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.
— Jen Brownlie (@tartanbrunette) October 14, 2016
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.