Why does a sustainable t-shirt cost $24
To have a full appreciation for sustainable fashion and trust that there is value and quality behind the price, it is important to understand the components of pricing. Today we will take a look at the cost of a blank tshirt. A common misconception is that sustainable fashion is overpriced. The truth is that it is priced fairly.
Thanks to Everlane, a sustainable fashion brand committed to pricing transparency, this is the cost breakdown of their 100% GOTS* certified organic cotton t-shirt with a retail price of $24. On their website, they publish the cost involved to make every item. This is simply the cost for the making of the actual t-shirt. Brands incur other overheard costs such as design, fitting, testing, office/retail rent, marketing, administrative labor, packaging, etc. All of these costs are added up to determine how much clothing should be sold for.
*GOTS is a tough certification to obtain and ensures every step of the manufacturing process follows the highest organic standards.
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Costs to Make a Sustainable t-shirt
This is simply a reference for you to see how much a basic, quality blank tshirt costs to make. No two t-shirts are created equal, but this will give you a general idea of pricing components that may contribute to t-shirt pricing.
There you have it, $6.29 just to make the actual shirt.
Say they offer a 30% off promotion of this $24 shirt, the consumer would pay $16.80.
Therefore, Everlane would be left with just $10.51 to cover all other costs not shown above and make a small profit. How then, do other brands profit on the same item that is priced much lower?
Costs of other brands
How can a fast fashion brand, offer a blank tshirt for just $10 or less? It is thought that poor factory conditions, unfair factory wages, and lower grade materials are the primary reasons. This is just something to consider as you explore sustainable clothing.
Knowing how and where clothing is made adds a certain level of attachment and appreciation for the garment. For me, knowing there are people and families directly impacted by the cost of clothing, it adds a level of empathy to each piece of clothing.
This is not to say you should not buy fast fashion, or get rid of your current clothes, it is just encouragement to slow down purchases and buy less. Fast fashion produces profit by consumers over buying and purchasing frequently. If we slow down our shopping habits, fast fashion will be forced to consider alternatives to their manufacturing process and overall business model.
COST PER WEAR
In addition to the actual manufacturing cost, it is also important to understand the cost per wear of each item you purchase. Consider that sustainable clothing is high quality, thus it could be worn more times as compared to clothing that is made of low-quality material. The low-quality piece may get fewer wears if not cared for properly.
Fast fashion also relies heavily on trendy pieces that will only be worn minimal times; thus, the consumer needs to shop more frequently to buy the latest trend.
Cost per wear can be much less in sustainable clothing, as they are designed to withstand multiple wears and they are typically not trendy items.
Here is an example of Cost Per Wear
A sweater from a sustainable brand costs $150. It is a wardrobe staple that can be worn for years to come because it is not a trendy item and can be worn many ways. Let’s say it is worn 30 times (just a guess) over the next 3 years.
Sustainable Sweater (over 3 years): $150/30 = $5.00 cost per wear
Another, trendy, sweater that won’t be worn as much because it will not be in style next season, costs $40. Let’s say it is worn only 6 times because it is not versatile and cannot be worn multiple ways. A new trendy sweater will need to be purchased next year.
Trendy Sweater: $50/6 = $8.33 cost per wear
You could save money by buying the one versatile sweater, even though it cost more money initially.
Should I avoid fast fashion?
I personally, have purchased staple items from fast fashion brands and they have lasted multiple years. It is important to care for these items properly in order to maximize longevity. When shopping fast fashion, always be intentional with purchases. They key is to slow down and avoid over consumption.
Another great tip is to shop second hand for quality items at great prices.
Checklist when deciding to buy
The below points, along with the cost per wear calculation may help your purchase decisions
- item is made from something durable (natural fiber — cotton, denim, cashmere, wool)
- is somewhat trend-proof, meaning you can wear it for years to come.
- is practical and versatile, can you make several outfits out of it?
- Does the item bring you joy, do you love it?