Sustainability and privilege: the cost of eco fashion - culthread

Sustainability and privilege: the cost of eco fashion

Recently we received a comment on TikTok saying that our products are beautiful, but far too expensive.

It got us thinking about how fast fashion and throwaway culture have warped our view of how much we should be spending on good quality items of clothing, so when it comes to supporting brands with real sustainability missions, we’re put off by the price tag. We also can’t ignore that there’s a level of privilege involved in buying sustainable fashion.

We’re in the process of making samples for our new collection (which we’re very excited about), and a recent issue we’ve come across is to do with recycled elastic. Trying to make sure that every little part of each of our garments is recycled means we have to think about things like the few centimetres of elastic that we put around the sleeve of a jacket to make sure it hugs our wrists a bit. Finding recycled elastic is one thing, but trying to get it in small quantities (since we’re not UniQlo and only make a small run of each of our jackets) is a completely different story.


artesian jacket on Helen

The Artesian, worn by Helen


In short when we wanted to purchase this elastic, we could either buy thousands of metres of it (which we can’t store, pay for or use!) or we could pay a surplus for the smaller amount that we need, but it would come out as pretty much the same price as buying thousands of metres.

So the decision was either to use non recycled elastic that we had in our factories left over from another line of production, or spend a silly amount of money on a small amount of recycled elastic- and this is far from the first time that we’ve had to make this sort of decision.

Makes you think though, that a brand like H&M who would use those thousands of metres of recycled elastic for example, but don’t bother paying the extra few pennies per item of clothing it would cost them? In our opinion that’s pretty poor form. But then again, they don’t care about much other than profit.

So our materials are more expensive when we source them from reliable manufacturers that we trust. Good quality recycled fabrics are both hard to find and more expensive still, and when you throw a small quantity order in the mix too you end up with a much bigger bill per item on materials and finishings than our highstreet fast fashion brands.

But for all of that, you get a garment that will last, a promise that we’ve done everything we can to support the planet, its animals and the people who work in our factories, and a hell of a lot of love and care with every purchase.

However, we’re completely aware that having the disposable income to spend on a sustainable garment is a privilege. We’re stuck in this cycle of trying to fight fast fashion and encourage more people to buy from conscious brands, whilst unable to bring our costs down and fully aware that our prices are not inclusive.

So whilst we continue to see a growing interest in sustainable fashion over the years (a recent study conducted by McKinsey found that 67% of customers surveyed consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor) we need to be aware that buying less fast fashion is not a choice that some people are able to make.

“Those who have the money, time, and privilege wear the sustainable clothing and wonder why everyone else isn't,” said Aja Barber, a London based writer who focuses on the environment and sustainability.

If you’re able to purchase more consciously, be aware of shaming others who can’t. There needs to be a huge cultural shift in order for sustainable fashion to be available to everyone.

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