The Ladybug on the cost of handmade fashion

When I discuss sustainable fashion and present handmade fashion as a good alternative to make our closet as much sustainable as possible, I am often said that handmade fashion is expensive.

In my opinion the real point is that many things are expensive, but not all of them are worthy. Let me explain this in a different way: luxury fashion is expensive but is it really always worth it? Is it always a guarantee of quality and production transparency? Is it always correct and justifiable?

Not everything that is expensive has an expensive production cost; sometimes a product is expensive because the same fact that it has a high price makes it more covetable and desirable. I am not saying that luxury fashion brands prices are never justified, not at all. Many times they are, just sometimes they are not.

Also, when a piece is mass produced, it is very easy for brands to reduce the price per unit produced as the different production costs are amortized by the highest production volumes. Also, more and more often big enterprises producing luxury goods relocate production activities in countries where the costs are incredibly lower even if the final selling price remains high.

This is not the case of handmade fashion, made locally by small business or even one person who produces and sells and bears all the costs that are not reduced or amortized by high production volumes.

The example that I am sharing here is the Frida dress created by Madame Ilary because somehow I directly “lived” its production with Ilaria.

First of all, only two pieces of it were created, just two sizes. Ilaria found the fabric online from an historical Roman fabric seller, very well known for the choice of only great quality materials. Quality materials are expensive. Fact.

During the week of production, yes it took one entire week to physically create it, I was often at her atelier and saw the different stages of the creation. How much is an employee paid for a week of work? Creation has exactly the same price in terms of responsibility and attention to production than in any other job. Please consider that I did not see the preparation of the paper pattern for example, which took almost a month!

Fixed costs for rental payment of the lab and all the associated bills, as well as rented or leased material for the creation must be considered too, as well as taxes for those who legally produce!

I didn’t even mention one of the most sustainable advantages at all: we know EXACTLY who made our clothes and in which conditions as we can see them ourselves. Most of the times they are families, friends, people who we know by name, who live near us, who invested all their time, money and passion in what they are doing. Isn’t it amazing from a buyer point of view? Total transparency of production, real slow fashion in its purest form!

But what fascinates me most is the idea of buying an artist’s idea, of making mine his/her view and imagination, his/her priceless quality work and attention to every single detail of the product. It’s like buying a painting after all, isn’t it? Imagination and ideas come from life experiences, study, observation reshaped in the artist mind with the artist view, is there anything more creative and personal than this?

When I say that buying from an handcrafter is buying real uniqueness this is what I mean. But uniqueness, quality, artistic imagination and reshaping on the final product IS expensive. And these costs are most of the times fully justified and justifiable as I try to explain here.

So instead of saying that handmade fashion is expensive, why don’t we try to buy less, to prefer quality, art, design, unique experiences instead of mass market homologated ideas?

Quality is positively addictive, once you try it you don’t settle for less. Maybe it could be the key to save our poor planet from mass production and in the end also to save money. Yes because are you sure that you spend less buying 20 poor quality pieces in fast fashion shops instead of one or two from handmade creators? I am not sure at all….

Photo Credit: Madame Ilary (as well as the total outfit, completely made with her own imagination).