I don’t think this statement is usually something that is said or heard when
clothing is purchased. However, with the changing times, and with the new
demands for all things sustainable, social justice for workers, domestic production
and on demand production for smaller orders the cost to produce a garment will
increase. All these demands will and must be recognized by the manufacturer, the
retailer, and the end consumer. The consequences of the price increase will, with
time be recognized by the end consumer who needs to be educated about why
there is an increase in their price tag. Hopefully, consumers will begin to
appreciate the reason for these new demands and happily pay a realistic price for
the work that goes into the production of each article of clothing. Interestingly, all
these demands and changes were already in the works but have now been
accelerated due to the pandemic. I feel optimistic that the Millennials and Gen Z’s
who seem, for the most part to be more environmentally concerned will
understand these price increases.
So, why are these demands affecting the price tag?
~ Sustainable Demands Incorporate Many Things:
• Recycled fabrics and clothing that can be repurposed or resold as
used clothing. This of course takes more time to either repurpose
both clothing and fabric. Either they are shredded and respun and
woven, or clothing can be redesigned into new clothes for resale.
This means that the used or unsold clothing would be individually
restyled which is comparable to couture clothing as they are dealing
with different styles.
• Repurposing of fabric scraps, which are normally discarded into
landfills are now being used for other products such as rugs, or small
soft toys are a few solutions I have heard about. Or, shredding and
respun to be woven into new fabrics.
• Organic cotton and other organic fibers are also in big demand.
• The demand to use less water for denim production is now
incorporating laser and oxidization to give the denim the washed look. This saves valuable water and stops the pollution for rivers and
other water ways.
• The use of biodegradable dyes used for fibers, fabrics, garment, and
• No plastic use for wrapping and tags. The oceans are over full of
plastic and killing fish and other sea life.
• Domestic production to support U.S. workers and the economy.
~ Social Justice for Workers:
• Slave labor conditions, bad working conditions with few breaks, low
wages, long days six days a week to name a few. Workers’ rights are
also a demand and the implementation to improve workers’ rights
are necessary for factories to get the certifications they need in order
to sell into the US and other western countries. Sitting in diapers and
some stories of machinist chained to machines. Then the horrors of
devastating factory fires with no proper escape routes available for
the workers. These human rights changes had to be implemented,
which of course costs the owners money. The consequences of these
much-needed changes have and should increase the production costs
of apparel. California and to some degree NY state implemented
these changes in the early 1990’s. Manufacturers and contractors
must take a test and pay an annual fee in order for them to be
awarded the certificate to produce apparel. This has made it difficult
for domestic manufacturers to compete with the cheap labor
offshore. But hopefully “the times they are a changing!”
~ Domestic or Near Shore Production:
• To save on the pollution created with container shipments of goods.
• Supporting domestic manufacturing and the demand for this, plus it
is a good branding process. This I feel has been long overdue.
• California was at one time such a very vibrant apparel manufacturing
center. Unfortunately, due to the lack of investment in our domestic
infrastructure and the demand for cheap clothing most clothing
production went offshore. This is very tragic, and I truly hope it can
be turned around before it is too late. But this means a BIG
investment in planning and restructuring the infrastructure. Old buildings with out-of-date elevators, allies behind the factories for
loading and unloading are too narrow for today’s trucks.
• One good example of what can be achieved domestically is Los
Angeles Apparel that is owned and operated by Dov Charney, who
originally owned American Apparel. He has worked with a very
thoughtful and innovating consultant Marty Bailey who has the
workers wellbeing and their social justice very much in his plans. He
implemented modular, or team manufacturing, which is such a
brilliant move. A team of four to six workers work together to sew
their garments. Rather than sitting all day sewing one part of the
garment teams work together to create one garment and these
teams are rewarded on their work they turn out and are paid rather
than on piece work they are rewarded on their efficiency of garments
made. They even stamp a picture of the person who sewed the t-
shirt into the back of the garment.
~ On Demand for Smaller Orders or Even Individual Orders:
• On demand is also about sustainability and all the very exciting
developments for sustainability. Each garment can be made
specifically for each customer’s body type based on their own
measurements. The body is scanned, and the patterns adjusted to
the customers body type.
• Tech companies such as Tukatech & Gerber have amazing technology
to scan a body and make the necessary changes to the pattern to fit
each customer’s individual size, or even make styling changes.
• These new developments for on demand really save on sampling and
over production that typically would end up in a landfill.
All of the above points if implemented can really help with all aspects of producing sustainable clothing. Saving on the over production of clothing is much
needed, as I noted above that all too often unfortunately end up in the over full
However, in order for a company to implement all, or some of these changes it
will take good planning and a budget to incorporate these changes. It will also
require larger companies to adjust their minimum orders downwards as buyers
are being far more cautiously and buying smaller quantities more often. For the smaller companies who tend to be nimbler these changes could be implemented
more easily. But the result for these needed changes will be that the cost of
clothing will undoubtedly need to increase. The end consumer will need to
understand these changes and respect the amount of work that goes into
producing fabrics and creating garments.