As consumers become more aware of the impact their choices have on the planet and the people behind their clothes, many are turning towards “slow fashion” brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices. However, one thing that stands out to many shoppers and certainly most of us wondered about it, is the higher price tag that comes with these brands.
Why is it that slow fashion brands tend to have a higher price point than fast fashion brands? How can a small brands’ sweater cost 2-3 times more than one from Zara?
The answer lies in the way these two types of brands operate. Fast fashion brands prioritize producing large quantities of clothing as cheaply as possible, leading to a focus on economies of scale and production in countries with low labor costs (most of them in Asia). This often means using low-quality materials, unethical practices (no minimum wage in production countries, no overtime pay, unsufficient working conditions etc). and cutting corners in production to maximize profits. On the other hand, slow fashion brands take the opposite approach.
Slow fashion brands are often run by artisans and small-scale producers who are passionate about their craft and are committed to high-quality, sustainable production practices. They prioritize using locally-sourced , high-quality or even certified materials, producing locally or close to their business and paying fair wages to workers, and minimizing their environmental impact. While this model may result in a higher price point, it also reflects the true cost of producing clothing in a sustainable and ethical way.
One of the main factors that contribute to the higher price tag of slow fashion brands is the cost of high-quality materials. Rather than using synthetic fabrics made from cheap petroleum products, slow fashion brands often utilize natural materials like organic cotton, linen, and wool. These materials are more expensive, but they are also more sustainable, biodegradable, and healthier for both the environment and the people wearing them.
Another factor that drives up the cost of slow fashion is the use of local production facilities and craftspeople. Instead of outsourcing production to countries with the cheapest labor, many slow fashion brands operate in-house or partner with local artisans and manufacturers. This not only supports local economies and minimizes carbon emissions from transportation but also ensures that workers are paid fairly and given safe, healthy working conditions.
Finally, slow fashion brands tend to produce their clothing in smaller quantities, which can also drive up the price. Unlike fast fashion brands that churn out ten thousands of identical pieces which due to economy of scale makes each unit price lower, slow fashion brands prioritize unique designs and limited editions or operate with a pre-order system only producing quantities that were ordered. This approach allows for greater creativity, one-of-a-kind pieces and individuality in fashion while also reducing waste and overproduction.
While price of slow fashion may seem higher at first glance, it’s important to remember that it reflects the true cost of producing clothing in a sustainable and ethical way. By choosing to support small, sustainable brands we can make a positive impact on both the environment and the people behind our clothes. At OAT AVA we try to be as transparent about our pricing as possible to make our customers understand better how our prices are made up and let them see why the clothes are “pricey”. We would like to show that producing quality, sustainable clothes and paying a fair wage to our producers and suppliers are what really makes up a big portion of the price not the margin. We hope to inspire (as we were inspired by other small brands, too) other sustainable brands to show what their prices consist of.
And maybe instead of asking why a small, ethical labels’ t-shirt costs that much we should ask how is it possible that a fast fashion brand’s price is so low? Because with the words of one our favorite writers:
„Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”
words: Klára Edöcsény