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Article: Why is Sustainable Fashion more expensive?

A pair of hands work at a sewing machine
Business For Good

Why is Sustainable Fashion more expensive?

Sustainable Fashion refers to clothing or accessories that have been manufactured in the most sustainable way possible. This includes prioritising the environment, workers and encouraging consumers to buy what they need and take care of their garments. After taking these factors into account, the price tag of Sustainable Fashion items can be much greater than Fast Fashion brands. We thought we would discuss the main reasons why Sustainable Fashion is more expensive...

Small Scale Production

The small scale production lines adopted by Sustainable Fashion brands is perhaps the greatest difference between Sustainable and Fast Fashion brands. One of the main reasons why Fast Fashion is so cheap is because the clothing is mass produced in large factories, which means a greater quantity of garments is produced for minimal costs. Unlike Fast Fashion brands, many small Sustainable Fashion companies use a small scale production line or even made to order service. This method of manufacturing is less economically efficient for the business, however equates to less waste which benefits our planet. 


A pair of hands work at a sewing machine

Workers are Paid a Fair Wage

In contrast to Fast Fashion brands, Sustainable Fashion companies actually pay their workers a living wage. Researchers at the Clean Clothes Campaign exposed the true costs of a £22.70 oversized black t-shirt from Fast Fashion brand Zara’s Join Life Sustainability Line, where the workers were paid a mere 90p for assembling the garment in 30 minutes. Even in the brand’s sustainability line workers do not receive a living wage - in fact, only two of the world’s 250 largest Fast Fashion brands (OVS and Patagonia) disclose how many workers are paid a living wage. 

As Fast Fashion brands outsource their labour to large factories in the Global South, they are not subject to comply with trade unions and strict environmental regulations, whilst paying a significantly lower wage to their workers. 

At Y.O.U Underwear, we work with India's leading ethical and sustainable manufacturer to ensure the people making our undies are paid fairly and treated equally. That's the same reason we use Fairtrade cotton; Fairtrade ensures cotton farmers are paid a premium market rate.

Ethically Sourced Materials


A blue sign says 'no pesticides/chemical used for treatment'


Sustainable Fashion brands exclusively use ethically sourced materials for their products. For instance, at Y.O.U Underwear, we are proud to use Fairtrade and GOTS certified organic cotton for our undies! Unlike the cheaper, conventionally grown cotton used by many Fast Fashion brands, our organic cotton uses significantly less water and omits less pollution whilst also being better for your health! The higher price of Sustainable Fashion clothing takes this into account, meaning the clothes you decide to wear are not hurting our planet.

What can we do as Consumers?

Sustainable Fashion brands can be expensive however there are adjustments we can make as consumers to make our wardrobe as ethical as possible!


A hand picks out a shirt from a rail of beige, muted toned clothing


  • Boycott fast fashion brands - the affordability of Fast Fashion endorses an extremely wasteful mindset amongst some consumers who may view the clothing as disposable as suggested by the price tag!
  • Use the Good On You directory - implementing an ethical mindset on a highstreet budget is easily made possible with Good On You, which provides ratings for as many brands as possible. Brands are rated 1 (We Avoid) to 5 (Great) based on a number of factors, including the planet, people and animals; allowing us as consumers to favour more conscious and engaged high street brands.
  • Buy the best quality you can afford - this can include buying fewer, better quality items that will get you lots of wear. Why not purchase from Sustainable Fashion brand’s end of season sales? 
  • Opt for second hand alternatives - whether this includes buying second hand items from a charity shop or online store Thrift +, you are preventing these unwanted clothes from entering a landfill! 

We also discovered, that compared to some high street and luxury brands, supporting ethical brands isn't always more expensive! For example, our bralette costs £2 more than a similar one, but you support makers, communities and the planet. 

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Written by Isabella Richardson

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