The $3 T-Shirt

Everyone loves a bargain, and I can personally attest to the near-euphoria a fashion bargain can illicit. But do we ever stop and ask ourselves, “Why is this t-shirt so cheap?” On the heels of Fashion Revolution Week, and the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh where over 1,000 garment workers died, let’s take a moment to find out.

Often referred to as “fast fashion,” the garment industry has evolved into a competitive marketplace centered around bulk manufacturing, requiring hyperspeed production at ultra-low costs. Trends are no longer designed to last for a season, but rather for just a few days or weeks. This intentionally drives the demand for the newest trend, requiring more garment production, and therein lies the vicious cycle. The results of this system are much greater than the ability to produce a cheap t-shirt:

  • Fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry, runner-up only to oil and gas
  • The fashion industry will take up 25% of the globe’s carbon footprint by 2050
  • 150 billion new pieces of clothing are produced every year
  • Only 10% of clothes donated to thrift stores get re-sold, the remaining go to landfill
  • Slave labor and abhorrent working conditions are commonplace to drive down production costs

So the next time we walk into a store, and that $3 t-shirt is displayed front-and-center, let’s consider our options. Let’s ask #whomademyclothes? Let’s ask ourselves if we truly need it. Let’s use our purchasing power as a vehicle to create positive change, by supporting “slow fashion” brands that operate in more socially- and environmentally-responsible ways. Let’s disrupt the system that is not working for our global community. Let’s save $3 and so much more.

Meg Masten is the Chief Relationship Officer at CoPeace. As a forward-thinking holding company, CoPeace is building a portfolio of carefully selected for-profit companies with measurable social and environmental impact. To learn more about impact investing, check out CoPeace’s Intro to Impact Investing.