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Is Sustainable Fashion Too Expensive?

Consumers accustomed to purchasing fast fashion at a fraction of the cost often find that sustainable fashion is rather expensive. While this may be true to a certain extent, the facts are stranger than fiction.

Key Takeaways:  The psyche of cost-conscious consumers

A global sustainable fashion survey by KPMG found that even though consumers expressed concern for the environment, the majority of those polled said that they would prefer if sustainably-made fashion were priced the same as regular fashion. Only 13% of people claimed they are willing to pay more – fewer than 21% said they would only consider buying sustainable fashion if it were almost as cheap as fast fashion

This sentiment of purchasing things at a steal comes as no surprise. Capitalism and mass-production have enabled companies to keep selling fashion at a bargain — convincing consumers that we need to keep being more, no matter the hands it exploits to get made or how it affects the environment. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow finds the blinding thrill of buying things at a low price to be quite normal. She states that it’s common for shoppers to “crave the thrill of feeling like they’ve scored a big victory.” “When you score something good at a bargain, it feels great, so you have this burst in dopamine, and people want that feeling again, which causes a lot of shopping errors,” Dr. Yarrow told Refinery29

The actual costs of sustainable fashion run deep

At times, fashion supply chains can provide positive opportunities and lift communities out of poverty. Still, more often than not, fashion can be exploitative and even borderline fatal for the people they rely on. Yet, from an environmental perspective, this industry makes a significant contribution to climate change. McKinsey’s research shows that the sector was responsible for 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, which was about 4% of the global total. But sustainable fashion seeks to change all that.

Sustainable fashion values diversity, prosperity, and the well-being of both people and the environment. It highlights the connection of individual, social, environmental, and economic implications of fashion. In doing so, it questions the industry’s status quo that still prioritises profit over vital social and ecological concerns. Results from the KPMG survey suggested that consumers were willing to spend more on sustainable clothing but with cost-conscious limitations that pointed to a lack of awareness around the actual costs involved in making sustainable fashion. For example, better materials like plant-based fabrics that are biodegradable and compostable tend to cost a lot more than the synthetic materials that fast fashion usually relies on, mainly when third-party sustainable certifications verify them. 

Moreover, genuinely sustainable brands will ensure that the garment workers are remunerated well and that their working conditions are healthy and safe. Fast fashion, by comparison, doesn’t even pay its garment workers the minimum wage — 85% of their labour is paid a piece rate of between 2-6 cents per piece, where most of them work 60-70 hour weeks. Moreover, fast fashion garment workers are not paid overtime and toil in unsafe, cramped, dirty, and poorly ventilated factories.

It may seem as though sustainable fashion costs a lot more, but when you factor in the human cost and environmental price paid for dirt-cheap fast fashion, sustainable fashion comes out shining as a worthwhile investment. A sustainable investment that will not only last you a lot longer, but do a ton of good along the way.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-08-09

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