When people shop at fast-fashion retailers, it’s generally because they’re unaware of the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion, or because they believe that slow fashion is overpriced.
It makes sense. A shirt at H&M, for example, might cost $20, whereas a similar shirt from a slow-fashion brand might cost $50 or $100. Why is that?
Before answering this question, first consider some of the costs that contribute to creating and selling clothing:
Materials (fabric, tags, thread, buttons, etc.)
Worker compensation (salaries and benefits for garment workers, designers, customer support, fulfillment, marketers, etc.)
Equipment (sewing machines, cutting tools, hangers, desks, chairs, computers, software, pens, paper, ink, etc.)
Rent and utilities
Marketing (website, printed materials, photoshoots, photographers, models, agency fees, travel costs, etc.)
Shipping (packaging, postage, etc.)
Repairs (buildings, equipment, etc.)
Taxes and fees
That’s a lot, right?
Some of these costs are out of a fashion brand’s control, like the price of renting a factory, buying sewing machines, or paying taxes. Other costs are flexible, like the type of materials being purchased and the salaries of workers.
This is where the divide between fast fashion and slow fashion begins.
In order to maximize profit while keeping costs low for the buyer, fast fashion brands tend to use low-quality materials and underpay garment workers.
Slow fashion brands, on the other hand, continue to use quality materials that will last for years, and they pay garment workers a fair, living wage. To maintain a profit, the clothing is sold for more.
So, when you buy a shirt for $5 or a dress for $20, it’s likely because a garment worker is being taken advantage of.
If you want to support ethical fashion brands but are on a budget, here are a few ideas to get you started.