The Cost of Being a Sustainable Brand
At Unified People, we’re passionate about challenging the harmful trends that have plagued the fashion industry for decades. We believe apparel pieces should be valued, and your decision to add something to your closet should also be based on its impact on the environment, rather than solely on its cost.
That’s why we partner with sustainable, ethical factories that are close to home. Source natural, sustainable materials when possible. And create small, exclusive collections that keep our impact manageable.
That being said, ethically sourced, USA-made and sustainable brands are always going to be pricier than fast fashion. And while that may be the case for Unified People, our team strives to create premium products that will last, for a justifiable price. Read on to learn more about what factors are incorporated into the pricing for our sustainable streetwear pieces.
In an effort to minimize our carbon footprint and ensure transparency regarding labor conditions, we strive to work with manufacturing partners located close to home. All of our apparel products are knit, cut, sewn, and dyed in Los Angeles, CA with a partner that values sustainable & ethical production. For the employees who create our pieces, this means fair living wages, opportunities for career advancement, and ample employment benefits.
This also means that the cost of labor is higher than outsourcing to overseas production partners. Lower labor costs translate into lower manufacturing costs, which enable some apparel brands to achieve higher margins or sell their products for less than if they were manufactured domestically. Our team is firm about keeping production local, and doing everything possible to ensure the ethical nature of our manufacturing partner’s labor practices.
At Unified People, we believe in the ethos of slow fashion. We create small, highly-curated collections in order to prevent over-production and keep apparel waste out of our landfills. For the fashion industry, this often means higher prices from our production partners. Finding a manufacturer that is willing to accept a lower MOQ (minimum order quantity) means that concessions will be made regarding price. Even though smaller slow fashion collections mean higher prices, we are committed to scaling in a way that is responsible for our planet.
One of the core values of our brand is sustainability. We shy away from synthetic fabrics and opt for natural & sustainable materials where possible. All of our apparel products are made from 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton that is grown and spun in Tamil Nadu, India. GOTS is the most stringent organic-textile certification in the world, and the finished product is a super high-quality fabric—without all the toxic chemicals that pollute our soil, our water, and our planet. GOTS tracks the entire chain of production, from farm to factory, and ensures compliance with the labor standards of the International Labor Organization throughout the chain of production.
With this level of scrutiny and quality comes a higher price point for materials. Organic cotton is approximately 20 to 30% more expensive than regular cotton. In order for our partners to maintain their GOTS Certification, they incur higher harvesting costs and certification costs than regular cotton farmers. For example, weeds and insects still need to be taken care of without the use of harmful chemicals. Methods used by organic farmers are more expensive than the chemicals used by conventional cotton farmers.
In our commitment to reduce our plastic consumption and keep excessive waste out of our landfills, Unified People is proud to offer 100% compostable poly bags for all of our apparel products. Made from a combination of corn-based biopolymers, our compostable mailer composts in 6 months (180 days) and is certified for both home and commercial compost. We are also proud to use eco-friendly tissue paper and stamps; both of which are made from acid-free, FSC Certified paper and soy-based inks, which are much more sustainable than traditional petroleum inks. Our packaging tape is also made from FSC Certified recycled paper and is water-activated, which is a much more biodegradable option than glossy/wax-coated paper. All shipping boxes for headwear are made from 100% recycled cardboard.
These innovative, sustainable packaging solutions come at a much higher cost than traditional plastic and non-recyclable packaging. According to cycleWood, biodegradable bags can cost as much as 10 times the amount of plastic. Recycled cardboard is also more expensive to source than virgin cardboard. When we factor in the price of these expensive materials—tape, stickers, boxes, tissue paper, and poly mailers—the cost of each product substantially increases. However, our team believes it’s worth it to keep our impact manageable and reduce our contribution to the plastic crisis our planet is facing.
As with all for-profit businesses, Unified People does not sell our products at “cost.” That being said, we don’t believe in price-gouging our customers or charging unnecessary markups on our apparel pieces. We employ an industry-standard MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) to ensure that sufficient profits are retained for marketing, production, and operational business expenses. Unfortunately, fast fashion has skewed customers’ perception of value and their ideas around how much apparel products should cost. This shift has caused clothing to become viewed as cheap and disposable. We believe that apparel should be none of those things. It should be a valued addition to your wardrobe that is easily incorporated into your everyday wardrobe and brings you joy for years to come.