How To Change Consumer Mindset on Fast-Cheap Fashion Model

One interesting question that few ask is why is Amancio Ortega one of the wealthiest people in the world.  I mean we know who Bill Gates is and how he made his $$$ and we know who Warren Buffett and how he makes his money (through his Berkshire Hathaway fund).  But who is Amancio Ortego and how in the world did he get to be so rich.

Well he started a company called Inditex.  And it owns other companies most clothing stores.  But what kind of stores?  Mostly they are stores that sell fashion at very cheap prices. So how did a guy who owns a lot of stores that sell cheap clothes get to be so rich?   That’s a very interesting question.  And when you look closely, you can see plainly how he makes so much money.  Basically he sells a very cheap product at a very low price.  And because the product looks really REALLY good – they are VERY fashionable, most consumers think they are well-made, or even some consumers don’t care if they aren’t well-made – they just want the look, no matter the quality.

And we think that, WOW  this is a great look and I’ll be able to wear it for a lot of occasions and it will last for a lot of things.  The real facts are that these items costs around $20 each, and costs probably around $2 or so to make.  Doing some quick math….if one of the hundreds of stores has about 20 of one of these items and sells them, that’s $360 profit.  For 100 stores, that’s $36,000.  That’s just one of these garments.  That’s the profit margin for one of these garments.


Going further to ask, why does this cost so little to make up and how can the store make such a profit margin on something so cheap?  Of course there’s the cheap labor we all know about, and how they are relegated a certain amount of time to make a garment, so there’s the minimum quality there.   There’s also the quality of the materials used.  When “normal” fabrics are made of a certain numbers of fibers per yarn in a fabric, in cheap clothing, that’s reduced, making the fabric weaker, but cheaper.  That also includes the lack of quality in the threads, zippers, buttons, interfacing and any other notions used in the garment.

You can bet that the business bean-counters at the cheap/fast fashion industry’s financial departments have done research on just what the consumer will buy and how cheap can they go.  The cheaper and flimsier and less quality the item the less the manufacturer has to pay and the more money the retail industry can make.

But what happens if we turn this formula around?  What happens if we do research on just how much the consumer will pay for a “green” item.  A consumer goes to the store and sees an item that is tagged as using less natural resources or is recycled or other sustainable feature of the garment, and next to it is a regular fast/cheap fashion garment at it’s usual low price.  How much would the consumer pay over the fast/cheap fashion price?

If you saw this item at a store and the regular price was $7.99 but you saw right next to it was a green price and it was $?… much higher would you pay….20% ($9.50)…30% ($10.38)…40% $11.18).  As part of being a greener product, it might be made out of the same contents (cotton being the cheapest, but expensive in natural resources), but made so much better that it would last far longer, therefore requiring less cotton needing to be grown to replace the fast/cheap fashion version that would need replacing constantly.

Sewists are confronted with this all the time, and although the cost of making a tee-shirt out of high-quality fabric, runs about the same, maybe a little more than the item purchased at the fast/cheap fashion store, but the value is so remarkable, that the extra little cost, actually turns out to be far less than what it would cost to constantly replace the tee-shirt from the store.

How much more would you pay for a greener, quality item over the fast/cheap fashion version?

  1. Some cheapish clothes are well made, I’ve had some that lasted pretty well (and I wear my clothes in really heavy rotation), but I agree, at a certain high-street price the quality is usually shocking…

    To get something the same quality as I could make myself, and a greener and fairer product, I’d have to pay approx 3x the high street price.

    I’m happy to do this, as I don’t often buy clothes – I prefer to buy something quality, and wear it every week. I don’t care what my colleagues think when I wear the same 3 dresses, 3 skirts and 6 shirts all the time 😊. I think most people would be embarrassed to have such a limited wardrobe, which is why cheap clothes are sold on such quantities…

    • You are very fortunate to 1.) find clothes that are cheapish that last – unfortunately most don’t and 2.) understand the secret that many women in Europe understand about rotating their wardrobe to make it look like that have a lot of clothes, when they are very smart with how to rotate and use their garments to the maximum use!

  2. Quality everytime. Why spnd time, care and attention to make something or buy something that starts to fall apart. It is not just the abuse of labour and the cheapening od fabric, it adds to the mountain of waste. So I am retired and have to be careful with money but prefer to have less and work it hard. It is how I can make a difference.

    • The shocking thing that you will find, is that not only do you save money, but YOU will have more of what you want, use and will flatter your look, than those who buy their clothes at a higher price. It doesn’t make sense, but I’ve been living it for decades! It does when you calmly think about it (buying one garment that lasts a long time is so much cheaper than buying lots of garments and a little less, is way more expensive)!

  3. This issue is what returned me to “clothes sewing” world. I had made clothes when I was younger, but had spent many years making quilts, bags etc. Then I read “Overdressed: The High Cost of Fast Fashion”, and continued to read more on the subject. Now almost all of my clothes are all “me made” in simple styles that I love with fabrics that make me happy. My itsy-bitsy , teeny-tiny, personal statement . Perhaps we cannot all sew but we can make a choice to buy clothes that will last, that make you happy and that have a much lower footprint not only on natural resources, but on society as a whole.

    • Overdressed is great, but from the other end of the spectrum is Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott where she talks about her trip to Paris living with a French family and the lady of the house had a very well-edited small number of outfits and looked smashing all the time. The point is that you don’t need lots and lots and lots of clothes to look chic. And as I like to say, there’s a reason Amancio Ortega is one of the wealthiest people in the world. I haven’t got a problem with someone making a lot of money, but when it is by telling the consumer they are too stupid to make their own clothing; they are so stupid they don’t know what good or well-made clothing is; the customer is not supposed to be fit; clothing isn’t supposed to last; and finally that having too many clothes is normal – is not ethical and is like the drug dealer who keeps supplying the drug even though the dealer knows the product is not good for the customer.

      So: 1.) you’re not adding to the mountains of trash clothing, 2.) you are looking better in a well-edited wardrobe, 3.) you are fitted better than any RTW could possibly do and 4.) you are not promoting the fast/cheap fashion business model.

      Not bad!!!

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