Just this morning as I was sipping on my morning smoothie, scrolling through my Facebook feed, an ad popped up. It was a sponsored ad which a few friends had liked. It was an ad for some super cozy looking sweaters. Visually enticed, I clicked through the link. After all, they looked so cuddly warm and pretty and I just couldn't help myself for curiosities sake. The cozy looking fleece-lined hoodies were $15, And free shipping. $15!? AND free shipping?! Too good to be true? Absolutely! And for so so many reasons. Allow me to explain…
While prices this low may seem like an amazing deal, in the long run, in the outlook of human workers, in the outlook of the planet, in the outlook of anything morally right in the world, these low prices are Not. In the words of a lovely Care2 article:
"Cheap goods equal a not so cheap global footprint. Even though you’re probably not thinking so rationally while being bombarded with club-thumping music and eye-catching merchandize, try and restrain yourself; the planet will thank you.
A new book by Elizabeth Cline entitled Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion critiques the mindless, shopaholic culture permeating modern day society and takes the reader on an eye-opening journey behind the name brands and store shelves and into the depths of the economics, resources and labor required to make your clothes.
Cline explains that the clothing industry is able to maintain such incredibly low prices due to sheer volume of production. In order to further cut costs, clothing companies have resorted to cheaper materials and, as a result, an overall loss in quality. Have you ever noticed that those new jeans from H&M didn’t last very long? Perhaps holes in the knees developed sooner than you’d prefer, or maybe that shirt from Target felt thinner and lighter in quality than you’d like?
This business model is by no means accidental and it’s bad news for human rights and the environment as most high volume, low price clothing stores employ cheap labor and promote extreme turnover and waste. In fact, we throw away “68 pounds of textiles per person per year,” according to Cline, which leads to overflowing closets and thrift stores now bursting with low-quality items. It’s a vicious cycle, particularly for those who can’t afford anything better.
With respect to market extremes of super low prices (think big box stores) versus super high prices (think Madison Avenue), Clines states that “There are very few middle-market brands and retailers and everything has become very cheap or irrationally expensive on the other end.” Leaving little room for quality products that don’t cost a fortune, most of us fall victim to clothing items we know aren’t the best sourced, yet we buy them anyway. There’s often simply no other financial choice and going naked obviously isn’t an option.
So how can we balance the need for affordable clothing with labor rights, a local designer economy and a healthier environment? Cline reiterates the need for more independent fashion designers who use and promote sustainable products. Check out Fashioningchange.com if you want to learn more about sustainable comparable clothing alternatives. Also, and most importantly, be sure to choose quality over quantity when given the choice. Although initial sticker shock might dissuade you, the handmade dress that lasts for 10 years is worth much more in the long-run than five t-shirts that will last a summer."
Absolutely choose independent designers. It actually really isn't that hard. There is a Huge marketplace full of ridiculously talented designers who offer their goods at totally reasonable prices. Okay, so a pair of leggings may not cost $10 when they're handmade, but, as stated above, there is a reason for cheap fashion and those leggings will fall apart within the year while something bought from an independent designer will last years! Cheap fashion is cheap for a reason.
I cannot even fathom how a fleece-lined hoodie could only cost the company $15, what when shipping is probably almost that amount, you know they must be paying their employees Nothing and the fabrics they are using must be absolute garbage! The fabric alone if I were to make such an item would be More than $15!!!
Cons of Cheap Fashion:
Environmental impact: think 68 pounds of waster per person annually; the chemicals, water loss, and mass pollution from factories (and quadruple it because they keep pumping out more garbage every day).
Unethical Labour: Yes, I'm sure you're familiar with the reality of underpaid workers and children in China and other countries making your clothes. Yes, you pay more for ethical fashion for a reason!
Garbage: As already mentioned, those cheap clothes will last you a season of wearing them at best. It may look cute at first but chances are it will fall apart in no time.
Cheap Fabrics: The online shopping world is forever expanding (as mentioned at the very beginning of this post) and that means more bargain deals at steal-of-a-deal prices! That $15 hoodie you may never receive because of poor customer service, you'll probably get sent the wrong one (again, poor customer service), and the item will Not look even close to what you actually order--due to fancy looking photography that makes the item look appealing when that's not what you're actually getting.
Again, cheap fashion is cheap for a reason, so try to restrain your initial temptations for cheap clothing. Don't get me wrong, I get it, I've been there and fallen victim to the cheap clothing. Again, so not worth it. It's actually cheaper for me to buy that cheap clothing than to make it myself, so I feel your struggle. And this is not some shameless post to get you to buy My brand of clothing either--it's simply a reminder to what most of us already know but like to ignore: that there is a huge cost to cheap fashion.
Support local independent designers--again there are Tons of them out there! Places like Etsy are fantastic to browse if you're unsure where to start--all artisan made! You support a better planet, someone's actual livelihood, you'll have clothing that won't fall apart, and you can keep your conscious clear. Wins all around!
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