sustainable t-shirts


What a sustainable t-shirt really looks like

April 18 - 24 is Fashion Revolution Week. A week that commemorates the tragic Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013. And inspires us to re-think our relationship with our clothes.

But what does a revolution look like? It's an intimidating word. Alex de Tocqueville said, "In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end."

With the end in mind, this year i wanted to take a deeper look into the math of sustainable fashion. What would a completely sustainable t-shirt look by the numbers? Sustainable for the people making the tees. For the planet. And for the business that needs to be financially sustainable.

Below is a stripe rendering of what that looks like for Fair Indigo's $38.90 t-shirt. With one big caveat - this is how it looks on a good day. When all the gears are moving in concert with each other. When supplies are plentiful. When predictions about employing this marketing or that marketing actually come true. And when we aren't sideswiped by unexpected bills (it happens!).

sustainable t-shirts

This stripe design is specific to us. The materials we use, the place we make the tees (Peru), and how we choose to invest our resources here in the US. Every brand has its own stripes.

But there are a few stripes that are definitely different for Fair Indigo compared to mainstream brands.

The biggest is labor. While this is usually around 10-12%, at Fair Indigo it's more in the 20% range because of our commitment to working in workshops paying fair, not minimum legal wages.

The second difference are the stripes near the top - things that happen here. Because we're a small business, the share of our sales that pay for things like marketing, warehousing, payroll, and technology have fixed components that make these more expensive as a share of the final price of the t-shirt. 

In most mainstream and especially Fast Fashion brands, you would definitely see that Marketing stripe get fatter (also the Profit stripe). And you'd see the Labor stripe get quite a bit thinner.

And the $1.95 profit? That's the stripe that allows us to keep developing products and finding new customers who share our commitment to advancing this quiet revolution.

Robert Behnke


Robert Behnke
Co-Founder & President



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