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Expensive doesn’t always mean durable

Spending twice as much on a t-shirt is no guarantee the garment will last twice as long.

10th October 2023

Innovation in Textiles
|San Francisco


The quality of clothing has decreased with the rise of fast fashion and to keep costs low, brands and manufacturers have been opting for cheaper fabrics and scrimping on finishings, reports Charlotte Kincaid of Remake.

Many assume, therefore, that the more expensive the garment, the more durable we can expect it to be.

However, recent research conducted by the University of Leeds, supported by Primark and UK charity Hubub, shows that price isn’t always an accurate indication of durability. Researchers tested the durability of hoodies, jeans and t-shirts, comparing items ranging from under £10 to up to £150 and found that many items on the lower end of the price scale far out-performed the higher-end options.

“Durability is essential in the fight for a fashion industry that can be better for people and the planet, as longevity means consumers purchase fewer replacement garments, keep garments in their wardrobes for longer instead of going to landfill, and gives the opportunity for garments to get a second life,” says Kincaid. “It’s prime time to learn how to spot a durable garment when trawling through the online and offline secondhand marketplaces, because price and longevity don’t always add up.”

False perceptions

投票由环保慈善我台下鼓噪n March 2023 found that the UK public expects garments at higher price points to last significantly longer than those at lower price points. The polling results find that on average, people expect 26 washes from a £10 t-shirt before it starts to break down/not look good, compared to 42 washes from a £100 t-shirt. They expect 30 washes from a £20 pair of jeans compared to 44 washes from a £100 pair of jeans.

根据研究的大学of Leeds, if the public perceives an item to be less durable, they will treat it as such, and not take appropriate care of it. This perception may also impact purchasing habits, encouraging consumers to buy more than is required on the assumption that the garment won’t last.

Testing for durability

Using a series of different tests, the University of Leeds developed a ranking system to determine the relationship between garment price and durability. Each test was used to determine different measures of durability to establish the maximum performance – or lifetime durability – of three different types of garments in men’s and women’s clothing across six price points. Looking at the testing on jeans as an example, the most expensive product – women’s jeans priced between £121-150 and men’s between £71-£90 performed best and therefore were ranked as the most durable.

However, a pair of women’s jeans costing £91-£120 performed poorly, and was found to break down more quickly in comparison to other jeans tested. The lower cost women’s jeans priced £21-30 and £11-£20 performed very well and were ranked second and third, respectively. Strikingly, there was little difference in durability performance between the most expensive women’s denim jeans and the two lower priced products, even though the price difference is significant. The marginal difference in performance comes at a cost difference of over £100 between the garments ranked first and third.

For t-shirts, the picture is much the same. Two out of the top three performing t-shirts were lower priced products, costing under £5, or £6-£10.

“Across the 33 t-shirts tested, the results showed that price cannot be used as a predictor for a t-shirt’s durability,” the researchers concluded. “Spending twice as much on a t-shirt does not guarantee that the garment will be twice as durable.”


Remake, which fights for fair pay and climate justice in the clothing industry, suggests five quick tips for spotting quality.

One of the best ways is to look inside the item and inspect the hem – if it’s sewn down thoroughly, it’s a good sign. If it’s loose, it’s at risk of snagging with a fingernail or big toe.

“The size of stitching is also a good indicator – small stitches require more time and care and are more durable compared with long stitching which could be a sign of cutting corners,” says Kincaid. “Also check for any flaws such as threads coming undone. Of course not every garment needs a lining – you wouldn’t want it in a pair of summer trousers which are supposed to keep you cool. A good winter coat, though, will likely have a lining, and if it’s higher quality, the lining will also feel nice on the skin – not the kind which makes you feel sticky.

“织物在皮肤上的感觉也不错indicator – pull the fabric through your finger and thumb and judge whether this is something that feels comfortable and satisfying. If so, it’s probably a good sign.”

Different types of materials have different durability, she adds.

“For example, it’s probably not a good idea to buy a delicate material such as silk for an item which you’re going to wear regularly. Opt for something harder wearing instead, such as cotton. Linen, when looked after correctly, is one of the most hard wearing fabrics due to its strong natural fibres and it actually gets softer with use. Another trade secret – hold the piece of clothing up to the light. If a lot of light shines through, it’s most likely poorly woven and will lose shape quickly.

“Check out the buttons and zippers – do they look plasticky in a cheap way? Give them a wiggle – do they feel like they’ve been sewn on securely?

“Unless dictated by a specific style, there shouldn’t be any raw edges on show. Raw edges should be cleaned up by techniques such as overlocking – the stitch goes right to the edge of the cloth and runs in tight, zigzag lines from the edge to about half a centimetre in. This is done to prevent fraying, create a clean aesthetic, prevent tangling and snagging, and ultimately make the fabric more secure and durable. Better yet, look for bound seams so that the raw edge of the fabric is covered. A slightly more technical assessment is to judge whether the fabric is off grain, meaning the lengthwise and crosswise grains are not completely perpendicular – they should form right angles to one another. If done correctly, the garment will sit well and look higher quality, and chances are, you’ll love it a bit more than others. In a patterned garment, it’s easy to tell if it’s off-grain – the pattern on the opposite sides of the seam won’t match up properly.”


Before fast fashion, people had fewer garments and those garments were built to last longer. In the 1960s, an average French wardrobe consisted of around 25 outfits, and 40 pieces in total. In comparison, more recent studies point to a seriously bloated wardrobe, with the average American woman now owning 103 garments.

To combat this, organisations like Remake have pledged to take the 90-day NoNewClothes challenge, promising to refrain from buying new clothes in an attempt to prioritise re-use and secondhand and reduce carbon footprint.

Similarly, Oxfam’s ‘Secondhand September’ aims to “reduce waste, take a stance against climate change, and help create a fairer world.”

With the secondhand market expected to grow to 40% of the total clothes, shoes and accessories market, it’s becoming ever more accessible to buy secondhand.

“How long your clothes stay in rotation also depends on how you care for them. Simple steps such as letting your clothes air dry, following the instructions on the garment’s care label, and learning how to do basic mending helps to stretch out the life of a garment,” Kincaid suggests.” Or, pick up some black dye to bring a faded pair of black jeans back to life. Washing your clothes less also increases longevity. Over-washing can cause shrinkage, fading and damage to clothing. Jeans, for example, can be worn up to ten times before washing, depending on how active you are when wearing them.”

Pressure on brands

The fight for responsible and fair fashion can only go so far with individual actions by consumers, and it’s unlikely that consumer behavioral change will impact the behavior of brands and businesses fast enough to make the positive difference industry. Remake therefore welcomes the EU’s strategy for sustainable and circular textiles. The strategy sets out to create a textile market in the EU in which all textile products are durable, repairable and recyclable by setting design requirements for textiles to make them last longer, and easier to repair and recycle. In line with this, the European Commission has proposed rules to make producers responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products. Developed under the “polluter pays” principle, the Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for textiles in all EU Member States require producers to cover the costs of management of textile waste, incentivising waste reduction and circularity of textile products, effectively designing better products from the start.

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