How can sustainable fashion be affordable?

How can sustainable fashion be affordable?

50% of people want fashion to be more sustainable, but don't want to pay for it. Luckily, there are some ways that fashion can be both sustainable and affordable. Here's our overview.
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Sustainable fashion can refer to many things like timeless clothing pieces, fabric from recycled cotton, or secondhand clothing. If we were to put a neat definition to it, we’d say it’s fashion that does as little harm to the planet and its inhabitants as possible. But one of the main barriers preventing the rise of sustainable fashion is that the costs can be prohibitive. Sometimes shockingly pricey.

It’s a bottleneck that’s backed by stats, with 52% of people wanting the fashion industry to become more sustainable, but only 29% wanting to pay more for sustainably-made versions of the same items. And that’s before the concerning cost-of-living crisis many of us are facing.

Low-cost fast fashion vs. high-cost sustainable fashion

Fashion wasn’t always this cheap. Fast fashion, being a relatively recent concept, has become cheaper and cheaper to the point where the price bar has been set so ridiculously low, that now we expect clothing to be dirt cheap.

About the only pro to this is that it makes clothing affordable for low-income and minority groups. But at the same time, it comes at the cost of exploitation - and that too, of low-income and minority groups. The industry is also wasteful and pollutive, massively so.

Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, implies:

  • paying workers fair wages
  • providing safe working conditions
  • avoiding unnecessary waste
  • limiting or eliminating the use of toxic chemicals
  • reducing harmful materials like polyester, nylon, acrylic
  • using high-quality products and fabrics, that last
  • innovation of entirely new textiles and processes
  • and more.

Still, how can we check these boxes and also have affordable fashion? It shouldn’t be out of reach to make sustainable choices. So - is there a way?

In short, yes! Here are five ways that sustainable fashion is becoming more affordable.

1. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) business models

Cutting out middlemen means prices can be lowered, since less markup needs to be added to make a profit. That used to be easier said than done - but it’s now simpler than ever to connect with an audience online, as that’s how people explore fashion ideas and shop. Even smaller businesses that are the real stars of the sustainable fashion industry have a chance. It’s more of a level playing field.

Direct-to-consumer business models can also save transportation costs, lowering emissions. Of course, there are challenges for the D2C model too and new ways to be learned to replace the old. But if you’ve got the skills you need - or an expert to help you out - you’re looking at a major cost-saver, which can help lower prices for buyers.

2. Timeless, not trendy, pieces

A big reason for the fashion industry’s humongous waste is the dizzying number of fashion trends. We’re now at 52 “micro-seasons” or more, which means an entirely new collection per week. Brands are overproducing and misjudging - resulting in unsold stock and unnecessary costs.

Sustainable brands creating timeless-styled pieces can store them for as long as they want until they’re ready to be purchased, saving costs. And that doesn’t mean clothing has to be less creative - there are always ways to mix and match and dress an outfit up or down.

3. Technological innovation

Emerging tech is providing ways for sustainable fashion to become affordable. Here are a few developments that are worth a mention:

  • High-tech machinery can produce clothing on-demand and make packaging much more efficient - this is something we’ve implemented at POMP. 
  • Recycled fabric is becoming cheaper and easier for pure fibres like polyester or cotton. Not only that, funding gaps are being bridged for technological breakthroughs like Circ - a startup that recycles tricky blended fibres. At POMP we use recycled fabric that customers send back once garments are worn out.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed to better predict fashion trends and save money in the long run by preventing the expensive waste from faulty forecasting. 

These technologies along with others can represent a big up-front investment but reduce costs over time. Take it from POMP - we’re able to offer more affordable prices due to the tech and on-demand production we use. Let’s hope efficient tech will become more widespread to help more sustainable fashion brands keep prices down.

Some of our clothing contains 50% recycled cotton & 50% virgin cotton, keeping prices affordable.

4. Offering resale programs

Secondhand clothing is almost always sold cheaper than first-hand, and there are already countless apps and stores selling used items. Which is exactly why sustainable fashion brands should offer this option themselves. They can take advantage of the people who would rather buy a cheaper used item, but from their brand - not by trawling through an endless hodgepodge of used clothing on a rack.

And yes, it can be profitable - take Patagonia as an example. Their resale business, ‘Worn Wear’, has seen a 40% growth in revenue plus a new market segment of people that are 10 years younger than their typical customer base.

5. A shift towards the circular economy

For sustainable fashion to become affordable, there needs to be a shift away from the wasteful fast fashion model. In other words, business models should become circular, so that value isn’t wasted and is instead kept in the loop. 

At POMP, we integrate circularity in our business model by using QR codes to prompt our buyers to return their unwanted POMP products. We then use the returns as material to create new recycled clothing.

Circular clothing - how can sustainable fashion be more affordable?

One way to implement circularity is by normalising repairs, which is relatively inexpensive and simple. Plenty of people did this historically and now many sustainable fashion brands are starting to offer repair programs again. Think of Levis, Patagonia, and Uniqlo, who charge just $5 for any piece of Uniqlo clothing that needs alteration.

Another way is by connecting with your audience, who can give you cheap raw material - their unwanted, used clothing - which you can then use to create entirely new collections through upcycling

And the list goes on. Circularity just requires creativity.

Affordable sustainable fashion at POMP

We offer sustainable fashion at affordable prices because we believe that it shouldn’t be more expensive to buy sustainable clothing. Sustainability should be about a big impact from everyone getting involved - not elitist gestures that make the tiniest of dents.

Sustainable fashion becoming more affordable is a complex topic but one that needs to be addressed. We hope that in the near future we’ll see more opportunities for it to become a reality. We’d love to hear from you on this, so let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 

And a simple way to make POMP’s clothing more affordable is to sign-up to our newsletter, at the bottom of the page. You’ll get 10% off your first purchase!

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