How expensive should fashion be? The true cost of our clothes isn’t decided at the till
Many of us will know the feeling. You’ve spotted some gorgeous garment on your Instagram feed and clicked through in a Pavlovian fervour to find out more. It’s ethical, sustainable, small-batch, free-range – all the good stuff! Then you look at the price. And you want to weep.
How to reconcile sustainable fashion with the its higher price tag is probably the most complex question I face, as someone who spends a lot of time trying to persuade people to kick their fast fashion habit. A recent Cosmopolitan poll found that two thirds of respondents don’t buy from sustainable fashion brands – and of those who don’t, 80 per cent said it was because they’re “too expensive”.
True, they’re usually spendier than the rock-bottom price tags we’ve grown used to. But they need to be.
Because while the word ‘expensive’ is subjective, the cost of fabric, thread, pattern-making, machinery and overheads is not. The cost of human labour shouldn’t be negotiable either, but it’s most often the people that get sacrificed for the sake of the profit margin. Less than 2 per cent of garment workers globally earn a living wage. When we buy a £4 dress from a fast fashion brand, it isn’t cheap by magic, it’s cheap because somebody else is paying the price.