Seeing the prices attached to ethical clothes can sometimes make you feel poor before you even buy it. It can feel ridiculous to spend $50 on a plain t-shirt. And at your local shopping centre? $5 t-shirt on sale. Tempting.
It’s these constant calculations and comparisons in our heads which brings us to this modern myth- ethical clothing is simply ‘not affordable.’
I’m not denying the fact that brands which reflect ethically and environmentally sustainable practices are more expensive. Generally, they ARE more expensive than what we are accustomed to. But before we claim these brands as ‘unaffordable,’ ‘out-of-our-budget-range’ or ‘luxurious,’ we need to remember something we may have forgotten:
‘Fast Fashion’ has only been in place for around 20 years.
The competitive twist to the fashion industry, in which brands are pressured to compete by continuously updating a wide range of stock to mirror the latest runway shows, has only intensified within recent decades. If fast fashion wasn’t a problem back 50 years ago, then the past acts as a precedent case to prove to us that a world without fast fashion is possible.
We live in an era which demands for instant gratification. We can obtain whatever information we want at our fingertips. We can talk to our friends without being burdened by the necessity to travel to meet them. It’s no different for fashion. We demand it- we get it. However, we need to realise that this is only a mindset which is not set in stone.
We also need to think about what we are actually paying for. I recently attended a Q&A organised with Patagonia and Levi Strauss & Co during Fashion Revolution Week; two fashion brands which are heralded as some of the pioneers of the sustainable fashion movement. Whilst the brands themselves and I do not claim that they are flawless saints, these brands do deserve praise. Unlike most brands, Patagonia and Levi Strauss & Co provide repair services and provide online guides to teach customers how to mend and take care of their garments. These two brands are also well-known for the quality of their fabrics which are designed to last. Like they say- quality over quantity.
Finally, we need to consider who our money is going to. Is the amount we’re paying enough to ensure that the workers who created the clothes paid fairly?
So how did we achieve it back then- before ‘fast fashion’ was a thing? We mended things if they were ripped. We placed items on lay-by if its price was out-of-reach for our weekly budget. We bought items from second hand stores. We might be able to learn a lesson or two by looking back in history.
Wearing: Pleated skirt I created myself
Photographer: Sam Hilton, @beathilton