If you’re like most people, then you likely spend a fair amount of time shopping for bargains. Heck, we’ve all done it at some point; seeing a sign that says “60% off” causes many of our hearts to quicken. However, shopping for bargains may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, and I read a fascinating article in EcoSalon that breaks down how this all works. These bargains have hidden costs that are hidden in plain sight.
For instance, when you buy a bargain you never see the human cost in that ultra-cheap shirt or jacket. Clothes can be made cheaply only buy using cheap material and cheap labor. The people who work in sweatshops in China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to name a few work in deplorable conditions. Many are actually locked inside the factory, and forced to work 16 hour days with few breaks.
Here at Earth Divas, we are adamantly opposed to sweatshop labor, which puts workers in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, and pays workers a pittance for their labor. This is why everything we sell is fair trade, and we make sure every artisan who works with us has a clean, safe room to work in. Many work out of their home, but others work together in a collective space.
Another cost to buying bargain clothing is that nine times out of ten, they’re not well-made. And, this includes “designer fashion” that’s bought at discount stores like TJ Maxx. Although we think that designer clothing is a higher quality, this is often not the case.
Most consumers don’t realize that most designer brands have several tiers of product quality in their clothing. The top tier, where the most attention is paid to fabric and product quality, is also the most expensive. When you buy a brand-name designer at their own house (like the Dior clothing store), you’re getting an authentic Dior piece that has been carefully made, with the highest attention paid to product quality.
The middle-tier of product quality is for shoppers who are looking for value, but don’t want to buy the super expensive full price. Often, this tier of clothing is carried in stores like Belks or Macy’s, or other department stores that carry many brands.
The last tier is for the bargain shoppers. These clothes, commonly sold in stores like TJ Maxx, are made with the lowest quality fabrics. Often, corners are cut in design and manufacturing. Most of the time, these pieces are made by licensed factories. The goal is to make cheap, easy to product clothing and then stitch the designer label on.
The EcoSalon piece goes into much, much more detail on how the fashion industry turns a profit by cutting corners and negotiating licensing agreements with manufacturers to sell cheap clothing. It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend you give it a look. My quick rundown, however, gives you an idea of how much you’re really not saving when you buy a bargain piece of clothing. Sure it may look cheap, but you always get what you pay for.
Filed under: Eco Fashion on May 3rd, 2012