So you’re trying to be more thoughtful about your shopping habits. Going from mindless consumption to a more conscious mindset can be tricky. It can leave you obsessing over the right decision and even provoke feelings of guilt. Suddenly, you’re standing at the store after a good 20 minutes, still confused about what to do. Relatable.
Navigating conscious shopping doesn’t have to be a puzzle of uncertainty. There are a couple of metrics that can help in situations like these. It’s about asking yourself a few questions to cut down that decision-making time and to help you be more confident in your choices. One, cost per wear. The other, impact per wear. We recommend keeping both in mind because cost per wear is more value-focused and impact per wear is more environment-focused. Both are important.
Cost per wear (CPW)
To calculate the cost per wear of an item, divide its price tag by the number of times you’re planning to wear it/you’ve worn it.
For example, one year ago you purchased our smart chinos for €120, and you’ve worn them 30 times. The cost per wear is €4 - so far. The more often it’s worn, the less the cost per wear will be.
Impact per wear (IPW)
To calculate the impact per wear of an item, divide its environmental impact by the number of times you’re planning to wear it/you’ve worn it.
The environmental impact can be whatever measure you choose. This might be difficult to obtain but here at SANVT, we value transparency and share the carbon footprint of all our clothing in the product page’s listing.
For example, one year ago you purchased our smart chinos which produced 11kg of CO2 emissions, and you’ve worn them 30 times. The impact per wear is 0,37g of CO2 - so far. Regardless of whether you have access to the environmental footprint of a product or not, the effect is the same: the more often it’s worn, the less the impact per wear will be.
Fast fashion vs. slow fashion
Fast fashion is notorious for its cheap prices. However, the concept of cost per wear makes you question that way of thinking. Sure, it’s cheap upfront. But how often have you worn a piece of clothing that’s lasted you way less time than you thought it would? When you consider an item’s longetivity, you might realize that its economic value is higher than you thought.
Globally, some garments are estimated to be discarded after seven to ten wears. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when fast fashion items tend to be more fragile than we’d expect. From experience, we can all agree that a large chunk of fast fashion clothing was not designed to last. According to a 2004 study, Zara garments were intentionally made to be worn 10 times. Goal achieved?
Of course, trendiness is also a factor. Garments being discarded after seven to ten wears could also be due to the fact that we easily succumb to the endless trends in society. Those pants might be in perfect condition to wear, but do you actually want to? Or are you tired of the way they look? That’s where creativity comes into play, showing how important it is to purchase timeless pieces that can be styled in a dozen different ways. You get the feeling that you’re wearing a completely different outfit despite wearing the same pants.
That all being said, the cost per wear concept is typically used to put sustainable clothing prices into perspective because we’re so accustomed to quickly getting frightened by higher price tags. It seems that the typical cost per wear is higher for fast fashion garments and lower for sustainable fashion garments. But it could also be that sustainable fashion has a higher cost per wear if the price tag is really high - which would mean the number of times it’s worn would need to be very high.
Both concepts - cost per wear and impact per wear - do however justify purchasing some of the higher quality items that fast fashion has to offer, when you maximise the number of times they can be worn. It’s said that to reduce your CO2 emissions and waste, you should aim to wear an item of clothing at least 30 times, as suggested by the 30 wears challenge. Emphasis on ‘at least’!
There’s another interesting stance to things. One study found that single-item purchases over 100 USD (the most expensive category) were worn 31 times more than those that cost under 10 USD (the cheapest category). This confirms the idea that items with a cheaper price tag are often seen as disposable. Because they’re so cheap, they’re purchased without much consideration. And in the end, they’re actually worn less and are more likely to have a higher cost per wear and impact per wear.
What is a good cost per wear or impact per wear?
There is no good cost per wear. And there is no good impact per wear. If there was, then it could justify an item of clothing being disposed of after just one or two wears, based on the initial price tag (in the case of CPW) or the initial environmental impact (in the case of IPW). As this report states:
“If a dress “costs” 12, whether that is US Dollars or some environmental measure, and it is worn once, the cost is 12 per wear. If another dress “costs” 1,200, and is worn 100 times, the cost/impact is also 12 per wear. The difference is that at the end of those ‘100 times’, in the first case there are 100 dresses to dispose of, and in the second, only one.”
When you look at it this way, it’s longevity that really matters. Longevity refers to the number of times an item is worn. And based on that, the cost or impact per wear can be compared. Because the disposal of an item should also be taken into account when comparing items. Two items can have the same cost or impact per wear, but one can be more sustainable because it lasted longer, and the other can be less sustainable since it was disposed of quicker.
Sanvt care guide
The longevity of your clothing comes with proper knowledge of how to take care of your clothes. Increase your cost and impact per wear by taking a look at our extensive care guides:
Whether you decide to use one metric or both to be more thoughtful about your clothing consumption, the key takeaway is that the more you wear an item, the more sustainable it becomes. If you wear an item only once, another garment will replace it. That’s double the environmental impact + cost.
And if you’re debating between buying an item from a fast fashion brand or a sustainable one, you now have a metric (CPW) that can help you make more informed decisions.
So the next time you find yourself standing in the store for 20 minutes unsure of what to do, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I checked the quality?
- Can I see my hand through this item?
- Does the fabric feel thin and weak or is it on the thicker and stronger side?
- Give the fabric a light tug around the stitches and buttons. Does it look like it’s stitched together well?
- How many times can I wear it, based on its quality?
- Does it fit well with any other items that I own?
- Is it versatile?
- Am I comfortable wearing it?
- For example, white clothing may need to be washed separately or hand-washed. Am I up for this extra effort?
- Does it need to be dry-cleaned? Am I up for that?