A hot topic has been brewing and I wanted to take the opportunity to address it. I have been designing eco-fashion for more than 5 years and have discovered consumers do not know the true behind the scenes of making clothing. With the current economic conditions, everyone is finding ways to cut corners and rightfully so, but I wanted to present a few points of interest that all of us should keep in mind.
Unfortunately with the Forever 21s, Targets + Walmarts of the world, consumers have become used to very inexpensive clothing that is more often than not low quality, toxic and made in sweatshops. The true “cost” of a garment is never revealed by these suppliers. As an eco-designer, I am completely aware that some of our clothing is considered expensive, however when you consider they are attractive, healthier for you and the planet, not produced by slave labor and 1% of the sales goes to a eco-non-profit, the cost of the garments we sell begin to tell a different story.
If you would like to know why eco-clothing costs what it does, please read below for a report from Treehugger.com that explains it all.
1. Time and effort is money
It may seem counterintuitive that sustainable crops such as organic cotton, free from the trappings of GMO, chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers, would actually cost more to grow, but the truth of the matter is that these toxic shortcuts are precisely what enables farmers to keep their costs down. Harvesting organic cotton is also more labor intensive because it’s done without the use of chemical defoliation aids.
2. Fair is fair
A point of pride for many American eco labels is that their goods are manufactured locally in the United States, or at least fairly in an overseas facility that doles out what constitutes a living wage for its workers. Most companies, especially those without the supply-chain muscle of big-box stores, would be hard-pressed to price their garb inexpensively without resorting to grossly underpaid minions in a factory in Bangladesh. It’s unrealistic to expect something to be cheap, equitable, and well-made—something’s gotta give. If you pick up an unbelievable steal, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone down—way down—the line is paying for those savings. And it’s not the CEO in the corner office.
3. Don’t pick on the little guy
It’s all about economies of scale. While the organic market continues to grow and thrive, it’s still a small slice of the overall consumer-spending pie. Inventory-wise, the volume of goods produced is also infinitesimally smaller compared to what mass-market manufacturers churn out on a daily basis, which makes everything from marketing to shipping less cost-effective. On the plus side, sustainable products tend to be better crafted, which makes for longer life spans than the majority of disposable clothing and accessories you can get on the cheap at artificially depressed prices (see sweatshop labor, industry clout, etc.)
4. Sometimes stuff, eco or conventional, just costs more
For every pair of cheap $3.50 thongs you can buy at Kmart, you have $895 satin sandals by Christian Louboutin, yet you don’t see angry mobs with torches and pitchforks amassing outside Hermès or Givenchy. While perceived cachet is sometimes a factor, especially when it comes to luxury goods, often it’s also a matter of quality versus quantity. And because most eco fashion falls under the technical definition of “couture,” with extreme attention to detail and handcrafted techniques, it’s only fair—there’s that word again—to expect to pay a price commiserate to the effort involved in the item’s making.
I think this is a very succinct article that gives us all some food for thought!
I hope you are having a lovely summer season thus far! I know I have been a delinquent blogger, so my apologies and I will be back soon with more intriguing tales from the field.
eco-chic peace! xoxo, jenny