer, so it becomes a worthwhile investment.

Fast fashion has conditioned us to believe that clothes should be cheap. Behind the price tag there is slave labour, cheap fabrics, and bulk production. From sourcing to selling, each stage is extremely detrimental to the environment and those working within the production process. Cheap fabrics come from non-renewable fossil fuels and the people that create the garments aren’t paid for their labour. That’s what makes fast fashion so cheap. There is always someone/something paying for the lack of costs of fast fashion garments.

Sustainable brands are not the only option either. These brands can be very expensive, so it’s beneficial to look at what you already have and upcycle. As well as upcycling, sites like Depop and Vinted are great ways to shop and sell garments. These sites are full of extremely talented people that produce gorgeous garments and accessories and it’s a great way to branch out from Instagram trends.

As customer attitudes change, the industry must adapt. We are seeing a decline in the high street as many people turn to online shopping (particularly in the current climate). This has also led to discovering more innovative ways of shopping like rentals. E-commerce sites wastes 30% less energy than traditional retailers (Harpers Bazaar), and this supports the shift to an online shopping approach.

As demand grows, prices will reduce. Covid-19 has taught us all the importance of supporting smaller businesses and protecting one another, so now is the time to change your shopping habits to reflect this.


The Good Trade

Harpers Bazaar


Let’s talk about Fatphobia

In an industry that prides itself on inclusivity and equality, why are plus sized people still being excluded? The lack of accessibility means plus sized people have no choice but to shop fast fashion. Sustainability isn’t only about environmental impact, but it’s about creating an accessible space for all.

On average, a woman’s dress size changes 31 times during adulthood. This is due to various factors including pregnancy, illness, and hormones. For a long time plus sized people have been excluded in the mainstream fashion industry, so why are we continuing this exclusion as the industry makes shifts to becoming more sustainable?

Plus size models are rarely used in media campaigns, but when they are it is often tokenistic. Body positivity activist and poet, Jade Elouise says “from personal experience, I think the way plus size models are treated on shoots is often with contempt and lack of consideration. I have been on shoots [that] didn’t have my size, leaving me with frumpy outfits or having to squeeze into garments that were too small.” This is a common story in the industry, with plus size brands not catering for 18+.

Jade Elouise, body positivity activist and poet

In an industry that doesn’t cater for plus sizes, it’s not a surprise that shopping second hand is near impossible for plus sized people. Vintage stores often only stock straight sizes, so turning to online shopping is the only viable option. However when plus sizes are available, the choice is limited. Jade thinks this lack of choice most accurately depicts the fatphobia within the industry; “clothes are limited in design, they are of a poorer quality, and many brands don’t go past a size 20, [claiming] it’s because the clothing costs more to make, yet they are happy to make oversized clothing in straight sizes.

There are sustainable brands like Kai Collective and Plus Equals, and pages on social media for second hand plus sized clothes, but for the most part plus sizes are still excluded in mainstream and most sustainable brands. One topic that came up with Jade was the ‘oversized’ trend. Some have an issue with this trend but Jade says this is a nuanced conversation. “Fashion should be fun and a way to express yourself, so it is difficult to ask people to limit themselves by only shopping to one set size.”

However, taking into consideration how your shopping habits affect others is vitally important. “People buying clothing in plus sizes to cut it down to size for themselves not only wastes materials in offcuts, but it completely removes that garment as an option for plus size people in the future. Someone wearing a plus sized garment as oversized and putting it back into circulation through donation or selling” is far better than cutting and reshaping a plus sized garment.

As we move into a more sustainable and circular fashion industry, inclusivity needs to be a priority. The ongoing fatphobia prevents progression; you can’t have sustainability without inclusivity. Sustainable brands and straight sized allies need to push for change to spark real change.

S x

Jade’s Socials:

Instagram: @bodiposipoet

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