Is Ethical Fashion Only For The Wealthy?

October 18, 2016

Is ethical fashion only for the wealthy/rich?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while now. I often have people say to be that they’re interested in ethical fashion but can’t afford it. Whenever you speak about ethical fashion cost is a barrier which comes up time and time again. But is ethical fashion only for the wealthy or can everyone enjoy ethical fashion? I think sometimes I do forget that I’m looking at ethical fashion from a privileged position, I’m fortunate to be in the position to be able to pay a little more for my clothes and I have the time and means to research brands and their ethics. I don’t consider myself wealthy but I worry that I can come across preachy telling people to buy into something they can’t afford. With this in mind, I decided to ask my twitter followers whether or not they felt ethical fashion is only for the wealthy. As you can see the results were very close with 53% agreeing that ethical fashion is something only the wealthy can afford and 47% thinking that everyone can buy into ethical fashion.

Personally, I agree with the 47% that think ethical fashion is something everyone can enjoy. There are so many ways to buy and support ethical fashion that I think everyone can do it no matter what their budget. Hopefully, through the rest of this post, I will be able to convince you that ethical fashion isn’t just something for the wealthy.

Why do we think ethical fashion is only for the wealthy?

Compared to the ultra-low cost of fast fashion, ethical fashion can seem expensive. However, I would argue that fast fashion has skewed our sense of value. We now think that a £5 t-shirt is normal when in reality it should cost way more than £5 to make a t-shirt. We need to stop and think about how that £5 t-shirt is made and who is making it. That £5 t-shirt has a huge environmental and social cost. Given the impact of that £5 t-shirt, maybe the cost of ethical fashion is actually what clothes should cost. If paying people fair wages and treating them ethically and protecting the environment means our clothes cost a little more, then is this not a fair price to pay?

If we changed our attitudes towards shopping and only bought clothes when we actually need something instead of because it’s on sale, we’re bored, or just fancy something new ethical fashion wouldn’t cost us more than fast fashion does. We don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe every season, one or two new pieces is enough. It’s really frustrating to continue to hear that ethical fashion is too expensive from someone who spends £30 in Zara one day and another £20 in H&M the next. Sorry to be harsh/controversial but if you can afford to spend £50 on clothes in a week then you can afford ethical fashion. You are making a choice not to shop ethically.

“I think the perception that ethical is for the rich comes from a distorted perception of how many clothes is ‘normal’ in e.g. the 1950s we’d have had only one ‘best’ outfit. Fastion fashion makes us expect dozens. The sad thing is that often the price of that is paid by vulnerable people or the planet” Rowena Kay @rowena_kay

Changing your attitude towards shopping and clothes will save you money even if the items you buy cost more. Now I’m buying less, creating a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe is actually saving me money. Changing your perspective and focusing on quality over quantity will save you money in the long run. Think about the cost per wear of your ethical fashion. We already know that ethical fashion brands tend to produce better quality garments which should last you for years to come so as long as you wear them the cost per wear could be very low. With fast fashion we buy low-quality garments at extremely low prices and hardly ever wear them, more often than not these garments don’t survive the first wash. We’ve all heard the saying buy cheap, buy twice and that certainly is true with fast fashion. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will know that I’m always going on about choosing quality over quantity, but it’s so true a better quality item will last you for years before it needs to be replaced. Choosing to buy quality over quantity is the ethical choice, we want to be getting as much wear out of our clothes as possible (read about the 30 wears campaign).

Ethical fashion on a budget

Ethical fashion isn’t just about buying expensive clothes from high-end designers or niche brands. There are loads of ethical fashion options out there. You can make your  own clothes, take part in clothes swaps, buy from charity shops, buy vintage or buy from Etsy and local designers. All of these can be very inexpensive in fact, they are often cheaper than buying new clothes on the high street. If you prefer to buy your clothes new, there are hundreds of great ethical brands which don’t cost much more than those on the high street. It’s just a case of spending a little more time researching brands and making informed decisions. And as I mentioned earlier choosing the highest quality item you can afford is also an ethical decision. Buying clothes to last and wearing them often is ethical fashion.

