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The real cost of American-made swimwear.

Posted by Mel Wells on

The real cost of American-made swimwear.

Mel here, with some real talk about the price of Beefcake swimsuits.

Honestly, I would love to make these swimsuits within the price range for every single person who wants one. My intention for Beefcake Swimwear is not to be a luxury brand. Instead, I'm trying to provide sustainably & ethically manufactured swimwear with an inclusive range of sizes, and to make them affordable. So, the unicorns of swimwear. 

I've learned an ugly truth while trying to do this: our idea of "affordable" clothing is full of costs that we as consumers are not paying, but someone pays. 

When I began researching how to set retail prices, I discovered that very few companies will admit how much it costs to produce their clothes. The only company practicing this "radical transparency" was Everlane, and I was stunned when they said most retailers mark up their clothes between five and six times the cost of manufacturing. This means a $35 swimsuit probably costs between $1.10 and $2.19 to produce, and that number includes raw materials AND labor. No matter what country you live in, there's no way getting paid less than $2.19 to sew an entire swimsuit is a living wage. 

I highly recommend watching The True Cost (currently on Netflix). It's an incredible documentary about what our clothes actually cost, in terms of humans and the environment, and the damage "fast fashion" is inflicting on both. 

Beefcake Swimwear will never be a part of the harm and waste of "fast fashion" retail practices, even if that means we cannot compete on price with retail companies who make thousands of suits in factories abroad. Instead, we are doing small batches at a woman-owned manufacturer in the USA, and using the best fabric available, with 100% recycled polyester content. 

Speaking of transparency, as of this post I haven't paid myself a cent and I've been working on Beefcake Swimwear since 2015. I'm lucky to have a day job which provides a living wage and health insurance while I figure out how to make this company sustainable. Almost 50% of startups don't make it past the first four years, so we are still in the danger zone.

Also, I am not marking up these swimsuits as much as I "should" because I think that pricing items as high as "the market will bear" is predatory and ethically wrong. I do not view Beefcake Swimsuit customers as consumers--you are my fellow humans, as are the people printing and sewing these suits. I'm committed to growing Beefcake Swimwear sustainably, and I appreciate folks who understand how rare and challenging it is to be an LGBTQ and woman-owned business making eco-friendly swimsuits in the USA. This is a pretty wild endeavor, and we're so glad to have you along for the ride.

TL; DR I realize our swimsuits are more expensive than big-box stores, and I still think ethical and sustainable manufacturing is worth our prices. And please watch The True Cost

 The actual cost of making a Beefcake swimsuit, including material and labor, is $49. Traditional retail would charge $225.


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