Eco Fashion – How high is the price?

Eco Fashion – How high is the price?

I’ve been asked quite alot lately why many of the eco friendly fashion labels in Australia are quite expensive to buy. I am often posed with the question, “why would I buy this organic cotton t-shirt for $80 when I can go toĀ “(insert big department store)”Ā and buy the same thing for $20?”

Well, the answer isn’t as simple as it seems, nor is it what most consumers would like to hear.

I have always beenĀ quite abashed thatĀ people would rather buy their goods as cheap as possible to save their own back pockets, rather than loking into where things have come from, and considered what making this thing cheaply might have done to someone elses life.

Environmentally and Ethically conscious clothing, craft, food, and homeware companies try to avoid several common cancers in their production.

1. Slave labour. Yes we’ve all heard the term, but what does it really mean? In many countries today children are kidnapped by trafficers, and sold to businesses in back streets of major cities. These young girls and boys are then forced to work as prostitutes, machinists, handicraft workers and other such positions, with very little or no pay. Often these children are told that they will be beaten if they try to leave, and are forced to stay working in these businesses for many years with no food, bed, or sense of well being.
This is how us westerners can buy t-shirts from our local stores for as little as $5. If the store bought it from a wholesaler for half that price, and the wholesaler bought it from the manufacturer at half that price again, and the manufacturer still made a profit, what exactly did the person who physically made the garment get paid? Makes you wonder….
OK, so you paid $150 for that organic jersey dress. After the retailer bought it from the wholesaler and added their 100%, and the wholesaler bought it from the manufacturer and added their 100%, you would hope that the farmer who made the cotton and the machinist who sewed it got a little piece of the pie. And when you do the maths, it still isn’t much.
2. Quality of Fabric.
Organic – As it is much more time consumingĀ for aĀ farmer to grow things organically, this brings the price of the fibre up a little bit. They need to work on methods to keep pests off their crops instead of flying overhead in a plane and spraying pesticides. Also, farmers who grow organically often cannot produce or sell in bulk as it is very difficult to find large area’s of certified organic soil. Many chemicals leak in from nearby properties and estates deeming the land unusable for organic growing.
Recycled – ThankĀ goodness many of us think to give our unwanted clothing to op shops! Unfortunately someĀ of us do not. People have a terrible habit of throwing things that they don’t want into the garbage bin instead of thinking of whereĀ else itĀ might be used. Quality recycled materials are getting harder and harder to find,Ā and the people (like me!) using them spend alotĀ of timeĀ sourcingĀ out the best stuff to make wonderful garments for you to wear!
Other Sustainable Fibres such as Bamboo and Hemp – As these fibres are not farmed very widely, they are not as easy to buy in bulk, therefore are more “boutique”, driving the raw price up from more common fibres such as cotton. Bamboo and Hemp also have to go through many expensive processes to make them soft enough to be made into fabric.
3. Made in Australia. This one is pretty easy. A dress might take 3 hours to make. You probablyĀ payĀ someone in Australia $20 – $25Ā an hour to sew. You probably pay someone in China $2 an hour to sew. Which equals a massive difference in the shelf price of an item.
You canĀ ponder as much as you like about companies like Bonds taking their manufacturing offshore, but would you be willing to spend the extra $10 or so to buy a pair of their undies if they were made in Australia? Hmmm, tough one isn’t it?
Katie Gannon

After running an ethical fashion label for 5 years, I started this blog in 2007 after learning first hand about the importance of sustainability in fashion design. I am a passionate environmentalist and wish to promote individuals and organisations around the world working on innovative design. I have a BA in Communications / Media as well as a Cert IV in Clothing Production, and run my own graphic design company at

  • Eva Jimenez
    Posted at 13:55h, 01 November Reply

    So true,
    Most of the clothes are made of materials that are destroying the world and alot of people don’t care about it! lets make this world different!!
    I love ecofashion and we can make the difference!

  • Katie
    Posted at 22:14h, 17 January Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Katie
    Posted at 22:10h, 17 January Reply

    Thank you for your comment, and you are absolutely right in saying that we all cannot afford to buy the thing we would like to!

    A great alternative for people on a low budget (like myself) is to buy second hand. You would be amazed at what you can pick up from an op shop for just a few dollars. Not only does this save more clothing from being put into landfill sites, it also reduces the demand for new clothing to be constantly produced.

    Unfortunately we live in a very throw away world. If you can afford to, it is better to just purchase a few good quality items of clothing, learn how to mix and match them, and know that they will serve you well for years to come. Most of us get a kick out of buying as much as we can for as little as possible, so many people only get a few wears out of their cheaper clothing and then throw them away. But where is “away”? This is where the problem lies.

    Look at it this way… Say you have $500 per year to spend on clothing… It is better to buy 5 good quality classic pieces that will last for the next 5 years, rather than 20 badly made, disposable fashion items that you will throw away in the next 12 months because they have worn or gone out of fashion.

    Another way to help the environment is “make do and mend”. You don’t need to know alot about sewing to pick up an old piece of clothing and hand stitch it into a bespoke piece especially for you! It is also great relaxation therapy for us to do something creative in our spare time.

    Of course, it is completely up to you what you purchase, but I hope I have helped in some way!

    Thank you for reading my blog, and good luck with your quest to shop environmentally friendly! I will try to find more affordable items to also blog about in the near future.

    Katie (o:

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:36h, 17 January Reply

    I absolutely love this blog. I use plenty of eco-friendly beauty and cleaning products. However, I am having difficulty breaking into the world of eco-friendly fashion. It hurts my heart to think about where my clothes come from. However, I CANNOT afford many of the clothes that your site mentions.

    “I have always been quite abashed that people would rather buy their goods as cheap as possible to save their own back pockets, rather than loking into where things have come from, and considered what making this thing cheaply might have done to someone elses life.”

    Your statement makes the issue seem simple. However, some people don’t chose to spend $20 over $80 because they just want the extra $60 to remain in their pockets. Some people really don’t have the $80.

    I absolutely love your site. However, what recommendations do you have for those seeking to eco-friendly and fashion forwards in spite of their low funds?

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 03:36h, 10 November Reply

    Just thought I would ask, as I love your clothes and always look forward to going into my local shop with your stuff and seeing what is in and usually buy something. Reading your post just wanted to ask about the made in australia part as the label in my clothes has “Made in Indonesia”, does this mean that you design and have the fabric in australia but get the stuff made in Indonesia?

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 04:50h, 08 November Reply

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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