This blog is going to explore why fast fashion is so cheap and how we impact the clothing industry by making affordable informed choices.
Whats wrong with the Clothing Industry?
Has Clothing become too cheap?
With the cost of living crisis becoming more and more apparent the initial thought that an essential consumer good has stood the test of inflation, may be considered as an unlikely win. However we know there is no such thing as a 'free lunch', so let's dive into the reasons for cheap clothing.
"The Consumer Price Index measures the overall change in consumer prices based on a representative basket of goods and services over time" Investopedia
Below is the Consumer Price Index for Apparel in the U.S.
Below is the Consumer Price Index for all items in the U.S.
Since 1995 the Consumer Price index of clothing has dropped by 1.03%, subsequently meaning an inflation adjusted decrease of 51%.
Why is Clothing so cheap?
When we consider that the Consumer Price index for all other items has increased by 104%, we must ask why there is such a huge discrepancy!
1. Working Conditions
Exploitation of workers and working conditions contributes hugely to keeping the price down on clothing. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign workers can be earning around €2 a day. Workers often have little to no rights, and generally work 12-16hr work days, in some cases without breaks.
2. Mass Production
Mass production of textiles also cheaper than ever. 30.3 million tons of cotton are produced globally, each year! Cotton farming uses an incredible amount of water and consumes 16% of all pesticides in the world.
3. No Cheap Alternative
The lack of a cheap viable alternative has also allowed the consumption of fast fashion clothing to increase amongst developed and developing nations. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, the cost of living crisis is hitting everyone, and when 'push comes to shove' families will logically always chose cheaper alternatives in economic uncertainty.
What can we do?
Whilst it may seem an impossible task, people have more power than they realise; after all consumers are needed to make a market. Buying from companies who source their clothing ethically and sustainably is generally the only long term solution. Clothing sourced ethically is also more likely to be made better, hence lasting longer, meaning that the cost-per-wear decreases over time.
Cost-per-wear = the amount an item costs divided by the amount of times worn
So the more you wear an item, the cheaper the item is and the more value you get from it.
Buying from second hand shops increases the clothings lifetime and is often a cheap way to purchase new clothes.
Invest in Apparel
Invest in clothes that you use a lot. Spending more on high quality items of clothing is more cost effective than buying fast fashion alternatives simply because they are more durable, linking back to the cost-per-wear concept.
Chose Ethically made Clothing
Know which brands care about workers rights, where their raw materials are sourced and how their products are transported. This information is normally easy to find for companies who care about these topics and unsurprisingly hard to find for companies who don't.
There are plenty of ways to positively affect the fast fashion industry whilst keeping an eye on the budget. As a student, charity shopping is massively underrated when considering new clothes to buy. You could grab a whole new outfit for under £15 and feel good about it.
Buy clothes from companies who have sustainability at their core for example, Patagonia, Ro & Ritzy, Tencel and Clothing Manufacturers UK. Look out for case studies about these companies in the future.
Fast Fashion won't go away overnight, however small actions compound. Education leads to informed choices and its in these choices that you can make a difference.