Our clothes are as affordable as they can (& should) be, because we don’t mark them up to traditional retail prices. We’d never want to price people out of making a difference, that's why A.BCH is so much more than a place to buy new clothes. Image by Courtney Holm.
I've heard many times over that eco friendly fashion and locally made clothing was inaccessible (pricing-wise) for a lot of people. Now, I need to preface this article by stating the uncomfortable truth that just because some clothes are cheap as chips and fast fashion would have you BELIEVE that a garment has been "democratised" to "affordable" pricing, does not mean that those clothes are an accurate representation of the true cost (environmental, human and economical) of clothing.
When clothing prices are constantly a race to the bottom, you can be sure that someone else further down the supply chain is paying the price - personally. Not only that, clothes are getting crappier because of it. Despite the price tag we see, this isn't a good deal for us as consumers and it's not a good deal for the garment workers who are pressurised to make clothes faster and for less. There is a huge disparity between what it costs to make something the fair way and what consumers think something should cost them. This false sense of the right or affordable price for clothing has resulted often in ethical fashion being labelled elitist and non-inclusive. I want to make it clear that I believe all people should be able to participate in ethical fashion. This is not about excluding people who can't afford a locally made dress. There are more ways to participate in this movement than you might realise, you can check out our article Build a Sustainable Wardrobe as an example. A recalibration is required, however, to understand what something should cost, how long it should last and what support systems exist for consumers to help keep it in use.
I know that lot of people care about fashion supply chain issues and are aware that exploitative and slave labour is rampant in the 21st century. But it seems, only to a certain (price) point. There is work for each of us as individuals to do to make changes within ourselves, our habits, battling the constant bombarding of marketing and advertisements that tell us to buy more. We do need to learn how to be happier with less stuff and how to make the things we do buy, last for as long as possible. Though this is not the fault of the consumer. We primarily need big businesses who profit grotesquely from their cheaply sold clothes to overhaul their systems, behaviours and prices. But know this - they will carry on as they always have, unless their customers demand better. So we all have our work cut out.
When we conceived the idea for A.BCH back in 2016, we wanted to do everything we could to make buying sustainable fashion as simple and affordable as is ethically possible. Affordable is a tricky word. Some people tell us our clothes are so much cheaper than they would have expected while others tell us they are far too expensive. To remove the emotion and circumstance, we've calibrated our prices based off what it actually costs us to make things right, paying living wages to our garment workers and working with renewable materials to help protect our planet. It's nothing other than what it should be. There are no unnecessary markups and we maintain our prices around 50% below a standard retail markup.
We also add value to our customers for the life our our garments by offering free repairs, additional care support and a way to recycle or compost each piece at the end of its life. In 2021, we launched our first Perfectly Imperfect sale. Here, un-worn but mildly blemished garments (think tiny marks or a discreetly mended hole) can be sold closer to cost price to people in our community. For those that might not be able to afford us still, we want to ensure they aren't excluded from the conversation. So we make tonnes of resources available for free on our site. We also run affordable or free workshops and write articles to address other equally, if not better ways, to wear your values.
So let's talk about the markups. Typically, what it costs to make a garment is multiplied x 2 in order to determine the wholesale markup price. From here, the wholesale price is marked up again to make it feasible for retailing by multiplying x 2 again. Then add on the transaction fees, shipping, packaging, included marketing materials and taxes. This is the minimum markup that you'll encounter. Sometimes the retail markup is even greater, like seven times or more. Yikes. It doesn't take a maths wizard either, to start working backwards to understand what some of the so-called affordable clothing is actually costing to make. $7 t-shirts and $29 jeans are starting to look a lot less like democratisation and more like exploitation, while mega luxury brands are starting to look like they're mocking us all.
I know this is over-simplified and we can't compare multi-billion dollar fast fashion brands propping up billionaire shareholders to artisans and small businesses. But even for small, local labels, there are lots of business expenses to cover besides the cost of making the product and the raw materials. There are overheads like rent, electricity, labour (which is a lot higher if you are choosing to manufacture locally), paying the website gal, paying your staff – should you be so lucky to have them, taxes etc. This is why the markup exists. Businesses need to have it or else they wouldn't be businesses at all. I guess it all comes back to why people start businesses in the first place and what their values are. If the sole purpose of the business is to make profit, things are bound to get complicated along the way and sustainability or social initiatives might fall a little flat. While I do believe in businesses profiting for purpose, I also believe in the order of making it. First people, then planet, then profit, and that profit gets invested back into doing the good work you started with.
Which takes me back to the markup. We've been adamant from the start, that A.BCH would not markup more than it had to in order to do things right, and follow our values. We've done everything we can to make sustainable options more attainable to more people, from education, to paying in instalments, to working out cost per wear and after purchase support. While our costs of manufacturing in Australia and organic raw materials are higher than the average Jane's (and we're actually proud of that too) we don't follow the traditional model for marking up prices and we only add what we is needed for us to be sustainable. It's one way we can give the power back to you, so you can consider every purchase with all the information at your fingertips, choose better, wear your values and only spend what it should cost.
Finally, end of season discounting and sales are unnecessary for our products because they're already the fair price. I'll do a whole seperate post on discounts and fast fashion another day. Let's just say, discount "culture" has messed with our heads and expectation of how much things are worth. You can buy A.BCH for what it's worth and what is fair, now, tomorrow and next season too.
Got more questions? Want to know more? Join our community here.