top of page
  • Writer's pictureKatie

Is Ethical Fashion Elitist?

Updated: Apr 12, 2019

As a fashion designer in today's modern world, I have many issues to consider while creating.

Price and my target customers income are among the top. How can I price items so that they are accessible while upholding my values of ethically made goods? As an average middle-class American myself, money is something that I think about and struggle with on a daily basis.

Since graduating college and getting my hands dirty in the fashion industry, I've learned that making quality items that are responsibly sourced and ethically made can be expensive.

Let's think about the supply chain for a moment.

It starts with the seeds that the farmers grow the cotton plant with. Then off to the weavers to make the fabric, the dyers and printers create the patterns, the designers/pattern-makers who design and make the pattern, the seamstress who cuts and sews the garment. Then shipping, traveling through customs by plane, boat and truck to get to the wholesaler who sell to the retailers who the consumer (you) ultimately buy from. That is a long and crazy complex system of manufacturing. And there is a price tag on each and every step.

Not to mention a lot of cut corners, pesticides, other harmful chemicals and underpaid workers.

If you’re buying a dress from Target that cost $27.99, how much do you think it cost to make that dress? If the wholesalers marked it up 30% and the retailers marked it up another 50%...

How much did the person who sewed it get paid?

Do you think that was a living wage?

This brings us to another big question, while buying ethical fashion is easy for the well-to-do or those with disposable income, how do we communicate the importance of ethical fashion to the average person who is just trying to survive?

This is the question that keeps me up at night.

Now for the BIG question. Do I think ethical fashion is only for those with money?

Yes and no.

Yes, quality items that are made ethically tend to be more expensive. However, those pieces are going to last a lot longer than that t-shirt for $5.99. It's going to spend years in your closet, being worn time after time. In my mind, its an investment. Like a car or appliance.

I also say no, ethical fashion is not just for those with disposable income, because if you remember from my previous post, there are many ways to shop ethically. Buying quality is just one. Shopping secondhand, wardrobe swapping, making your own, buying less, etc.

It comes down to you being mindful and making a conscious decision rather than aimlessly consuming.

And being aware that you are what you wear.

I have two call to actions for you today.

Number 1: Go into your closet and pull out a random item. Answer the following questions:

-What brand is it?

-How much did it cost?

-What material is it made from?