Recently, Sabyasachi’s collection ‘Wanderlust’, in collaboration with H&M became the talk of the town and interestingly, it has not met everybody’s expectations. There is no particular side one can take when it comes to designing but why an ace designer of India like Sabyasachi’s collection was trolled, questioned, demeaned, and not appreciated. H&M has always been known as a Fast Fashion brand and Sabaysachi collaborating with them was to give exposure to our Indian artists and their arts. But did it work? In today’s world where we are trying to make Sustainability a part of our day-to-day life, Sabyasachi’s collection raised many questions and some of them are valid. One of the main questions was why the collection is so expensive? We know that Sabyasachi has been a luxury designer and the price range of this collaboration with H&M costs from Rs 799-10,000. But looking at the collection many raised issues such as how a simple looking saree or a cotton wide-legged trousers and the cotton utility shirt is costing so much.
Though sustainability in fashion and lifestyle is growing in popularity, not every customer has adapted to it. We can see the discussion, and the outrage of the people over the H&M collection made it more clear that not everybody can afford it. The basic rule of a market is where there is more demand there is more supply and in the case of sustainability, the market has small customer demand which witnesses a production of low quantity and a higher rate for the production.
1. Why is sustainable fashion so expensive?
Over the years fashion has targeted people’s insecurity by indirectly telling them to get on board with the trends or else they will miss out. The rate of buying has increased over the past 12 years and fast fashion is one of the reasons. Fast Fashion has made its way to people’s hearts and wardrobes as they make a cheap version of the latest luxury fashion collection with low-cost materials and that is what makes the price of the product low compared to the good quality product. Fast fashion taught consumers that a simple white t-shirt can cost 200 bucks and whereas a good quality brand’s t-shirt might cost 750 bucks. Now, any consumer will go for the lower-priced product and just not ask questions like from what material that 200 rs t-shirt has been made, or is it harming the environment and why the other brand’s t-shirt is more costly than this. As a consumer, it is our right to ask questions and take a stand on what we want. But as a consumer, it is our duty too to take care of the environment.
Comparing sustainable products with fast fashion products on price value is unfair. The base cost of a sustainable product is more because of the eco-friendly materials used in it and the fair payment of wages to the laborers. It is high time that the consumer should understand why the 200 rs t-shirt is costing so less than the other brand’s t-shirt which is costing 700 rs. A product of fast fashion falls apart after more than three washes and it ends up in garbage where it is harming our environment. On the other hand, a product of slow fashion withstands the test of time. For people unaware of the expense, sustainable products, and raw materials are costly. Natural fibers are more costly than polyester which is plastic. Plastic, as we are taught from school days, is harmful to everything natural. According to researchers, more than 85% of the land is filled with garments, and there might come a time when there won’t be any land left to dump. All thanks to Fast Fashion and its ways consumers are having a hard time adapting to sustainability as they have become used to buying new trendy products made with low-cost raw materials and cost.
2. Environment Friendly
The focus is to produce timeless, well-thought-out products that have been created without any kind of exploitation. The slow sustainable brand’s focus is also on the fair wage of the workers too with the quality of garments. On the contrary fast fashion brands have continually exploited the workers who create the products by not giving them fair pay. Sustainable brands are not just about saving the environment but it believes in promoting the worker’s wellbeing and giving them fair pay. Fast fashion’s low-cost products show the real picture of the payment of their workers. The low price of the product has kept many workers trapped in a cycle of poverty. There are too many workers involved in creating one garment like sewing, weaving, spinning, making, stitching, printing, selling the garment, etc. Now to pay all of them fairly, that one product will cost a little more. The goal is to give up buying 5 garments from a Fast Fashion brand and instead invest in one garment from a sustainable brand. With that one buy, we are discarding 5 pieces of Fast Fashion, helping our environment and the workers will get fair wages.
3. Speed and Seasonality in Production
The scale of production in sustainability is also a reason the products are more costly than fast fashion. High street brands are known for their speed and seasonality in their production, whereas slow fashion enjoys the slower pace of consumption, which results in a particular amount of products being created and an amount fixed a little higher than the Fast Fashion product. Fast Fashion places multiple products in the market to test what is selling and how many are selling at a time, which results in cutting wages from the workers and demanding them overtime by keeping them on short-term contracts. There is a motto set, and that is to undo the multiple productions by Fast Fashion brands but how will the Sustainable brands ask the consumers who now expect speedy production and low-cost products. The task is challenging but not impossible.
4. Sustainable Fashion is Here to Stay
Sustainability is no more a trend or a choice to be made by us. As a consumer, we need to take responsibility for our environment and start adapting to a sustainable lifestyle. Consumers need to be more aware and should buy wisely. Sustainable fashion is expensive because fast fashion has made the consumers believe that they can buy cheap quality products and discard them as soon as they are done with them. The Fashion experts need to come forward and educate the consumers and the consumers also need to open up to grasp and consume this knowledge and adapt it. Trends come and go with Fast Fashion, but Sustainable Fashion is here to stay for a long duration. Consumers do like unique and mindfully designed products and if they are being told the backstory of the brands and the workers and the artisans, things will change. After the pandemic, there is a change but there is a long way to go.
5. Collaborate with Artisans and their Crafts
Sustainable brands not only use eco-friendly raw materials and help the workers but also collaborate with artisans and their crafts. In India, there are so many arts and crafts from different states. Every state has its form of art and they are eco-friendly too. Research says some of the arts are 300-400 years old and the artisan’s livelihood depends on the sale of their arts. But they do not get the deserved credit. By collaborating with the artisan and their crafts, the art is getting proper exposure which it deserves and it is bolstering the communities whose livelihood depends on the craft. Another reason sustainable products are expensive is to promote these artist communities. Some of the brands give the artisans vocational training so that they can learn and earn and later on the brand hires them, which helps in the growth of the community.
6. Sustainable Brands
The Indian market is changing and the progress might be slow but GenZ consumers and the new brands with genuine mottos and eco-friendly ideas are helping to change the ways of Fast Fashion. A Pune-based brand named ‘Ka-Sha’s’ ‘Heart to Haat’ initiative aims at zero waste generation, while also recycling and up-cycling materials to create practical products. All their pieces are created with natural fabric and dyes by skilled artisans. Another brand ‘Doodlage’ by Kirti Tula, sources its raw material from factory waste and creates pieces with fair wage units or ethical spaces. They patch together tiny scraps of fabric to create texture and recycle them for stationery. The products are packed in 100% biodegradable plastics and the final layer of the packaging is reusable fabric totes made from any leftovers. Few beauty brands are also shifting to sustainable practices, ingredients, and packaging as well. Labels like
All these brands are known for their healthy and organic products that are grown and sourced responsibly.
Fashion professionals need to help the consumers understand and educate them about everything related to Sustainability – Why, What, When, Where, and How. To deepen the connection between sustainable brands and the consumer, let the world know the makers and the story behind them. Nowadays, social media is used by everyone and it is one of the best mediums to help consumers. Social media has a massive role to play when it comes to the process of overconsumption and influencer culture. But, now some of the influencers are trying to genuinely adopt and promote Sustainability via their content which in return is helping GenZ to create a new path for themselves. Sustainability is no longer about buying eco-friendly products but also reusing, recycling, and modifying the existing products. As a consumer, we need to start thinking of sustainability as a long term investment wherein future it will serve us and our needs. One can define and adopt sustainability on their terms, it doesn’t matter whether they are buying eco-friendly products, or DIY or buying from thrift stores or renting. And remember, as a consumer if you have any concerns, always ask questions because the brands should be willing and answerable to the consumers.