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Why ethical fashion can’t compete with fast fashion on price

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By Courtney Sturniolo

We all have to make a choice.

Do you want the $50 pants or the $85 pants?

Would it change your answer to know the $85 pants were made in the US, and the $50 pants were made somewhere else? Sixty-seven percent of people would still buy the $50 pants, but they were asked the wrong question.

The real question is, why are the pants only $50? Why did US garment manufacturers reduce their workforce by 75% at the same time worldwide garment manufacturing jobs doubled? Why are US apparel factories sitting empty if we buy 60% more clothing than we did 20 years ago? 

The answer is offshoring. For fast fashion companies to put out new designs every week – and cheaply enough for you to buy them – they had to make them faster and cheaper. That meant outsourcing to low-cost countries with lower environmental and regulatory costs.

It’s easy to make a profit when you don’t pay your workers.

In 2017, after a factory owner who supplied Zara, Mango and Next refused to pay his workers. Zara sold those clothes on their shelves at a profit. While the company publically announced that it would repay the employees, as of two years later, the 140 factory workers had only received a partial payment – despite media attention to the matter and $5 billion in annual profit.  

Safety is an investment.

Operating a factory in accordance with strict safety regulations is expensive, and many fast fashion companies don’t think it’s worth it. Sure, a lot of people have heard about the Bangladesh factory fire that killed 120 people in 2012. In a Bangladesh garment factory collapse in 2013, 1,134 people died and another 2,500 were injured.

One could fairly assume worker conditions have changed since then. After all, the bad press led the European brands to set up the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, intending to fundamentally change safety practices and labor conditions. Six years later, 1,400 of 1,600 Bangladesh garment factories failed international safety inspections. Nothing has changed.

Ethical fashion FTW.

Make no mistake: this is not an ad for “made in America”. This is about humane working conditions, which can be found outside the US, but often are not adequately considered when the goal is low-cost manufacturing.

Sugopetite dresses, in fact, are produced by an ethical, reliable manufacturer in Guatemala. Susan got her start in the industry there and has known her manufacturing partners for years. She has personally witnessed their commitment to safe, fair working conditions.

Safe and humane working conditions come at a cost. At Sugopetite, we believe ethical fashion is worth the investment. We want you to feel as good about your dress as you feel in it! We hope you believe in us and our values, so we can continue bringing you ethical fashion in petite sizes.

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