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Why Should the Cost of Clothing Change?

We know that the price you pay for an item of clothing is one of the biggest factors that influence a buying decision.

Clothing has never been more affordable or accessible, with everything from ultra-cheap fast-fashion brands to high street giants making retail now more convenient and available to us than ever before. But one must ask whether this continuous push towards cheap and “disposable clothing” is sustainable for the future?

The true cost can only be calculated by considering the impact of non-environmentally friendly fabrics and manufacturing processes as well as the wasteful over-production that carries its own cost to achieve economies of scale.

Between fast-fashion and high street brands making it more and more attractive for shoppers to have access to cheaper pieces coupled with multiple discounted offers, how do brands in the sustainability space compete?

For those environmentally responsible, this is a hurdle to overcome, but certainly not an over achievable one. The goal is to make sustainable clothes that are as accessible (and not overpriced) as possible to as many consumers as a company can reach.

There’s a fine line in maintaining the balance with sustainability and quality goals in mind, especially with material costs skyrocketing and supply chains freezing in the current climate. In addition, finding the right rhythm of doing things sustainably with the right partners is key.

Shoppers must recognise that when buying a sustainable item, there’s a premium associated with it that is typically driven by:

  • Fabric costs – organic fabrics that are using mechanical methods for clearing as opposed to chemical processing carry a higher cost; closed-loop regeneration processes that rely on reclaiming and purifying waste and reusing chemicals where necessary without impacting water supplies

  • Ethical manufacturing – paying fair wages; standard working times; using approved factories with safety standards

  • Lower quantity runs – which limit economies of scale but reduce overproduction

Whilst these contribute to a marginal premium on the cost of the production of the clothing, the benefits outweigh the initial cost :

  • Sustainable materials used have a net positive impact on the environment

  • The quality construction and the informed fabric choices increase the longevity of the product thereby, reducing the replacement cycle which effectively saves the consumer money in the long run

Whilst there is a growing consciousness around embracing sustainable products, the laws of demand versus supply still dictate the economics of manufacturing, and the push for cheaper clothing continues to delay the movement towards a fundamental shift in clothing consumption.

Many consumers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious, and see packaging as a yardstick for sustainability, which influences their buying habits and their brand loyalty. For e-commerce brands, given that receipt of a package through a courier can be a customer’s first experience of a brand, green packaging has become a crucial part of the online retail strategy.

As a result, sustainable packaging is becoming a key differentiator in the value proposition of e-commerce-focused brands, the traditional hallmarks of quality being replaced by practicality and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

So, while buying decisions can certainly be influenced, the best decider is ultimately a value system, that is evidently changing. Clothing should not be disposable – there should be value attached to each item as that is what defines its purpose and ensures the long-term sustainability to preserve our environment.

The next time you pick up an item, consider the impact of that item and not just the price. The value of the item is based on its quality and its impact on you and the ecosystem.


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