Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Expensive. A word that has always had a negative connotation in my life...until I started working retail while in college. I worked in a good number of places, one of them being a fast-fashion store. Inflated prices? Yes. Were people paying these inflated prices just because it was a brand name? Yes. It made me start to realize that I didn’t want to be “a slave” to clothing brands. That is, I no longer wanted to associate with clothing brands whose values and beliefs didn’t sync with mine or reflect who I was.
I’m talking about material possessions, not just clothing. An example is buying a handful of plastic rings from eBay and paying $10 versus buying a single handmade ring from Etsy for $16. The “you get what you pay for” saying may “ring” in your head (I just had to put that dad joke in) in terms of saving more money whilst having more finger jewelry. But ask yourself - why does that handmade Etsy ring cost more? The fruit of one’s labor. Think about it: Someone put in their time, money, hard work, and is exercising their creative abilities to present their art.
How were the $10 deal plastic rings made? Most likely using a machine. If there’s high demand, then you bet there are a plethora of companies out there making as many rings as possible to get them out into stores. So the big question is, who touched that plastic ring on its way to creation? Was the only point of contact during packaging? Any human point of contact at all? There’s a lot of politics in the fashion industry and I’m only touching upon the subject of human hands.
Comparable to buying an art print that has 500 copies vs. the one-off real thing: If someone is a collector of a certain artist’s original pieces, they’d probably shell out a couple hundred or thousands to obtain that one-off. If I were a collector of a certain artist’s work, I’m investing in not only the artwork itself but also the time and effort that went into creating the one-off art piece. The time that the artist put in is more valuable than the speediness of a machine making hundreds in a short amount of time.
We have to change our perspective on the word expensive. I know it’s a word that I continue to learn to understand and instead, I’d rather practice using the word ‘value’ to determine if something is worth buying. Value helps in outweighing the creation process of the said item and can help us barter in our heads a worth based on the story of the company or brand. Thankfully, more fashion brands are on their individual journeys to being transparent about their business practices. With this, it helps us as consumers be able to weigh out the “why” in terms of asking about the costs by knowing the behind the scene factors such as time, energy, and materials used.