Ethical fashion to me is second-hand shopping, recycling clothes, vintage etc. Often cheaper than fast fashion”  Nadine @nadeenee

Ethical fashion for free

When talking about ethical fashion we often get so caught up in buying second-hand, vintage or from ethical brands that we forget the most ethical thing we can do is use what we already have. You don’t have to buy anything to support ethical fashion, in fact, it’s more sustainable if you don’t. Use what you already have in your wardrobe, we don’t need to buy new clothes all the time. You spend a lot of money on your clothes so make sure you get the use out of them. You may want to create a capsule wardrobe or try a style challenge to stop yourself from shopping and really focus on making the most out of your current wardrobe.

We can promote ethical and sustainable fashion without buying it. Read about it, talk about and promote it, make your friends and online followers aware of ethical fashion and the true cost of fast fashion. Help others to make more ethical decisions, join ethical communities and take part in events. There is so much you can do without having to spend anything.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that ethical fashion isn’t just for the wealthy and we can all afford to support it. I’d love to know what you think, please let me know in the comments your thoughts on the cost of ethical fashion.

Do you think ethical fashion is only for the wealthy? Read about how our attitudes towards fashion had skewed our sense of cost and value and how we can change the way we shop to become more ethical


8 responses to “Is Ethical Fashion Only For The Wealthy?”

  1. Isobel says:

    I’ve recently been trying to not shop so much and not buy into the trends and make do with the clothes I already have. Some pieces I’ve had for years and still wear them season after season. I definitely prefer the sound of working with ethical fashion and quality over quantity.

    Isobel x

  2. Amellia says:

    This is such a great post! Really got me thinking. I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of thinking ethical fashion is “expensive” but that opinion was totally derived from my distorted idea that it was normal to have 10 white T-shirts and a new outfit every time I went out. Thanks again and keep up the great work ??

    • Jen says:

      I was similar before I started my capsule wardrobe I thought it was normal to have 10 white t-shirts which only cost a few pounds each. I know have one which did cost more but and been in the washing machine countless times and still looks great. I think ethical fashion is about really using all our clothes and always trying to find the best quality we can afford so it will last longer.

  3. Rachel says:

    See I am very much on the fence on this one. I am totally inthe #slowfashion camp, with my Capsule wardrobe and buying less, which is obviously a great start on the ethical case. But I genuinely don’t think I can afford most of the ethical fashion brands. I’m not one of those people who has £50 a month let alone a week to spend on clothes, so making my pieces work hard for me is very important and spending little is my only option. I’ve tried thrifting in charity shops but unfortunately in my region there is not a lot that a. Fits me or B. Very nice. My other issue is that we are a family of 5, to dress all 5 of us in ethical pieces would be a dream, but with growing at a rate of knots-children I literally couldn’t afford to do so, then I have the issue of if I’m ‘ethically dressed’ in well sourced brands why shouldn’t they be to? It’s a toughie and a fully applaud anyone who is totally being ethical with their fashion purchases. I’m grateful to have quit my insane fast cheap fashion addiction and feel better morally for it, but I will continue to strive to be more ethical also. Thanks for this great thought provoking topic.. sorry about that essay comment ?

    • Jen says:

      I think with your capsule wardrobe you are creating a really ethical wardrobe by ensuring you wear everything in it. Quitting fast fashion is a massive step – well done. I know some ethical brands can be very expensive but a few aren’t much more/similar than high street brands and you can always shop the sales. I can imagine that dressing a family of 5 isn’t cheap and must be tough especially with growing children. Thanks so much for your comment (and it wasn’t an essay)

  4. Kizzi says:

    I have about £200.00 per year for clothing. I tend go without rather than buy clothing that exploits others. I buy only when it is absolutely necessary. I go to charity shops but they are full of fast fashion seconds. It is rare to find ethical second hand clothing. I am constantly on the lookout. Ethical clothing is often expensive at present but it is essential that clothes are produced ethically and with non-polluting textiles. I care deeply about the lives of people who make products, grow food, etc,. Everyone deserves excellent working conditions and a living wage. I am crying as I write this as to be honest I would like some clothes. Some ethical clothing. Hopefully things will get better for me and I will be able to contribute towards the production of ethical clothing.

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