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Unpopular Opinion: Clothing Shouldn't Be Cheap

Unpopular Opinion: Clothing Shouldn't Be Cheap

Clothing should never be cheap.

Now, hear us out. 

Historically fashion has never been cheap or fast. It was made at home or locally produced, and something that you budgeted for and invested in bi-annually or, at most, seasonally.

Now fashion is both fast and cheap and made in the Global South without oversight or much concern because hey, it’s out of sight and out of mind for those of us in the Global North. 

(But, trust us, it is cause for major concern.)

And cheap clothing is the fuel that drives fast fashion.  

The rise of fast fashion over the past thirty years has dramatically changed the way we think about clothing. We tend to shop on impulse – with no investment or connection – and simply throw a piece away or donate it after only an average of seven wears.

Ethical Apparel Production
photo via our partner Passion Lilie

A nice dress with a bright, trendy print, ethically manufactured with responsible fabrics by garment professionals that were valued & respected for their work is going to cost at least $100 (this is an average, not a static, price point).

And, honestly, it should cost more. Most of us don’t realize just how environmentally and labor intensive it is to produce a single garment.  

And, that’s on purpose. The less we know, the better, for ultra fast fashion retailers that, over the course of thirty years, have led us to believe that clothing should be cheap & disposable. 

So, sustainable / ethical / conscious fashion brands entered the chat, and their entire business model is rooted in people & planet vs. profits. Great, right?  

Well, yes, except their price tags reflect the true cost of production & respecting entire supply chains, so this brought quite a bit of sticker shock to those of us accustomed to fast fashion pricing.  

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Now, with this disparity in pricing & quality between fast & slow fashion, there are valid arguments around classism within the sustainable fashion space.

And that makes total sense – we don’t want to marginalize those without the economic privilege to drop $100+ on a single piece of clothing. Especially seeing as underserved & low-income communities impact the environment the least yet will be most effected by climate change.

However, there’s a difference between fighting classism in sustainable fashion by making it accessible & approachable vs. making it affordable (i.e. cheap). 

Being expensive isn't necessarily a bad thing. Again, now hear us out.

When something is more expensive you, naturally, must pause & consider if you’re prepared to invest in that item financially & emotionally – and that is the mindset shift we need in order to reduce our consumption habits.

Most of us can’t even consider dropping $100, let alone on a whim, BUT it is here in this moment where our brain is processing the price that we ask ourselves the questions that we should ALWAYS ask when shopping, even if the item is $15:

  • Do I already own something similar?
  • Am I only buying because it is on sale / cheap? Or do I truly love it?
  • Who made it?
  • Will I be able to wear it for years? Pass on to family? Re-sell it?
  • Am I willing to invest in repairs for it?
  • How do I care for it? 
  • Will my dollars be benefitting a small business or support the local community? 

If you decide that you are willing to invest your time and money into that item, you usually take better care of it, and, in turn, it lasts long enough to enjoy for many years or even generations.

Also, when something costs more, it is, in many cases (though not always), higher quality or made with more expensive natural materials which extends its life cycle & allows it to be more easily reused, repurposed or recycled.

 

On the other hand, cheap clothing requires nearly zero investment of any kind, and was mostly likely made with zero integrity.

As it has zero sentimental value to us we have zero problems never wearing it or simply throwing it away if a single thread pulls or a button falls off. Then off it goes to landfill (where in most cases it ends up, even if you donate it). 

So not only did its production severely cost the planet, so did its disposal - all for an item we had zero interest in and maybe even never wore. 

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So, again, the goal shouldn’t be to make ethical, sustainable, slow clothing cheap because clothing shouldn’t be cheap – it takes too many resources and too much skill – but we do need to make it more accessible.

And for that, we must get creative as, ultimately, creativity is at the heart of sustainability.

As a responsible retailer, getting creative vs. selling cheap means offering rental programs, payment plans, layaway, mending & tailoring services, cash and store credit for consignment, hosting clothing swaps, and more. See our Full Circle Program

As a consumer, getting creative vs. buying cheap means shopping our closets, shopping secondhand, utilizing payment plans, finding rental & recycling programs, attending clothing swaps, borrowing, taking advantage of consignment programs, upcycling events, and more.

Clothing hanging in a closet

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P.S.

We know life is full and busy and messy and expensive, and there is no way we can *completely* avoid mega retailers due to price, accessibility, or specific need, and that is *100%* okay.  

We do NOT believe the onus is on the individual consumer – the responsibility lies firmly, and solely, at the feet of exploitative corporations. 

However, as trite and cliche as it sounds, the simple act of consciously slowing down & being more mindful with our consumption when we can does actually make a difference. Consumer purchasing power, or a lack thereof, is stronger than ever before and *is* changing the way businesses operate. 

You're doing great. 

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We want to be clear that this piece is only for those with the privilege to choose where, how and when they shop.