We are living in a disposable fashion culture; we move on to the new
trend very fast. With the promotion of fast fashion, consumers expect
that a t-shirt should cost less than $10. When a sustainable and ethical
brand launches a t-shirt that costs more than $30, we say that it is elite
and expensive and the brands only care for affluent customers.
However, when we look deeper into the details, we find out it’s not the
greed that drives high costs it’s something else.
High-end ethical brands break own following main cost drivers behind
The first and foremost factor that drives the costs of sustainable brands
is labor. The more steps added in the production of the product, the
more labor it needs and it eventually leads to higher costs. Ethical
brands do not let their labor suffer like the cheaper brands that wage
their labor a minimum wage. For example, in Bangladesh, a minimum
per month wage is $94, whereas, the estimated wage is $189 which
could help them get proper food and living.
Ethical brands provide labor protection; therefore, their costs are
higher. Consumers do not consider this; they do not know where the
product has come this far.
Ethical brands do not compromise on the quality of the material.
Fabrics are meant to be high quality and timeless so that the consumers
can wear them as many times as they want. But this triples the cost per
wear as compared to the conventional price.
To prove the sustainable material and wage is vital which is done
through proper paper documentation. This paperwork helps to ensure
the brand and worker standard relationship. But these certifications
can cost higher to the brand which results in higher costs of the
Economies of Scale
Conventional fashion keeps its prices low by producing huge stocks
even when there isn’t enough market for them. When production goes
from 100 to 10,000, each worker gets to do a small piece of work over a
million times. It also reduces the efficiency of work but it reduces the
cost. On the other hand, slow-fashion brands take weeks to deliver the
garments, this allows them to reduce the amount of waste product
because they get enough time to carefully and strategically cut the
fabric, but this care costs extra money.
Marketing and Retail Overhead
Marketing involves how the consumer will get the garment. An easy
way is to hire a middle man, handing over the garment to him and he
sells it to the consumers keeping the cut. But with the advancements,
brands make their products available online, it is said that excluding the
middle man will cut down the cut costs. And they can set the price to half less
But this may seem an easy approach, but it needs investments like an
eCommerce site. After the investment, the brands will have to pay for
digital marketing. Including all these expenses, the rent of the store is
painful, brands have to pay huge amounts of rent for their outlets.
Therefore, the online approach, DTC (direct-to-customer) can save
rent and the savings can be used for good.
Now that you know that sustainable brands are expensive; it does not
mean that everything expensive is sustainable and ethical. Ethical
fashion is about redistributing money from elite consumers
to low-income workers.