Many will think that paying less is more economical.
It depends on how we perceive the value of what we buy. It's true that buying a new sweater for $3.50 means I have more in my bank account than if I'd bought a $40 sweater.
However, the durability of this sweater must be taken into account. Is my $3.50 sweater of good quality and will it survive a reasonable period of use? At a time when many people favor disposable fashion, we doubt it.
But aside from our own wallets, what about the real cost of a $3.50 sweater? We agree that it would be a monk's job for us to calculate the real value of this sweater. We'll explain!
What can be calculated
When calculating the real cost of a cotton sweater, we take into account :
- the cost of the seed
- the cost of "renting" arable land
- water used
- pesticides used
- processing into fiber
- processing into fabric
- processing into clothing
- energy used for transport and processing
- cost of dyes
- warehousing costs
- point-of-sale costs
- the multiple machines used for harvesting and processing
- the various modes of transport used
- the cost of one or more human resources associated with each of the above costs (at least 15 people, and that's a minimum!
Your costs :
- Purchase price
- Your transport or delivery costs
- Maintenance costs (machine, soap, energy...).
We can also include the time it takes to purchase, manage and maintain it.
So far, we're talking about costs that are relatively easy to calculate, and already, it's easy to doubt that a sweater can cost that much.
But what are the hidden costs of such a sweater?
There are two major categories of costs attributable to the production of a sweater that are difficult or impossible to calculate. Here, we're talking about social costs and environmental costs that are difficult to quantify.
"The True Cost" (2015) is a report that gives a complete perspective on the fashion industry. In particular, it discusses how this industry abuses human rights and the environment. It clearly shows that the costs to be paid are grandiose from a human and ecological point of view.
Here's the trailer for the film (you can rent or buy it by clicking here). We'd be tempted to say: "Sensitive hearts please", but no, open your eyes and ears wide!
In summary, the documentary sets out the following elements:
- Just behind the oil industry, fashion is now the second most polluting industry in the world.
- It is estimated that only 3% of clothing sold in North America is made locally, whereas in 1960, the figure was 95%.
- Fast fashion" is emerging. We consume and throw away clothes faster: It is estimated that we buy 40% more clothes than we did 20 years ago, and that the American citizen throws away 82 pounds of clothing per year.
- Non-organic cotton and dyes seriously damage the environment and workers' health.
- With one person in 6 working (40 million workers) in the clothing industry, it is the most labor-intensive industry in the world. Particularly underqualified workers.
- As we saw in the collapse of the Rana Plaza, workers face horrendous working conditions and pay dearly in terms of their family and social life, their health and sometimes even their lives.
Also, you may be surprised to learn that the clothing industry is the only one whose product prices have fallen over the last 20 years, while all other products have risen. We'd just like to give you a little reminder... the one we sometimes forget. We have a choice whether or not to join this industry as it is defined. The power of the consumer is so great that if we stop buying these clothes, the clothing industry will have to reposition itself and they will disappear from the market.