What is the Big Deal with Upcycled Fashion and Why Can It Cost More?
Posted on August 23 2018
Why Does Upcycled Clothing Cost More Than Fast Fashion?
It’s a fair question, “Why does upcycled clothing cost more? Aren’t the materials cheap?” While it may be true that repurposed fabric can be inexpensive, more time and individual care goes into each article.
To understand this you need to first understand why clothing has gotten so inexpensive. The term fast fashion is used to describe trendy clothing that is very affordable; think Forever 21, H&M and others. The main reason that this clothing is so inexpensive rests mostly with efficiency. Huge bolts a fabric are created in the least environmentally or ethically conscious way and then cut and sewn in the most efficient possible manner. Unfortunately this process does not consider the environment or the workers involved.
Creating an Upcycled Garment
Before a designer does anything else, they must find and care for their materials. How and where a designer sources their materials can add time and requires specific creativity for each piece. Once the garments are curated, each garment must be carefully checked for damage and stains, washed, and repaired. This isn’t a process that can be done by machine. Any upcycled garment you purchase has carefully curated and cared for by hand before any patterns are cut, or any seams are sewn.
For traditional designers, the process begins with a sketch of their design. They decide what colors they want, what fabrics they’ll use, then draft a pattern for the garment. When it comes to upcycling, you can’t truly begin designing a garment until after you’ve seen the raw materials and fabric you’ll be converting.
Say the designer finds a material they love, but it’s in an XS shirt. By the time they’ve cut it down, they’ll be lucky to get a hair bow out of it. Most upcycled garments can’t be made from just one source material - there just isn’t enough fabric. Sometimes, it takes the fabric from 4 - 5 different sources just to create one upcycled piece. Even if the designer is sourcing materials from an affordable source, the cost of raw materials can be high.
The Sewing Process Behind the Upcycled Clothing
Once the designer has found the perfect materials, they’ve been cleaned and repaired, it’s time to create a unique pattern based on the lines of the items they’ve chosen. When you buy a shirt at the mall, there are 6 identical shirts available in each of 4-5 sizes. With upcycling, the designer doesn’t often have the luxury of reusing the same pattern with multiple garments - it just won’t fit the fabric. As a result, most upcycled items end up being one-of-a-kind.
What Are You Paying For Your Upcycled Product?
Not only are you paying for carefully selected materials, you’re paying for the care of those materials, unique designs, hand-crafted garments, and the labor of the person (or people) who worked on your garment. If you were paying for all that in a store at the mall, you’d probably be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for each garment. And, your purchase wouldn’t be contributing to the good of the planet, either.
The Question You Should Really Be Asking
Instead of asking why upcycled clothing has a higher price tag, the question you should really be asking is, “How are stores producing new fashion so cheaply?” Often, the answer is as close as your nearest garment tag. Who made it? How was it made? What were their working conditions?
At Filosano, we carefully research our featured producers, and work solely with crafters who use sustainably-sourced components to create their pieces. We provide a unique shopping experience that builds community around shared ideas, and supports artisans and local economies. We understand that knowing the backstory behind the clothing you purchase is very important to you, we are thrilled to be part of the conversation.
Wonder if Eco-fashion is regulated or not? Here's a helpful resource Is Eco Fashion Regulated?