There are usually two phrases that pop into an eager shopper’s mind when they enter a Cotton On store. The first, which is often heard aloud in excitement is “wow, I love this!”
The second, is that silent inner dialogue that mumbles after checking the price tag, begging the all-important question “why is it so expensive?”
Not unlike other retailers, Cotton On has been heavily criticised in recent times for its striking price increases.
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To put things into context, an oversized blazer from the Australia-based retailer is R999,00, and finding a pair of jeans for less than R700 is rare.
However, Cotton On’s price increases may follow a thread – premised on new developments poised to be sustainable.
Cotton On has recently opened a new distribution warehouse in South Africa, where R300 million went into the investment in Midrand a little way from the mega-mall, Mall of Africa. Here, the facilities are promising to contribute toward a greener future.
Grey water harvesting systems and a 200kWp solar power plant, energy-efficient light emitting diode lighting and proximity sensors are just some of the measures the retail giant has invested in to lower its warehouse’s impact on the environment as per Engineering News, but there is a catch.
The warehouse was developed to process online orders more “efficiently and at a much quicker rate,” as BusinessInsider reports, but this is somewhat contradictory to the true champion of sustainable fashion – slow fashion.
Slow fashion (unironically) refers to slowing the fashion cycle down and producing less. Despite Cotton On’s efforts toward making a more environmentally friendly warehouse, some critics still aren’t sure about the actual materials and products involved.
Cotton On’s Good Report for 2021 looked at the company’s impact in terms of sustainability, responsible materials, production and more.
The retailer says that it had made 90% progress in using sustainably sourced cotton, 84% in water reduction processes for denim washing, 24% in responsible viscose used in products, 53% in paper recycled materials and 19% in plastics, polyester and synthetic material reduction goals.
Good On You, an organisation created by campaigners, fashion pros, scientists, writers and developers dedicate their time to investigating which retailers are really living up to the sustainable goals they say they are.
It has previously criticised Cotton On as a fast fashion brand by nature and rated the retailer ‘Not Good Enough’ in terms of sustainability and ethical practice based on its research.
The price hikes are not all about sustainability strides either. Clothing got a lot more expensive in general after the pandemic began to recline. According to Fast Company, the impact of people not buying as many clothes during the pandemic has played a considerable role in future price hikes.
The consumer price index in South Africa rose by 1.7% from May last year to May this year for clothing and shoes, and with inflation surging to 7.3% (the highest in 13 years) it doesn’t look like we can expect the clothing industry to give us a break on costs anytime soon.
So, while many are all for an eco-friendly warehouse, sustainable fashion advocates eagerly await greener pastures for textiles which may justify the costs a little more. As for the clothing industry’s pricey era as with petrol, we may need to jump onto bikes and start knitting.