[image via ShopTreetie.com]
The higher-than-average prices associated with most ethical fashion brands raises a lot of questions and concerns when customers are shopping around. "But I can get a top that looks just like this from Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters for one third of the cost, so why would I spend more on this one?" If this is a question you find yourself asking, you're not alone. I admit, it's tempting to go to a fast fashion store where you know you can walk out with five new items of clothing rather than spend it all on one item elsewhere. What we all need to realize, though, is that these fast fashion retailers must cut corners in order to be able to charge the prices that they do, and a lot of the time this comes at the cost of company ethics and social responsibility.
I'm going to get a little 'Economics 101' on you, so I apologize in advance since taking Econ once is more than enough. Fast fashion and mass producers of apparel benefit from what we all know as 'economies of scale.' They are producing single items of clothing in quantities in the thousands and more. But in order to pull this off, they must outsource to countries with workers who are willing (and desperate) to work for next-to-nothing wages, using materials that were created in ways that are not environmentally sustainable. I can promise you that if a shirt is costing you $20 or less, the workers involved in making that shirt were not earning $8 an hour. Another thing to take into account is the fuel and energy required to create these mass amounts of clothing and then have them shipped halfway across the world and redistributed throughout the United States.
The beautiful thing about this industry is that us consumers ultimately hold all the power. If we continue to choose to buy dirt-cheap mass-produced clothing, then manufacturers are going to keep making them. But if we choose to invest a little bit more money into something that we know was made with some love, compassion, and a sense of responsibility (even if it means we can only afford a few new items each season as opposed to fifteen), then the fashion industry will be forced to respond.
I'm not asking anyone to go out and spend $150 on a shirtdress instead of paying rent this month. We all know what prices we are realistically able to pay, and if ethically-made fashion just does not fit into your budget then that's for you to decide and for no one to judge. All I want to do is urge consumers to think on a slightly deeper level about how their lifestyle and purchase decision impact other people and the environment. I am always on the lookout for more affordable options in terms of eco-friendly, organic, fair-trade fashion brands, and I am honored to be able to offer brands like Groceries Apparel and Reco Denim which are a little easier on the wallet. However, you will never see anything on shoptreetie.com unless I am assured that it was made without damaging the planet or exploiting others for their labor.