Is eco-fashion more expensive than conventional fashion?

Written by: Angelique Ruzicka

It´s a common thought that sustainably designed clothing is more expensive than regular garments. For the most part this is true, but there are many reasons why they are pricier than conventional clothing. “Eco-clothing isn´t always that expensive, relative to similar designer brands. Even so, the price tags aren´t come up with arbitrarily. Every step of the production process adds its own cost to the bottom line,” says Gina Ferraraccio, founder of Cri de Coeur, which sells ethically-made footwear.

Why is eco-clothing generally more expensive?

Producing clothes that aren’t harmful to the environment is a pricey exercise. Generating organic cotton, for example, is very expensive. This is because it is still produced by a very niche market, often by small, family-run businesses that reject the use of pesticide to grow crops. Instead, they opt to more labour intensive, but environmentally friendly practices.

The expense also comes down to the fact that every process in producing socially sustainable clothing, from the farming right down to the manufacturing and distribution, is regulated. “It´s about fair trade, workers being treated with respect and people getting a fair price for the products they produce. People get peace of mind that what they are buying comes from someone reputable. That the garments aren´t made in sweatshops and human rights are upheld and children aren´t abused,” explains Karen Ter Morshuizen, owner of Lunar, which sells eco-friendly clothing.

The difference between Think! Shoes and common shoes is the price, admits Isabelle Steiger, sole distributor of Think! Shoes, which sells organic shoes. “But there are a number of reasons. Think! Shoes Austria (the manufacturer) only works with hand-picked companies that are 100% environmentally conscious. The leather used is organically tanned which takes three weeks to produce and the latex of the sole is produced in tree plantations and not from the rain forest,” she says.  

So why buy eco-clothing if it´s pricier?

If you don´t like following the crowd and prefer unique clothing, then eco-clothing could be for you. “Eco [clothing] is more classic and less trend driven so it will have longevity,” says Ter Morshuizen.

On the plus side sustainable clothing is generally of better quality and will therefore last longer than conventional items of clothing. Think! Shoes say that they are of superior quality because they hand craft each individually produced shoe. “They are also health shoes and therefore will provide support in all the right places,” says Steiger.

Buying eco-clothing is also a lifestyle choice. If you are environmentally conscious and concerned about where your clothing comes from, and that its manufactured by reputable organisations that treat workers fairly, then buying eco-clothing makes sense. “Everything has a carbon footprint that  impacts upon our planet. While buying the sustainable, organic or fair-trade product may be slightly more expensive in the short-term, it´s long term benefits are more than worth it,” adds Ferraraccio.

Getting a good eco-deal

The good news is that eco-clothing is bound to become more accessible and cheaper, especially now that well-known high street brands, such as Woolworths in South Africa, and other international clothing retail stores such as H&M and Topshop have jumped on the bandwagon to sell sustainable clothing. If you want to buy eco-clothing but are still concerned about it hurting your purse strings, then check out what they have on offer.

Alternatively, buy vintage clothing. ´Vintage´ is the new term used for second-hand clothing and is trendy in places like the United Kingdom where charity shops are a good source of cheap recycled clothing.

For now, eco-fashion may be more costly than conventional clothing. However, it is becoming more accessible and it won´t be long before the market becomes more competitive and kinder to your purse.

Here are a couple of places where you could buy second hand clothing:

  • Local classified website Gumtree: Has plenty of adverts from people wanting to get rid of their second hand clothing
  • Rags and Lace in Craighall, Johannesburg offers hardly worn fashion that’s almost as good as new. Contact them on 011 787 2130
  • Franki’s Vintage Clothing: Specialise in second hand clothing and embellished bags. Find them at 70 Main Road, Kalk Bay, Cape Town or contact them on 021 788 6776

The liveeco team

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