Eco-Fashion, Economics and Why Love is all you Need

By Melissa | News
Posted Feb 4, 2013

When it comes to shopping we can often give in to habit, convenience, the thrill of the hunt- rarely do we hold out for “the one”.  Living in such a fast-paced world, it is no wonder that much of our fashion is produced in a similar manner.  Everything is temporary, disposable.  But how much is too much?  At what point do all the costs, and I’m not just talking monetary, associated with our purchases outweigh the benefits?  Some may say eco-fashion is pricier than conventional clothing and to them I write.

There is far more that goes into the cost of an item than most people think.  I’m going to let you in on what I’ve learned over the years from studying and working in fashion, apply it to economics and tell you what you can do to stay ahead of the game.

The cost to produce clothing, and pretty well everything, is a multi-step process which starts with materials and labour.  That amount (aka the cost of goods) is then taken and marked up by the designer/producer and sold to the retailer who, in turn, at least doubles it in order to make a profit.  If a sales rep played a part, add some more.  The more players involved, the more trying to make a profit inevitably driving up the price.

If say you are buying from a fast-fashion outlet you know the ones: Forever 21, Guess, Target, et al. who make their own private label apparel and have been accused of copying designs.  Not only do they cut out the middlemen but they also produce far more than a single designer thus allowing them to charge less because they themselves pay less.

Now that you know the basics on retail pricing we can break down perhaps the biggest contributor to the actual cost- the production value.  Going in sustainable fabrics are pricier than your run-of-the mill bolts due to greater labour associated with harvesting organic and low-impact dying.  The cost to manufacture runs is higher for lesser units, this is known as economies of scale.  This combined with higher standards for working conditions and overall impact on the environment adds to the total cost of producing an eco-fashion item.

Moving forward with this information I ask, who would you rather give your money to?  The company who is more concerned about the bottom line than the effect their actions have on the environment?  The one who would rather offer their goods for a lower price than provide their workers with decent conditions?  Or the entrepreneurs who stand for more and have to compete with these companies and their questionable practices?

Given the ethical implications involved, not to mention the quality difference, to me it is no contest.  I’m just not comfortable wearing the blood, sweat and tears of others on my sleeve knowing that the demand for these products only perpetuates the cycle.  In purchasing these items we are only supporting these business practices and I can think of many far more worthy.  Also, if you only buy what you love and need instead of what you want- you can actually save a lot of money.  No sense in wasting resources on something you don’t feel much of anything for.  For example, every winter my sister spends maybe $100 on a new pair of boots because she “can’t afford” better ones.  Those cheap boots barely make it through the season and end up getting tossed.  I chalk it up to poor workmanship, faddish design, overall lackluster, not sure of her reasons.  I, however, invested maybe $350 6 years ago on a pair made by a company whose values align with my own- made in Canada, environmentally friendly materials, safe workplace- and will continue to wear them for years to come.  So you do the math.  Seems as though I actually spend less in the long run.

That is why I say invest in pieces that are meant to withstand the test of time and remain with you indefinitely.  Don’t settle for something you feel ho-hum about.  Wait until you find what makes you happy when you put it on, fits you like a glove- something you know you love.  Or at least has the possibility of being more than just a placeholder.

New and sustainable are not your only options when it comes to being budget conscious and green.  Vintage, thrift and secondhand give new life to already made pieces.  If scavenging for treasure isn’t your thing there are an increasing number of designers who re-invent their findings.  From recycled sail bags to trench coat dresses, these designers take something old and make it new again.  Clothing swaps are the hand-me downs from our childhood years incarnate.  Tailors and shoemakers can save articles that may have ended up in the bin. But of course, the greenest and cheapest buy is no buy at all.

We need to reevaluate our priorities.  Set higher standards.  Be more cognicent of how our purchasing behaviour impacts others and the environment.  Rather than buy clothing because they are cheap or on sale, take the time to learn the story behind them.  Where it was produced, with what material, with what intention.  In the end, we need to own our decisions and recognize the significance and power they hold.


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