The True Cost of Fashion

Model wearing white linen blazer and cream slip skirt posing by the beach.

Why is ethical/sustainable fashion more expensive? 

As consumers, we’re accustomed to low pricing but the lowest price is rarely an ethical price. In order to answer this question, we have to ask, “why is fast fashion so cheap?” For example, if a fast fashion brand sells a cotton T-shirt for a retail price of $10, the cost price of the T-shirt is only $2.50, assuming a standard 4x mark-up. 

This doesn’t add up because if the T-shirt takes one hour to cut and sew, the garment worker would need to be paid at least $20 according to the minimum wage in Australia. This tells us that somewhere along the supply chain, someone is being underpaid or exploited, most likely the person picking the cotton or sewing the garment. Labour rights abuses and slavery are not unheard of in the global fashion supply chain. Apparel is one of the top products at risk of being produced by forced labour¹ and up to 100% of garment workers in Bangladesh do not earn a living wage.²

A fashion brand can also reduce their cost price by increasing order quantities. By purchasing materials in bulk and producing garments in large quantities, a business can reduce their costs and lower their retail price. However, to achieve a significant reduction in cost, they would need to order tens of thousands of units or more. Overproduction and excess stock is a pervasive issue in the fashion industry. Read more about Fast vs. Slow Fashion.

At Petite Femme, we choose to engage in ethical labour and manufacture in small quantities so that we only produce what is needed. This means our prices are higher than traditional fast fashion but we believe that a garment worker's livelihood is not negotiable. We invite you to join us on a journey towards a more responsible industry. Read more about Our Manufacturers



  1. Global Slavery Index 
  2. Oxfam Australia