That $20 Top Is More Expensive Than You Think

Sustainable fashion has this perception of being "too expensive" but if we break down the true cost of the garment, it is actually more expensive to buy from a fast fashion brand.

How? Well let me break it down for you. If you purchase a shirt for $20, the materials to make that shirt are a lot cheaper to manufacture. As well as the labour to construct the shirt. Big organisations are continuously crunching down the numbers, making garments as profitable as possible.  

On top of using cheap materials and unfair wages, the environmental impact of this shirt is dramatically more. As the fast fashion industry is known for having a large carbon footprint. Using less reusable resources and polluting the environment throughout the manufacturing process.

(📸 by Monash University)

(📸 by One Green Planet)

This is most commonly because that shirt is made through a cheap process, the longevity and lifespan of the garment is dramatically reduced. Therefore, you will need to replace the garment more regularly. After a few more rotations of this process, that $20 shirt ends up costing you the equivalent of a $100 shirt from a sustainable fashion brand.

However, there is hope for these big organisations to make a change to their production process. Last week the New York Times reported the introduction of a state bill called the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (or Fashion Act), that (if passed) will require fashion brands with over $100 million of annual revenue to document their production process, therefore being more transparent to the public about where their clothes are coming from.

(📸 by New York Times)


So, before you go to grab a sale, these are things you should consider:

  • If this shirt looks super similar to a high-end brand, why is it cheaper?
  • Does the fabric feel different to a sustainable brand?
  • If the shirt is on sale for $20, how much are the factory workers paid to make it?
  • What happens to these shirts if they don't sell?
  • How much water is used to create this shirt?
  • What is the impact on the environment to dye this shirt?
  • How durable is this shirt, will I be back in six months to buy another one?
  • Am I buying this shirt because it is a trend, or does it match my style?

Although the products may look similar as you scroll through an online store or browse in a boutique, the story of how that garment got there and the life after purchase is very different. So, when you see the price-tag on your next purchase, think about the true cost it has for our planet.

(📸 by Frankie Collective Instagram page)