Often we come across ads, and articles encouraging consumers to switch to sustainable living for various reasons like minimum utilization of natural resources, greenhouse gas emissions, etcetera. But is it that easy to make that switch? One of the major reasons people choose mass-produced commodities over sustainable ones is mainly because of the price, compared to other product factors.
We observe the same thing in fashion as well. I am a fashion student who goes to one of the best fashion institutes in India, and I see people around me wear different clothes every single day to ‘stay in trend’ which makes me wonder if fashion is just about rapidly moving trends or if is it about self-expression and utility.
There is a rumour saying that Sustainable fashion has a specific clientele that consists of people who are rich and can afford sustainable clothing, which to some extent, in an emergent nation like India, is true. But I feel, is it not better to invest in a sustainable piece of clothing that will last for years rather than to invest in a cheap piece of clothing that will lose its appeal after a couple of washes? Even though one has to pay a high price for a sustainable garment, it is worth every penny.
The question ‘why is sustainable clothing overpriced?’ is always raised, but let’s just reverse the question to ‘why are the other mass-produced, fast fashion brands cheap?’.
The reason why fast fashion brands are so cheap is that firstly, brands pay unscrupulously low wages to their laborers despite getting higher margins. Secondly, they plagiarize designs from luxury, high-end brands, or even small businesses and make their watered-down versions to sell at lesser prices. In today’s times of constantly changing trends, people want to wear the runway looks and fast fashion brands cater to their wants by making knockoffs of these styles. The process of making these garments is unethical and unsafe for the environment and thus, doesn’t cost the company much. As a result, fast fashion brands sell low-cost clothing which won’t last for more than 6 months and also harms the environment along with it.
On the other hand, sustainable brands comparatively have higher prices because of their process which we will decode further:
1. Natural Fabrics
Sustainable brands opt for purer and long-lasting fabrics like pure cotton and silk which are evergreen and flatter anyone’s aura. The fabric affects the cost a lot because some are made from raw materials which are not easily available, or maybe the production of the fabric is diminishing. Some brands also make fabrics through banana peels and silk through lotus stems to reduce waste and to make a bigger impact on the environment by being 100% sustainable.
The designs of a sustainable brand incline more towards the classic silhouettes and staple pieces that can be paired with various other pieces of clothing. Their styles also give the customer a chance to express and represent themselves through the clothing of their choice.
Sustainable brands work directly with artisans and craftspeople who have been preserving an art style that has been passed down to them for generations. Artisans are not paid well or they don’t get any new work since the usage of machines has increased and it’s quicker. But because of sustainable brands like KiRu, these families get recognition and a platform to showcase their talent to a wider audience.
Transparency is a major key in sustainable brands, thus considering the margins and overall production cost, a fair wage is decided for the workers. Sometimes, a certain decided portion of the price of a product is given to the craftsmen.
For the foregoing reasons, sustainable fashion brands have the validity to have high-priced products of their ethical and natural practices, unlike mass-producing companies. Slow fashion promotes the Artisans and their diminishing craft as well as proves to be good for the environment and the planet. It’s quite understandable to not be able to pay for sustainable fashion but at the same time, it is also very crucial to question if, is the cost of sustainable garments higher than the cost of planet earth?
As an admirer of art and fashion, Kartiki Kale has always wanted to work in the fashion industry since she was a child. She is a student at Nift, Mumbai studying Fashion Communication. Having worked in fast fashion brands before, she is a firm sustainability enthusiast as she's seen a glimpse of how harmful the industry can be. In coming future, she plans on starting her own magazine and is currently, taking small steps to improve herself and using her words to bring change.