We've all looked at the price tag for a slow fashion item and thought to ourselves, "woah, that's pricey". But why do we rarely look at a fast fashion item and ask ourselves, "hm, I wonder why this is so cheap?”.
Fast fashion has made cheap the new normal. So normal that we don’t question it. We don’t question how it was made, who made it, or what it was made out of. We see a price we’re comfortable with, and can’t be bothered to wonder why we can buy a t-shirt for less than a gallon of milk.
The prices for everything are going up, yet you can still order an entirely new fall wardrobe from Shein for less than $100? Something isn’t adding up.
It’s no secret that fast fashion brands don’t always pay their garment workers (and those that do, rarely pay a living wage) which is how they’re able to afford selling their items for basically nothing. They mass-produce thousands of garments a day, and are able to maintain incredibly large margins so that 99% ends up back in their pocket.
Beyond the obvious problems (ie. environmental impact + human rights violations), this phenomena is making it nearly impossible for the slow fashion movement to grow. Unlike their unethical counterparts, slow fashion brands don’t cut costs. They pay top dollar for eco-friendly materials and invest in their supply chain by ensuring their production costs are in line with the living wage. This means a higher price point for consumers, which inevitably makes it unattainable for most.
Slow fashion is expensive. There’s no denying that. A high-quality garment, made with planet-friendly materials, that is ethically produced, is going to cost substantially more than a fast fashion item. Because of that, slow fashion isn't going to be accessible for everyone, which limits its potential to have a true positive impact on the climate and society at large.
So what’s the solution? Instead of shaming people who can’t afford to shop slow fashion, we’d prefer to advocate for shopping less fast fashion. Buying a pack of Hanes t-shirts at your local Walmart for your family of four is one thing, but ordering a $500 Zara haul online (and returning half of it) is another.
The argument against fast fashion often shames those who can’t afford slow fashion. Not only is that classist, but it misses the real point. It’s not about blaming yourself for shopping fast fashion, but instead reminding yourself to think twice before you buy. While it's ok to question the price point for slow fashion, it's worth applying that same mindset to fast fashion. And while it’s also ok to not be able to afford slow fashion, that isn’t an excuse for over consuming fast fashion.
If you're interested in learning more about "The True Cost" behind your clothing, we suggest checking out this video.