A lot of people assume “sustainable fashion” means 100% organic cotton for a $$$$ price tag. However, that’s not always the case.
Sustainable Fashion is a movement that encompasses social justice and ecological change. It goes further than textiles and materials. As a movement for change, it sheds light of the many sectors of fashion, including fair and equal pay, better environmental practices, and addressing over-consumption. As we push for more brands to become more transparent with their processes and ethical practices, we begin to see how our decisions really shape our culture and our world.
When we think of “value vs price,” we’re met with two halves of a system: how much should we charge and how much should we pay? As a brand, you will ask yourself “what is my worth” and how that worth will be translated to your consumer. And as a consumer, you will ask “does this give value to my life?”
As we push for a more eco-conscious lifestyle, value plays a major part in our decisions. When we think about how much something is worth, we’re really asking if this product or service will:
Enhance my way of life
Help me to continue living
Provide a benefit to my future
When we’re looking to buy something, these questions come to mind, and normally the best option is one that provides the least risk. This is where price comes into play.
While we evaluate the benefits of options, we also determine the risk of introducing said product or service into our ecosystem. For example, when determining whether or not to choose between brown rice and white rice, we determined that brown rice will provide better health benefits while being a tasty alternative to the white rice. We will also flip the two boxes to determine the ingredients and/or origin of production. If the risk of purchasing the brown rice over the white rice fits with our ecosystem, more than likely we will choose the brown rice.
However, what if we’re debating between two different brands of brown rice? While the popular brand may be more expensive than the store brand, the store brand offers the same amount of risk, therefore we will most likely choose the cheaper option. If we find the store brand uses dangerous chemicals during production, then we will choose the more expensive, organic brand of rice because the risk of damaging our ecosystem is more of a concern than saving money.
But what does this have to do with fashion? Well we take this same scenario and apply it to a pair of jeans. We have two pairs of jeans, both the same size and inseam. One pair is more expensive than the other (Pair 1). We see that Pair 2 is the stores copycat brand to Pair 1. If we determine that both pairs fit the exact same way and there’s no difference in texture or design, we will most likely choose Pair 2 because it’s cheaper. However, Pair 1 supports women’s rights and the proceeds are then donated to women in need. If we value helping others, we may choose Pair 1. But what if neither brand supports women’s rights but instead rely on slave labor for production. While Pair 2 is far cheaper than Pair 1, would it be ethical to buy either of the jeans?
As we move toward sustainability and transparency, we’re reevaluating what we value when it comes to fashion. Personally, I value a few things that I believe to be important:
My clothes must come from a reputable brand that values their supply chain
My clothes must be inclusive in size, race, and gender
My clothes must be constructed well and should last for many years
My clothes should enhance my personal style
When I think about a brand valuing their supply chain, it is reflected in the price. If you had Pair 1 constructed from a brand that pays their workers minimum or above minimum wage and provides the utmost safety measures, then you would want to support these jeans. If the brand not only fits a size 6, thin model but also a curvy size 16 woman, then these jeans would have my support. If the jeans require minimum washing (which is another aspect of the fashion industry affecting our environment) and they are projected to last for 10+ years of wear, well then I would be just silly not to buy them!
Next time you are in the store and you see an item for an extremely low price, ask yourself: how much did this brand pay to have these made and how are they making a profit? And then when you see something for a ridiculously high price tag, ask: did this brand manufacture this ethically or did they inflate the price to earn maximum profit?