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Image courtesy of Charles Etoroma

Feeling the Pinch

With the campaign for sustainable living at an all-time high, focus has been drawn to the fashion industry and sustainable fashion. But with the current economy going through turmoil and most having to scale back due to the rising cost of living, we are left asking why is sustainable fashion so expensive?

The sad truth is that consumer prices have risen by 5.5% due to higher demand for clothes and footwear and as the cost of clothing is on the rise so is the cost of living. The rising cost of womenswear has surpassed the rate of wage rises and with each household feeling the pinch the idea of buying sustainable clothes seems like a luxury only few can afford. 

However, the pandemic has given rise to eco-awareness, which has changed the way people view sustainability and the way they shop. According to a survey conducted in April 2022, a substantial number of people had already made significant changes in their lifestyle to decrease their environmental impact. While wanting to adapt to a more eco-friendly lifestyle it still comes with a hefty price tag. Looking for clothing that impacts the Earth in a less devasting way is one of the changes we can all make but with the cost of living on the rise, can we justify the spend?

So, Let’s Understand the Why

Image courtest of No Revisions

Fast fashion dominates the market with mass-produced items and standard manufacturing processes. Whilst the clothes are mainly affordable and readily available, the manufacturing processes are far from sustainable.

 The production is not the only devastating factor! There is a cost to pay for a continuous onslaught of fast fashion. The human cost. With meagre pay, poor working conditions, and long hours, the workers pay the price for the increased demand for cheap clothes. Forced into a poor quality of life, this fundamental problem is one that needs immediate change.

When thinking about making truly ethical garments, factors like eco-friendly materials, sustainable production and fair wages for the people who make the clothes, all of these factors will come into effect when you see the price on the tag.  

Shopping Ethically

Image courtesy of Maude Frederique

Many will ask the question; how can ethical fashion be ethical if it’s not affordable? This rings true, especially in the current climate. Having said that, there are a plethora of high street brands making a push in the right direction. Here are 5 high street brands that have made strides in the right direction.

 Reformation – What started out as a small business selling vintage clothing swiftly became a quality brand focused on using ethical practices to create beautiful and sustainable garments. Although they may not be the cheapest high street brand of the bunch; if we’re following Vivienne Westwood’s ethos “buy less, choose well, make it last” Reformation could be the sustainable brand you’ve been searching for.

 H&M – When it comes to sustainability H&M may not be the first brand you think of. The global Swedish brand has been advocating sustainability to make its brand more eco-conscious. Since 2021 three times the share of recycled materials is used in H&M garments bringing the percentage up from 5.8% to 17.9%, as well as a 27% reduction in plastic waste.  These small efforts are the start of turning around their business model to create an ethical product.

COS – Looking for a brand that puts sustainability at the forefront? Look no further! COS is a contemporary fashion brand that not only focuses on timeless designs but sustainability from the product, people, and the planet. They have understood the urgency of the climate crisis and are moving ahead in leaps and bounds, with 92% of their materials being sustainably sourced and a target of reaching 100% by 2025.

Seasalt – Seasalt is a brand that prides itself in making products that last and also heavily supports sustainable practices.  Using ethically produced materials as well as producing recycled polyester fibres from used plastic bottles. Seasalt is the first company to have its garments certified by the Soil Association.

Marks and Spencer – This much-loved household brand though not as ethically forward as some of the other high street brands out there, they are still putting small changes in place to reduce its carbon footprint.  The fashion industry alone is responsible for between 2-8% of global emissions and 20% of global wastewater, this is caused by toxic dyes and unsustainable fabrics.

With denim being a big cause of water wastage, Marks and Spencer have created a denim range using responsibly sourced cotton, bringing down the water wastage by 80%. Although there’s still a whole lot more that can be done, this is a start down the road of sustainable affordable fashion.

Our responsibility

Sustainable fashion is on the rise and becoming more readily available. We as consumers need to be responsible when sourcing items made with quality and integrity. Although fast fashion is convenient and cheaper, take a second to think of how those items were made and the people making them. It’s time to become proactive in making a difference and giving something back to the world.