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The Price Issue

A consistent comment I've seen ever since I started blogging, is people complaining that the prices of clothes produced by modest clothing companies are too high. Some even argue that these companies are 'ripping us off'. Objectively, if we looked at prices of similar items in isolation, they may indeed be higher than something you'd find in Primark or H&M, but there are a fair few good reasons behind this.

Having had the opportunity to know and speak to the people behind many modest clothing brands, I wanted to look into detail the factors which influence their pricing. I spoke to three very different brands, who all produce for the UK market; Shukr, Inayah and Elenany.

Black and White Cape, Dark Red Pencil Skirt by Inayah

Regards their costs and pricing, Inayah say "All collections are designed and developed by Inayah which takes a lot of planning, work and effort. We are not a large retail chain, we are a humble fashion boutique who offer quality products as limited edition pieces; we do not import from other companies and simply sell on products."

It may seem obvious, but smaller brands simply don't have the economies of scale that multi-million pound corporations do.

Shukr say, "Companies like Gap, Zara and Next sell thousands of pieces of the same style, which enables them to produce the garments in large, industrial factories at cheap prices. Islamic clothing companies like SHUKR only produce small quantities of each style and this inevitably means that costs are higher."

Mainstream retailers also tend to manufacture products in the developing world, where costs are much lower. And with that, it's hard to ignore reports of extremely low wages that workers are paid, and the use of sweat shops in manufacture. The team at US brand Haute Hijab have written a post about fair trade over on their blog, which is a very informative read.

Inayah say, "An incredible amount of time and effort is spent on designing, sourcing and creating items made by individuals with tremendous skill and artistry. A hand-embroidered dress takes weeks of labour intensive craft to create and we want all involved in the production process to be paid accordingly."

Kaleidoscope Gilet by Elenany
Elenany also adds that, "My prices are reflective of my cost prices which are very high because everything is made in the UK. However, UK manufacturing guarantees ethical manufacture."

And on the issue of manufacture Shukr (whose garments are produced in Syria) say, "We are an ethical, fair-trade Islamic company. Unlike most companies, we control all stages of the design and manufacturing process at our in-house facilities– from design, to pattern-making, to sewing, to finishing and packing – and this allows us to make sure that our workers are paid a living wage and that their rights are scrupulously observed."

Another major factor that comes into play is the quality of the clothes. How many times have you bought something for a few pounds, only for it to fall apart after the first wash? You really do get what you pay for. As Inayah mentioned, it's pretty unreasonable to "demand high quality garments made using luxurious fabrics at low-end retail chain prices."

Shukr add that,"We only use the highest quality materials, mostly natural in origin, sourced from top producers all around the world. Our garments are sewn and produced according to the highest industry standards."

So smaller quantities, better quality and ethical manufacture are all things which affect the cost of production for small businesses.

At the end of the day, these businesses still need to turn a profit, and it seems quite unfair then to expect them to sell things at the same prices high street brands do. As consumers, we all have different budgets, but spending money on high quality, ethically made garments is probably a better investment in the long term than buying cheaper goods.

 Carefree Blouse and Shujana Dress by Shukr

Elenany also offers a business perspective to the issue, which is often overlooked: "The business story is that if you want cheap high street prices like Primark, etc. you have to get them made abroad and in very large quantities. You might want to make large quantities but then you would need stockists.

Mainstream stockists aren't interested in modest fashion, they just aren't. There's no point trying to say "they should be" because at the end of the day it's about business. It's not about "offering choice" because they are there to make money, not to make society better. So the point is to grow the modest fashion market. 

We do have to remain independent for the time being, but it means that we have to support each other so we can continue, so that we create value in the modest fashion market so that mainstream stockists DO eventually stock us, then we can get things made in high volume and sell things at a lower price."

So what do you think about the price issue? Would you be prepared to pay more for clothes from smaller brands? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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