This post is written by Grechen Cohen
Grechen Cohen is an online shopping addict who created a successful business around making online shopping easier & more fun for everyone. Grechen started with Grechen’s Closet in 2004, an online women’s shopping magazine, and branched out to include three more web-properties, including an eco-fashion & lifestyle blog, Green Grechen, dedicated to showcasing the best independent eco-designers and boutiques, as well as discussing the important issues surrounding conscious consumption: knowing everything you can about the products you buy and supporting ethical and environmentally friendly businesses.
The Cost of Eco-Fashion
The latest collections from eco-friendly designers prove how far eco-fashion has come; if you wanted to, you could fill your entire wardrobe ONLY with environmentally sustainable clothing, shoes & bags. And I’m not talking about boxy dresses and hemp rope sandals. Today’s eco-fashion is gorgeous recycled leather or “vegan” leather handbags, lovely canvas or recycled plastic sandals, and beautiful bamboo dresses (bamboo is a great material for dresses – it drapes wonderfully, is forgiving, and so soft to wear).
And eco-fashion now isn’t only about the alternative materials items are made from – it’s taking into consideration the whole picture. From the way the raw materials are grown and the people who harvest it, to the business practices of all the companies involved from beginning to final product (including the boutique that sells it), eco-fashion is about ethical consumerism. Money is power, and as consumers we can use that power to affect positive change and better lives all over the world.
But, if you’ve spent any time looking at some eco-friendly fashion, you’ve probably asked, “why does it cost so much?” Honestly, there’s no specific answer as to why it tends to cost more, but there are some characteristics of eco-fashion that make it so:
* It takes more time (3 years) and energy to convert a conventional cotton crop to an organic one
* NOT paying sweatshop labor prices costs designers much more. Designers who engage in fair trade practicesmake sure that every worker from the beginning to the end is paid fairly and works under suitable working conditions.
* Eco-fashion is still not as available as “conventional” fashion. There is significant demand for eco-friendly clothing, shoes & accessories, and until supply can catch up with it, and there are more competitors in the market, prices will remain higher.
* If you buy your eco-fashion from an independent designer or smaller boutique, you’re likely purchasing items made locally, in limited quantities, possibly handmade, and from companies who engage in ethical business practices. It’s the right way to do business, but it’s not always the cheapest
* Some companies, like EDUN, produce their clothing in developing countries as a way to drive sustainable employment and lift their citizens out of poverty. This can have significant costs up front, but the benefits are well worth it.
* I also believe that designers/retail stores have taken advantage of all the “green” hype the last several years and have basically charged whatever they wanted for their organic cotton/bamboo/hemp products. And we bought them! Now that consumers don’t have as much disposable income, it’s my opinion that prices will come down to a more realistic level, and then start lower than they did before.
So…what’s a girl to do? How can you make it easier on your wallet to support your environmental and ethical beliefs and be more eco-fashionable? I’ll tell you!!
* Even though I mentioned ethical consumerism before, being eco-fashionable isn’t all about consuming new items. Buying vintage/used is eco-friendly. As is swapping, making your own clothes, and shopping your closet: don’t forget about what you already have! Maybe you can alter it, or turn it into something you would wear more often.
* Although this may sound counter-intuitive, choose quality over quantity, and be willing to pay more up front. Choosing one more expensive, superior quality item that will last many years, over 10 items made to last only a few seasons is much more wallet-friendly AND environmentally-friendly!
* Shop online. I’m admittedly biased on this – I ONLY shop for clothing/bags/shoes online – but it’s nearly always cheaper…especially if you know where to look! Not only can save a little money by not paying sales tax (in some states), most online boutiques have free shipping now, and many offer exclusive discount codes. With a little searching, you can find all of the same designers sold in the clothing section at Whole Foods (like Under the Canopy) online, and for much less than retail price.