CPW: What the Heck Is It and Why Should You Care?
A quick scenario to understand what CPW is.
Well, I have good news! If you were confused about the concept of CPW (Cost Per Wear), but you understood the idea of “binge-watching before my subscription ends to make it worth it”, you’ve basically uncovered the mystery! I promise! Let me explain.
So What is Cost Per Wear?
Cost Per Wear is a concept that helps rationalising the buying process, and ultimately helps to decide if an item is worth the investment or not (yup! Even the cheap ones!). So how does it work?
One of the things that we look at when we go shopping is looking at the price of the item – of course! We don’t have an unlimited budget! But the problem is this: we see the price as an isolated number. “Oh wow! £75 for a shirt! People are crazy! I’m not paying that, it’s way too expensive”. And I’m going to tell you right now, I used to do the same thing. And then I would walk to the next clothing rack, find a £20 alternative, buy it, and here you go! Happy, because I found the perfect replacement for much much cheaper. So it’s a win! Or is it?
The problem with this approach is this: there are so many more elements to look at. Price really is just a random number on a tag. What’s the quality of the items? Is it going to last me for several seasons? Am I going to wear it often? And that’s where the Cost Per Wear (CPW) comes in.
When buying poor quality pieces, they will likely lose their shape, fade in colour and/or melt in the wash after a few uses. Which then means we will need to replace them pretty fast.
On the other hand, when buying quality pieces, they are meant to last for several seasons, especially if you made sure they genuinely fit your Signature Style.
That being said, let me show you the general formula to know the CPW of any piece in your wardrobe, and then I’ll prove to you why fast fashion is actually much more expensive than sustainable fashion. I’m going to take the same two items, and I’m going to try to project that I’m wearing them once every other week.
The CPW Formula
(Price of the piece) / (nb of times you wear it) = CPW
So how does it translate with our two examples?
Sustainable Fashion top. Price: £75. Worn 78 times.
£75 / 78 = £0.96 (78 weeks, that’s for three years!)
So your piece would last you three years, and the CPW would be 96p.
Fast-Fashion top. Price £20. Worn 13 times – I'm being optimistic.
£20 / 13 = £1.54 (that’s for just one season before you need to replace it)
Here your piece will last you approximately six months, and the CPW would be £1.54. If we wanted to translate that and see how much it would cost for three years, we would need to replace the piece five times, and we would get a total CPW of £9.24.
And this, my friends, is how to easily prove that fast fashion is much more expensive than sustainable fashion in the long run.
Now I’m not advocating splurging and making silly money decisions, but I’m just saying that sometimes “cheap” really means “not wise”.
The Dangers of CPW: Traps to Avoid
Now let me address something quickly, even though I know for a fact that you’re not like that. There are a few traps to avoid when adhering to the CPW mindset. What are they?
- Don’t forget about care instructions and dry cleaning fees. If you have to pay £20 every month to get your item cleaned, your CPW will likely skyrocket – and that’s not the goal!
- Don’t trick yourself into believing you’ll wear something so many times, and use it as an excuse to splurge on an item. Be honest about your Signature Style and what you will really end up wearing.
- A high price tag doesn’t always mean “quality”, so make sure the quality is there before buying anything.
With that said, ditch the guilt of buying an expensive item, and think about your CPW instead; I promise your wardrobe, and your bank account will thank you for this mindset shift! And you’ll finally be able to buy a beautiful, comfy, stylish (and expensive!) quality winter coat, the one that you’ll end up wearing for many years (or even sell, if you get bored after five years! Chances are, it’ll still be in great shape).
What’s your relationship with price-tags when buying? Do you still see them as an isolated number, or are you already implementing the CPW method? Let me know in the comment section.