The Price of Ethical Fashion


Dress – Orla Keily Collection at People Tree
Cardigan – Oxfam
Boots – Dream in Green
Ring – Really old!

Today’s post features an outfit that I wore on Saturday to pop into town and grab a few essentials with the girls. The cardigan was from Oxfam and cost me under £30. It is by the brand Whistles and still had the £135 label on it. I bought the cardigan not because of the label but because I desparately needed something cosy to wear, because I really loved the colour and the also the chunky knit. I hadn’t realised that it would be brand new with the tag still on and I certainly hadn’t realised that it would have cost so much new. This amazing find prompted me to try and post about how ethical and sustainable fashion doesn’t cost too much and how it was easy to find amazing and affordable sustainable clothing. The post proved more difficult than I thought because I guess so much depends on your definition of affordable and sustainable (it was brand new rather than second hand!)

In research for my post I decided to stop by a certain well known fast fashion retailers website to find a cardigan to use for my price analysis. I won’t name names but you can probably guess who I am taling about. Call me naive (I hardly ever go in clothes shops these days and have not set foot in this particular fast fashion store, at least within the last 10 years) but I was really shocked to discover that you could buy a cardigan for just £12! I am really wondering what a cardigan for £12 will look like. Now I know what people mean when they say ethical fashion is expensive. Comparatively speaking even my bargainous cardigan from Oxfam for under £30 was expensive.

I am afraid I have abandoned my original post idea on the basis that trying to justify the cost of sustainable fashion against fast fashion isn’t going to really work. Beautifully made clothes are always going to be more expensive than fast fashion. I am a firm believer that in most cases you get what you pay for. Even in this times when everyone is feeling the pinch with the rising cost of living, £30 for a cardigan or even £60 for a cardigan doesn’t feel expensive for me for something that you plan to keep and enjoy for many years to come. It is roughly equivalent to a month or two mobile phone contract for a new phone and I rarely see many people these days without the latest model of mobile phone (BTW my phone is quite a few years old as I would rather spend my money on clothes).

I can’t get my head round how a £12 cardigan can possibly be made under ethical conditions and can be valued in a sustainable way.

What do you think? Is ethical fashion expensive or is fast fashion just unrealistically cheap?

With warmest wishes

Pin It Share

7 thoughts on “The Price of Ethical Fashion

  1. I think that there needs to be a happy medium. I’m shopping more and more in charity shops and find some amazing bargains. I often look on the sites of ethical fashion brands but find them to be expensive – twice what I’d be happy to pay or more in some cases.
    Charity shops have allowed me to avoid fast fashion shops without paying over the odds.
    What is love to see is high street retailers giving full disclosure of the ethical practices online for all to see.
    Hazel recently posted..And so it goes on…My Profile

  2. Thanks for your comment Hazel and yes I agree it would be great to see more dislosure from high street brands. I am fed up with reading generic corporate responsibility statements that tell me virtually nothing.

  3. As you know, all my clothes are second hand. If I wore cardis I’d rather pay £12 for a secondhand one so a charity benefits rather than a high street one which is going to be exactly the same style as everyone else is wearing. x
    Vix recently posted..Flower PowerMy Profile

  4. Hmmm an interesting one. I would say that there has been a real disconnect to the value of clothing nowadays with the advent of fast fashion. So I actually think that ethical fashion is priced competitively when compared with many brands. For example tshirts for £25 from companies such as Rapanui and People Tree, that’s perfectly reasonable in my opinion. But that is just my own opinion, I still remember saving up for clothing – I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
    One of my favourite pieces of clothing is a made-to-measure trench coat I have from a local designer that I got as a piece to celebrate an achievement, it was expensive but it will be with me hopefully forever. This then makes me think of heirloom pieces of clothing, will the fast fashion be passed down through generations? I’m not sure it will.
    I agree with the first post that clear information and full disclosure from the high street is a good starting point but a £12 cardigan just doesn’t sit right with me either.
    Steph recently posted..Human Friendly FashionMy Profile

  5. I think that ‘it’s so cheap it can’t be ethical’ thing is a bit of a red herring because cost is hardly an indicator of ethicalness. I don’t know specifically about whistles, but there will be plenty of brands at that price point that use the exact same factories as H&M et al. They might be using slightly better quality fabric and have a better finish, but that doesn’t mean that the people doing the sewing are getting paid any more than they are for low quality garments. I don’t disagree that we should be willing to pay more to get ethical, but we do have to make sure that it actually is ethical. I’m also still thinking about how I feel about shops dumping their unwanted new clothes in charity shops.
    Franca recently posted..A Beautiful Body ProjectMy Profile