The real price of fashion: Who really pays for your clothing?

Wait, that costs how much? I could easily buy the same thing elsewhere for half the price!

*Does a Google search for the same item on several other websites to compare the price*

Been there? I have.

I’m all too familiar with labelling clothing as “too expensive” and settling on a cheaper alternative for the sake of my bank account. But how much is what I’m saving in price costing someone or something else?

Buying fast fashion without considering who really pays the price for my clothing is a habit I’m trying to curb. As someone who takes pride in my style and having many options to put together the perfect outfit every time, it’s not easy. But it’s necessary. I’m on a journey to shift my primary focus in purchasing decisions from style and price to source – will you join me?

To kickstart my journey from consuming fast fashion to slow fashion, I recently watched the documentary The True Cost to educate myself.

And I learned a lot.

Photo of sustainable clothing on store rack

Looking beyond the price tag

Have you ever paused to consider who pays really pays the price for the clothes you wear?

Looking beyond the price tag, there are many supply chain factors that influence the cost of clothing. Fashion is the most labour dependent industry on earth and most of the work is done by people who have no voice in the larger supply chain. The high turnover and rapid consumption of fast fashion comes at a cost of the dignity of these people.

Workers in factories of fast fashion brands are forced to work in poor, high risk conditions – inhaling harmful chemicals, suffering abuse and harassment, working unsustainable hours – all for as little as 39 cents an hour in countries like Bangladesh[i] . A wage that barely covers basic dignity, hygiene and health. 

Fast fashion not only has a negative impact on human rights but also on the environment.

To produce a garment of clothing requires the use of natural resources such as water and land; and it emits harmful chemicals. Making one cotton t-shirt uses up to 1,750 litres of water and releases around 5 kilograms of carbon dioxide (about the same as a 20km car trip)[ii] . The environmental impacts don’t stop at the production process but extend to every stage of a clothing item’s life cycle – from sourcing through to disposal.

According to Quantis, a climate consultancy firm, the global fashion industry produces nearly 4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions[iii]. When looking at consumption per person, Australia is now the second highest consumer of textiles in the world, only behind the United States. Each year, on average we purchase 27 kilograms of new clothing and dispose of 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill[iv].

That’s a lot of landfill! Most of this waste is non-biodegradable – it sits in landfills for 200 years or more while releasing harmful gases into the air[v]. This is fuelled by our throw-away mentality and tendency to frequently replace our clothing with new ‘on-trend’ items.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Made to last a lifetime

Fashion shouldn’t be something we wear and toss after a season. It should be made to last a lifetime.

This is where sustainable clothing brands are changing the way we consume fashion. Slow and ethical fashion considers the consequences of each stage of the clothing life cycle – sourcing, production, transport, retail, use and disposal. This ‘thoughtful’ approach to fashion contributes to the final cost of an item of clothing.

When you look at the price tag of an ethical clothing item, you’re looking at eco-friendly sourcing, the use of renewable resources, ethical supply chains, fairly paid and respected workers. It costs more to produce items that don’t result in damaging consequences.

SHADIE BY EA is one of those brands. A first glance, you may balk at the prices of our new Essentials Collection. But that’s exactly what they are – made at a premium. From the biodegradable Tencel material used, to partnering with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every Essential Scrunchie sold, our business model creates positive social impact.

Our prices reflect products that give back to you and the planet.

The next time you’re tempted to find a cheaper alternative to sustainable clothing because it’s “too expensive”, ask yourself: Can I really not afford this, or do I feel like I can’t because I’m used to fast fashion? Rather than buying the cheaper t-shirt in 5 different colours, consider the more ethical t-shirt made to last.

Let’s swap quality for quantity. It’s not about how much we have but the value it carries. And this value goes beyond the price tag.





[iii] As above.



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