Why is sustainable fashion more expensive?

Author: Arielle Crawford from shop-arielle.com

If I could give one piece of advice to the graduating classes right now, it might be: Just save up for a Vitamix! All those $30 blenders are going to cost more in the long run.

Which is how I feel about the premium associated with sustainable fashion. I'm often asked, when is ethical clothing going to get cheaper? While I understand the question, especially as it relates to privilege, my answer is, "I'm not interested in being cheap." Don't be fooled - cheap prices are an indication of cheap materials and cheap manufacturing. 

Fair fashion is just that - fair. The price tag reflects the integrity. Unlike luxury fashion, the cost of sustainable fashion isn't arbitrary or contingent upon brand value. The cost of environmentally-friendly materials, ethical labor, quality craftsmanship and supply chain integrity are only expensive in relation to our expectations and education. Awareness will upgrade our relationship to perceived value. 

Most New Yorker's have no problem spending $200 or more on a nice meal, theater seats or concert tickets. So why do we freeze up when it comes to fashion?

Since the rise of fast fashion in the 90's and online shopping in the 2000's, clothing has been increasingly devalued. A disposable consumerist culture perpetuates the demand for synthetic materials and exploited labor. We've been conditioned to accumulate as much as possible for as little as possible rather than to shop for less, but better. Shopping is all about getting a deal and nothing about origin or impact. It's the wardrobe equivalent of junk food.


I'm aware of the privilege associated with slow shopping. Paying more for sustainable fashion isn't accessible to much of the world. I'm also aware of the hypocrisy of preaching to rural communities about "living green" from my place in the big city. But this is where policy change happens, this is where product design happens, this is where trends are set. If those with advantage and influence don't use it for good, who will?

On a budget? Save up for what you really want. I saved for 6 months for the locally-made organic linen sheets I'd been drooling over. I sleep well at night! Supplement and subsidize your investment purchases with used and vintage pieces.

Nothing is created without impact or sacrifice. For conventional fashion, it's the world: the workers, the waters, the wildlife. For sustainable fashion, it's the paper money in your pocket. Which is ultimately more expensive? Are we in this for the long game, or will the quick fix prevail?


“Money is like water - that’s why we call it a currency - it’s a current. Money carries our intention. If we use it with integrity, then it carries integrity forward. Know the flow - take responsibility for the way your money moves in the world. Let your money express your soul.” - Lynne Twist


ARIELLE is a sustainable apparel label committed to organic, recycled and zero-waste fabrics, local manufacturing, fair-trade operations and plastic-free production. Texas-born designer Arielle launched her eponymous label in 2018 after a series of design gigs at several major ready-to-wear brands which left her disenchanted with the ethics of the fashion industry. Her brand reflects her personal values - every design decision is informed by a commitment to alignment, authenticity and awareness. shop-arielle.com

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