By the Protect the ocean save the planet shirt besides I will buy this time you’ve worn it 50 times, it’s under $4. If you intend to keep it for years, as you should, that number would come down to pennies. Suddenly it’s a bargain. Longevity and quality are Ryan Roche’s bread and butter too, and they’re best exemplified by her cashmere sweaters handmade in Nepal. “We always try to tell the story of our brand, and from the beginning, the first thing that ever came out of my mouth was about the materials, where our clothes are made, and who had their hands on it,” she says. “When you purchase our sweater, we want [you] to have it forever. The price is not going to be the same as somewhere else, because it really will last a lifetime. The key is to communicate that [to the customer], so people see why the sweater is $800, and why you’d rather buy that than the $89 sweater with a questionable path.” Roche says her factory partners in Nepal are “like family,” and that she hasn’t found anyone anywhere who can match their skill and quality. But some customers may not realize that “made in Nepal” is just as virtuous as “made in Italy.” The Western tendency to value European and American production over Chinese or South Asian is another problem entirely, but Roche is dedicated to making it clear. “I don’t think people realize that in Nepal, the knitters use hand looms, and literally every row of our sweaters is made by hand,” she adds. “It’s a very special product that comes out of there.” Her business model looks a lot like what the industry has preached as a sustainable path forward: small scale, with timeless designs, fewer collections, quality materials, and fair labor. It’s the very opposite of fast fashion and, more broadly, the notion that clothes exist purely to convey status or adhere to trends. Roche doesn’t design clothes that are highly identifiable or even of-the-moment; as she puts it, they’re meant to “sit in a woman’s wardrobe and treat her right.” It’s fair to assume that while many of her customers simply appreciate the product, most of them also care about Roche’s values and mission. They aren’t interested in just accumulating more stuff. Those customers also understand the importance of supporting modest businesses instead of massive corporations—and that “shopping small” comes at a higher cost. Scale is the other elephant in the room: Typically, the more units of a garment you produce, the lower the price per unit gets. That isn’t an explanation for dirt-cheap clothes because labor should be a steady cost, but sewers may be able to work a bit faster as a result of repetition.
Protect the ocean save the planet shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
The price of fabric changes at scale too. If Stanley, Roche, and Romy could triple the Protect the ocean save the planet shirt besides I will buy this size of their businesses, perhaps their prices would come down a little, but that isn’t their goal. The larger a company gets, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of the supply chain; we all remember how certain well-known brands didn’t even know their clothes were being produced in the collapsed Rana Plaza factory. Understanding scale also explains why a higher price doesn’t always equate to better fabrics and fair labor. A polyester dress might retail for $400 because the label produced it in small quantities and paid its workers—but it’s still polyester, and you shouldn’t waste $400 on something so environmentally damaging. Or maybe the brand made it in huge quantities and used cheap labor, but hiked the price to convince you it’s an elevated product. There’s always going to be confusion when it comes to price, and some brands are always going to value “brand equity” over their workforces. The only way you’ll really know if a price is worth your hard-earned cash is by digging deeper and demanding transparency from the brands you support. On the luxury side, designers and retailers are actively discussing how to become open and honest about price and quality. By explaining the origin of their fabrics, how their clothes are made, and who makes them, the hope is that customers will shop more confidently and will be motivated to invest in the story, not just the product or trend. In theory, that concept of mindful consumption could eventually trickle down to the high street. It isn’t going to fix climate change or fashion’s murky supply chain, but it’s the best way we can begin to make a difference—and by “we,” I mean those of us in the privileged position of having money to spend and the headspace to refine our shopping habits. The common rebuttal to the “fewer, better” approach is that some people can’t afford to pay more for clothes, and that’s absolutely true. But lower-income shoppers aren’t the ones creating the mess; they aren’t buying a new dress every week and then throwing it out. The people abusing the system are the ones who could afford to buy fewer, higher-quality items, and it’s our responsibility to use our power and influence to raise the bar for everyone else.