Why Sustainable Brands Can't Always Run Major Sales or Discounts

Sustainable purchase habits for the holidays

With all of us shopping online from the comfort of our own homes this year, and the increased focus on e-commerce, it's easier than ever to take advantage of a sale... but that's not always a good thing.

Fast fashion brands often overproduce their collections and are left with staggering amounts of unsold inventory at the end of the season, which are either marked down or discarded as waste.

The fast fashion industry is intentionally designed this way, with margins built into the business that allow for slashing prices or getting rid of styles that aren't selling—but this way of doing business is just about the farthest thing from sustainable.

But in the slow fashion industry, profit margins are typically much smaller due to the higher costs of fair pay and quality goods, and collections are often made in small batches to reduce waste and better reflect consumer demand.

For many brands, offering massive discounts just isn't financially viable. Further, discounts tend to encourage overconsumption, which is antithetical to just about everything the slow fashion industry stands for—so even if brands can afford it, many just don't want to participate.

I know this issue isn't black and white. Many people argue that slow fashion isn't accessible to all types of consumers due to the higher price point, and some customers save all year so they can invest in a few key pieces when they finally go on sale.

I completely understand this perspective, and I'll be the first to admit that I have to plan ahead and think consciously and carefully about my purchase decisions before I make them.

But ultimately, I think it's time to reframe what we think of as an appropriate price point for what we wear or what we bring into our homes.

Instead of accepting $5 or $10 shirts as the industry standard, we should be asking how the brand can afford to sell them that cheaply and what corners had to be cut in the process.

Instead of buying a whole new wardrobe every season, we should be thoughtfully planning for a few new pieces that we want to invest in and that will last us for years to come.

Instead of continuing to support multinational companies that generate millions of tons of textile and inventory waste, we should be supporting small businesses that are taking imperfect action to do things right.

Now I'm not saying you should never buy anything for the rest of your life. Nor am I saying that LIYA will never run a sale or strive to make our pieces more financially accessible to anyone who may want sustainably made goods.

All I'm saying is before you go on a major shopping spree, think about whether you actually would have bought those items otherwise, and how these discounts might affect the business model of the brand you're buying from.

Your wallet (and the planet) will thank you.

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