We are often questioned why sustainable brands are expensive and why consumers need to pay a hefty price for them, so I thought that it would be prudent to pen down my thoughts on this.
Let me take you behind the scenes of what goes into creating an ethical and sustainable fashion brand. By the end of it, I hope it raises several questions on our current choices and paves way for a better future.
Fashion is a labor-intensive industry and we all have read about multiple incidents like the Rana Plaza incident where labour is ill-treated. Right from being paid meager wages and toxic work conditions to long hours and not even being allowed to leave the seat for a loo break, many horrific truths have come out. Most fast fashion brands outsource their production to third-party factories, most of whom will cut corners to increase their share of profit. Ethical brands ensure good working conditions, pay fair wages to their workers, provide health insurance, reasonable working hours, which in turn helps them lead a better life.
Fabrics and other raw materials:
Most fast fashion brands create replicas of runway products in cheap polyester fabrics. Not only are these non-biodegradable, energy-intensive but also release millions of microplastics into the ocean every time these are washed. In comparison, ethical and sustainable brands use eco-friendly fabrics made of natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, linen, to name a few. These fabrics are breathable and softer on the skin but usually cost 3-10 times the polyester fabrics.
Economies of scale:
One of the ways for fast fashion brands to keep the prices low is to produce huge quantities even if there is no certain demand for them. They follow a push strategy rather than a pull strategy that ethical brands follow. Sustainable brands produce in small batches which increases their cost of production but controls the inventory problem which helps address the waste issue.
At the core of sustainable brands is timeless designs. The designers spend time and effort to make garments that do not lose relevance over a period of time. Garments are classic, ageless, durable, and are constructed to increase longevity. The entire design process is a thoughtful, mindful procedure, which does not entail copying the runway designs as fast fashion brands do.
Now that we understand the difference between the operating of a fast fashion and a sustainable brand, let’s look at the concept of cost per wear to further explore if sustainable brands are truly more expensive.
Cost per wear is the cost of an item divided by the number of wears. Fast fashion is meant to create trends that die and products that are cheaper, lower in quality and will fall apart in a few washes. The average lifespan of a high street garment is only 7 wears! Consider a Rs 500 garment – with 7 wears, the CPW is Rs 71. Now consider a Rs 2000 sustainable, good quality garment – it will be worn at least 50 times generating a CPW of Rs 40, which is significantly lower than that of a high street garment. Even though the absolute price of the ethical, sustainable brands is higher compared to the fast fasion products, we must change our approach to consider CPW as the real measure.
Not just in the purely economic sense, but the resources consumed by the same fast fashion garment is way higher than the sustainable one. If we are not paying the price for fast fashion upfront, we pay in terms of the damage that the deteriorating environment brings to our health later on. Is it worth it? I will let you decide.
At The August Co., we try to make this decision easier for you by making ethical, sustainable clothing at pocket-friendly prices. We put our heart and soul into everything that we do. We understand that every choice we make will have a consequence, and are mindful of our decisions.
- We have in-house production (reducing middlemen) which manufactures in small batches ensuring no inventory pile-ups
- Designing clean, timeless silhouettes that do not follow any fashion fads thereby increasing the aesthetic longevity of the garment
- We source our fabrics from craft clusters across India, thereby supporting artisans and protecting their livelihoods
- Buying raw materials in bigger quantities, and making multiple designs in one fabric to achieve better input prices
Finally, buy less, buy well, buy things that last. Our design team believes that we should create such clothing that one can wear it 10 years down the line also provided she fits into it!