Why Does Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Cost So Much More?

ethicalfashion fromfound slowfashion sustainablefashion

“Why are your clothes so expensive?”

This is not an uncomfortable question for us.
In a world dominated by fast fashion, it is one many ethical fashion brands have to answer. Here are three reasons why ethical fashion costs more, and many more reasons why a From Found piece is worth every cent. 

1. Fair Wages and Conditions

80% of From Found’s monthly costs are spent on wages, investing in the women who make each piece from start to finish. This is a huge contrast to recent research that shows on average only 2-4% of the price of a piece of clothing sold in Australia, goes toward workers’ wages. Not enough even to provide a living wage.
Since September 2017, From Found has enjoyed free lease of a workshop space through the Renew Adelaide initiative. This may change soon, but until then our expenses are distributed between the following:
 From Found pays award rates, gives breaks, has a workshop with plenty of light and airflow, and we share laughs and build community together- like any healthy workplace. Furthermore, our workplace provides a nurturing and educational environment for women from refugee backgrounds to be involved in meaningful work, build further skills and techniques and increase their confidence and language skills.
Every time a customer buys a From Found piece, they are investing into another person’s life. 

2. Fabrics and Waste

We proudly use donated reclaimed and re-purposed fabrics. It may be surprising for some to learn however, that it actually costs a lot of money in time (wages) to use these fabrics. Using ‘found’ fabrics requires sorting, pre-washing, searching meticulously for wear and tear, stains, fade marks or anything that these pieces with history have to tell, before we can even begin to place patterns, trace off and cut out. Because of this process, each piece has to be traced off and cut out individually, and with up to 20 pieces in a single design- the maths adds up.
In big factories, brands order giant rolls of fabric that can be rolled out in layers upon layers, and have patterns traced and cut in bulk with machines (see example of this here), which is more time efficient, but can generate a lot of unnecessary waste that goes to landfill. 
In an effort to reduce waste in From Found's production even further, cut-offs are sorted into different piles depending on their size; small fabric is used for sleeves, while even smaller pieces are made into accessories. We think the time investment is worth it, to divert these perfectly lovely fabrics from landfill and give them new life, but it is a lot harder than ordering new rolls.
 

3. Lower Volumes- Economies of Scale

Each From Found piece is an artisan piece; the only one of its kind ever made (we’ve taken a video of our production process here). Ethical brands spend more on the design and development phase of each of their pieces compared to big brands, however this is for good reason.
It is estimated that the world creates 40 billion square meters of leftover textiles per year, which Reverse Resources states would almost be enough to cover the entire republic of Estonia. 
Economies of scale means mass production is done more cheaply, with thousands of exactly the same garment being made for one brand and sent across the world. Big fast fashion brands bulk order thousands of metres of  low quality fabric at very cheap rates and then discard excess rather than purchase to their exact need. This not only generates incredible amounts of waste, but leads to overproduction, dumping of unsold goods and deadstock, and an excess of badly made clothing for consumers who then throw them out after very few wears per garment. 
When producing small amounts of clothing using reclaimed fabrics, the cost in time to get designs ready for production, including research, designing, pattern making and fitting, is higher per piece. We want to make sure our designs sit right and suit multiple shapes and sizes, and that may take 3-4 trials with a pattern to get it right and ready for production. But with fewer pieces given more time, comes a quality of work-womanship that means the piece will last longer.
At From Found, we are passionate about providing a larger size range than most ethical brands, because we want more people to be able to buy ethical fashion- but more sizes means more work patterning, fitting and grading.
Making our pieces individually in a small workshop not only gives our customers unique clothing, it further allows our machinists to up-skill in sewing techniques across the whole production process, rather than repeating a process over and over (eg sewing zip after zip) as happens in big factories. This extreme repetition of tasks also contributes to significant health issues for workers across the entire production line 

So, why does a From Found piece cost what it does? 

We hope we’ve answered this a little more for our customers, but if you want to know more about why ethical fashion boasts a higher price tag, there are many articles available now to answer this question generally. Find out how fast fashion has artificially driven down the value of clothing since the 1980’s, read the cost analysis of a $5 t-shirt or discover some of the environmental impacts perpetuated by fast fashion all in pursuit of cheapness.
 
Team FF xx
Pssst. We want more people to have the opportunity to try our clothing, so go ahead and use our promotional code FESTIVAL30 for a limited time, to get 30% off!


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