We all know that most of our clothes aren’t made in the UK. The vast majority are produced in Asia and the Middle East where textile-manufacturing costs are cheep. Everyone buys clothes made worldwide but few bother to find out where their new clothes are manufactured.
It is hard for the average buyer to take an interest in whether we buy them from an ethical, fair trade company or from a “sweatshop” factory employing children when all we’re given is “Made in …”. It is hard to find out where the products are actually manufactured and what the company policy is for workers. Often the brand will sub-contract textile factories in the Middle- East and Asia. The problem for the brand is they have to carry out consistent checks on these companies to ensure they haven’t contracted another factory that doesn’t abide the workers rights and working conditions.
In 2009, TNS Knitwear, who produced clothes for Primark, were found by a undercover BBC investigation, to be employing illegal workers who were working 12 hour days and receiving £3.50 an hour. The Manchester based company denied the claim and Primark carried out its own investigation. Primark is best known for its cheap fashion clothing and has risen in popularity through the recession. How much has this affected peoples spending in budget shops?
We asked the public on the street of Dundee if they know where their products come from and whether they would pay more for something more ethically manufactured then ones that were maybe a bigger brand but have vague ethical code. The majority of the people we asked assumed that their clothes were made in the Middle-East and Asia. They didn’t have much interest in finding where their clothes came from and it didn’t effect their choice of purchase. We asked if they would pay more for products produced in factories with better working conditions and pay. They said they would be more inclined to buy even if it meant paying a bit more for them. One woman had already heard about the scandal with Primark and had stopped shopping there because of it.
We we’re interested whether anyone knew if Apple products are actually being made in China. They all assumed that Apple built its products in America where they were designed. This shows how unaware we can be about our material possessions and the journey they took into creation. Perhaps brands should promote the journey of their clothes and make information about their ethics more available for the public.
I asked the staff at Superdry if they knew where the clothes that they sell are manufactured. The first person I asked said they were made in the E.U until I pointed out that the shirt next to me said “Made in China.” She left to get her manager who told me that the clothes were designed in England and manufactured abroad but she couldn’t tell me much more then that. She said that Superdry check all their factories for illegal workers and bad conditions. I found it interesting how the company don’t inform their staff of exact factories where maybe it could add a selling point for brands who have high prices to make their customers feel that it was ok to spend £50 on a pair of jeans if they knew it was of the best quality and made by workers who were well paid.
In a recession it is hard for people not to go for the good deals. They are normal happy that their new clothes might be lacking slightly in quality and will have a shorter life span then a high quality piece of clothing. When the global economy beings to rise then maybe there will be more focus on the manufacture of clothes within the general public.