The Cost of Sustainability in Fashion



The popularity of sustainable fashion can be interrupted by the rise of prices. Sustainable products tend to be more expensive than many others and this can hold back their consumption. Nowadays making sustainable choices may put pressure on consumers finances.

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Unlike fast fashion, sustainability in fashion requires a much more precise, meticulous and refined production process. Therefore, products become inaccessible due to their high costs. Although most people look for environmentally and socially conscious options, some do not have the financial means to afford them.

According to the World Bank, the pandemic has increased global poverty levels. Millions of people have not been able to enter the recovery stage. The number of people living in extreme poverty may have increased by 11% in that year, from 648 million to 719 million. This increase pushed the extreme poverty rate 1.2% above projections for 2022. Likewise, because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, several regions, especially Europe, have suffered from inflations that perpetuate price hikes in sustainable products and many more.

This crisis clearly does not affect everyone equally, reducing opportunities for sustainable purchasing to specific sectors. For individuals, it is a dilemma of priorities, as middle- and low-income families will choose products that are inexpensive as their first choice. Consumers' decision making about an item is based primarily on its price, whether it is sustainable or not. Given this economic issue, not many are thinking of spending and investing in sustainability.

As for the fashion industry, fast fashion has created a common range of incredibly low prices, causing consumers to only seek out these types of brands. Although many do not consider this to carry a high environmental and labor price tag, it is the most convenient way to buy clothes for many. In addition, the power of fast fashion to offer such low prices allows it to be highly competitive and hard to reach in the marketplace.


Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, does take into account in its business structure aspects to protect the environment and people. But it must find a way to become low-cost. Because in that case it could become the solution to diminish the negative effects of fashion in the world. So it is important to ask what it depends on and how sustainable fashion could become affordable.



One of the main challenges of the sustainable fashion industry is to offer affordable prices, but what is needed to achieve this?
It is true that part of this change in prices depends on consumers. Basically, applying the law of supply and demand, if demand for sustainable products is high then prices will go down. It should not cost a fortune for any sustainable fashion item as long as there is sufficient consumer demand.

“There is a perception that sustainable fashion is expensive - but this is not necessarily the case" - Brittany Burns, director of corporate strategy at Fashion For Good.

Many may even implement the philosophy of quality over quantity in their consumption patterns. For in that way it is possible to purchase pieces that are expensive but last longer as opposed to getting more cheap pieces that have a short life cycle. If one thinks about it, this thinking is useful and could make a big difference, but it is not lost on many that they do not have the privilege to do so.


Thus, this also depends on business development. Setting a price involves factors such as marketing, costs, competitor performance, market segmentation, sales, customer preferences, etc. So the decision to become cheaper is based exclusively on the progress and development of the brand.

Some of the current examples of processes or materials that sustainable fashion companies are using to lower the price of their products are the following: 



Sourcing recycled fabrics is getting cheaper every day. Cotton and polyester are just a few options that companies can purchase at considerable prices. There are now many startups that make wholesale recycled fabrics available to many brands. Finally, this is a great option to adjust the price of many products to something cheaper. If you add to this the fact that companies own their own factory then it is even better.



Taking advantage of the technological revolution of this century, the fashion industry has the availability to improve and innovate in their production processes, and the fact that companies invest in their infrastructure gives them the space to make products cheaply. One of the most important characteristics of these tools is that they make work more efficient, so the expense is no longer the same. Maybe obtaining these tools in a first step is not so cheap, but in the long run it will bring more benefits to both the company and the consumers. For example, there are many machines in the fashion industry that are used to avoid spending a lot of money on packaging.



This model consists of direct service from the company to the end consumer. Eliminating third parties in commerce can be a good way to drive affordable prices. Through this type of strategy (business to consumer) it is possible to provide products online. Thus, the producer offers sustainable fashion without incurring costs in transportation, facilities, store fees, etc. This is a major cost-saver, which can help lower prices for buyers. To this model it is possible to add a circular economy structure.



Whether it is collections of shoes, bags, accessories or clothing, creating pieces that can be used over time is a winning idea. Currently, there are more than 52 seasons during the year, where more designs are presented. This has eventually led to overproduction of clothing and unsold stock. A smart strategy for any sustainable brand is to create timeless products because they can be kept in case they have not been purchased and in another season or season they are sold again without being a major expense for the company.


© Highlight Image: Aiony Haust via Unsplash


+  Words:

Regina Berndt
Luxiders Magazine