We occasionally receive emails, calls , messages from people who are confused, concerned, dismayed, and even irritated about the cost of organic and natural clothing. This is a touchy point that often comes up in the organic industry – clothing and also vegetables, fruit, skin care, and everything that can bear an organic label. We beyond doubt do understand people’s concern and irritation at the perceived high cost of some organic and natural clothing.
Like most new and emerging industries, small companies and “mom & pop” stores are working hard to build the organic and sustainable clothing market. Small companies lack the size and buying muscle to achieve economies of scale that drive prices lower. But the organic and sustainable clothing industry is about more than achieving “always low prices”; it is also about ethics and sustainability and doing what is right for workers, consumers and the planet.
But all the fuzzy feel good issues aside, how can many conventional cotton brands charge only Rs.250 for a conventionally-grown, manufactured and hand-sewn men’s cotton tee while DUSG? charges Rs.790? The reasons are many, complex, and vary according to a large shopping bag of factors. We have jotted a few points which we feel are the most common and significant factors that affect the price of organic clothing. These are not in any particular order.
1.Organic cotton is more expensive to grow than conventional, chemically drenched and unsustainable cotton. At first blush, you might think that organic should be less expensive to grow because organic doesn’t use expensive GMO seeds, expensive petroleum-based fertilizers, or expensive toxic herbicides and pesticides like conventionally grown crops and cottons. But organically grown crops still must contend with weeds and fight devouring insects and this all costs money … actually more money than conventional chemical methods which is why conventional methods use all those toxic and deadly chemicals.
2.Organic cotton is more expensive to harvest. To reduce harvesting costs and improve cotton yields, conventional cotton harvesting uses a variety of harvest-aids such as spraying cotton fields with chemicals like thidiazuron to defoliate cotton plants by removing mature and juvenile leaves to facilitate machine harvesting, suppress growth of new plant leaves, desiccants containing pyraflufen ethyl, carfentrazon, dimethipin, paraquat, and glyphosate to kill and dry leaves remaining on the cotton plants and weeds after chemical defoliation, and chemicals containing the active ingredient ethephon to accelerate the opening of the cotton bolls. Organic cotton harvesting is done without the use of these chemical harvest-aids and is more labor intensive resulting in higher harvest costs.
3.Organic fabrics are more expensive to manufacture. Because of the relatively small quantities of cotton involved, it is more expensive to gin, clean and manufacture organic cotton fabric. Almost all organic cotton fabric is manufactured in facilities that also process and manufacture conventional cotton fabrics from conventionally grown chemical cotton. But, before the organic cotton can be processed in these facilities, all the cotton gins and weaving and knitting machines must be cleaned of all residues from the processing of the conventional cotton. Of course, the facility owners add the additional costs for this cleaning and equipment downtime to the production costs for the organic fabrics. This all contributes to driving up the costs for producing organic cotton fabrics.
4.Organic garments are more expensive to manufacture for many reasons. Some of them relate to the relatively small size of the organic clothing market and the need to frequently share manufacturing facilities with conventional clothing. Like the manufacturing process, all sewing machines and work areas must be cleaned of conventional garments and contaminants before being used for sewing organic garments.
But there is another more significant factor why much conventional clothing is so inexpensive – cheap labor that often borders near being sweatshop or indentured. Basically, most large clothing retailers contract with many dozens of clothing manufacturing facilities scattered in developing countries around the world. Many of these facilities exploit the poorest and most desperate workers and pay pennies a day to workers who sew long hours under appalling conditions to make those cheap, inexpensive shirts, pants and undergarments that fill the large, mega stores in our home towns and shopping malls.
5.Organic garments are more expensive to ship to distributors, retailers and customer. This isn’t because they are organic, but because the market size is so much smaller.
6.Organic clothing retailers find it more expensive to advertise and market. The huge retail chains can use their enormous marketing budgets and muscle to get the most cost-effective advertising. This, also, is really a small store vs. enormous chain store issue but it figures into the perception of organic clothing being more expensive than conventional clothing.
Although we have frequently mentioned cotton, the same factors are generally also true for other natural fibers such as hemp, bamboo, wool, soya, corn and the growing number of other natural fibers being used to manufacture natural and healthy fabrics.
An inconvenient truth is that organic and all-natural clothing will always be more expensive than conventional, chemical clothing. The good news is that the price gap will continue to shrink as the market size of organic clothing grows and the economies of scale improve. Doing what is right is not always easy … or cheap, sometimes.
Don’t worry. No one is growing fat or wealthy from selling organic and all natural clothing. We all wish that everyone could easily afford all the organic, sustainable and healthy clothing that they need and we are working toward that end. But it will only happen by all us working together and supporting each other.
We do hope you enjoy this article ……… We look forward to your comments & queries if any…..
Shopping with the best …..http://www.douspeakgreen.in