The clothing industry and us.

When people are asked where their items of clothing is from, the first thought is which high street shop they last visited instead of where in the world the items were made.  When asked I asked people where their stuff was made I got a common reaction was straight away ‘China’ or ‘I dunno, somewhere in Asia’. Most people just assume that their clothing is made in ‘third world countries’ or in sweatshops to keep costs down to give all of us a ‘bargain’.  The most common label on peoples clothing and one we are all familiar with is ‘Made In China’, this has become commonplace on almost all our products.

As a group we decided to look at clothing made in china and ask our classmates/friends/family their opinion on where they thought their clothes were made and the quality of the products in terms of price.  We cut out little t-shirt shapes of paper to put their answers on to link the two ideas. The questions we asked them were;

1. What is you favourite shop?

2. What was the last item you bought from there?

3. Do you know anything about where the product was made?

4. If not, where would you guess it was made?

5. Do you care where the product is made?

6. What do you think of the quality of the product?

7. What do you think about the quality of the product made in the U.K as opposed to those made elsewhere in the world?

8. Does the price of the item reflect the standard of work?

From the responses I received from the people I asked, no one really knows exactly where their clothing actually comes from or really care. I found that when people were asked to guess where their stuff comes from, they usually guess China, Asia somewhere or ‘some poor country’. It not an unknown fact that clothing is made in poorer countries, its just not really cared about. I found that until people are pressed to think about the physical place of where their clothes are bought, it’s not ever something that crosses their minds. The way in which a certain shops clothes are made is not an aspect in deciding if they buy something from that shop. People just don’t care if their clothes are made in third world countries. Saying that, I did hear a few people did bring up the issue of child labour. At no point during the buying of the item do they feel guily though, its only when its brought to their attention through television or internet or people like myself asking them to think about their purchases.

After the first couple of people mentioned the issue of child labour, I then added the question of child labour. The most common thing I found was that when people walk into shops they don’t immediately think of where the item was made or who by. They mostly think that ‘it’s a nice shirt’ or ‘oh that will go with…’. I found that people only see the item and not its backstory, because after all, no one really knows about every single shops ethics.

One of the main points that people were telling me that were contradicting their earlier answers was concerning the price of their products compared to the quality of it. I found that people don’t like the thought of young children making their clothes but they also aren’t prepared to pay more it. In terms of the quality they receive now, people tent to be happy with it, otherwise, would we really buy anything? People said that they wouldn’t be happy paying any more money for the same product with the only difference being it was made in the UK. This in itself is quite hypocritical, people don’t like the thought of children make their clothing but we are not prepared to pay more for home made clothing. I don’t think anyone has the right to say these people are wrong because, after all, we are all guilty of it. We know that some shops are known to use child labour but we all still shop in them.

I think that no one can say they are not guilty of buying products from China, because after all, most things are made there. There usually no information from clothing shops in particular, about how and where their clothes are made. I cant blame people for not knowing or caring about the way their clothes are made because well have all done it, we have all picked something up off the rail and given no thought to the working conditions or there in the world it came from. We are all guilty of buying Chinese products, and we just don’t care.



Assignment 3: Attitudes to China Today

After doing a bit of research about Chinese sweatshops i found an article about the products for the Kardashians fashion empire, they are reportedly made in Chinese sweatshops. Now for anyone else like myself that watches a lot of reality tv they will know that keeping up with the Kardashians is a programme about the families busy lives, they make a lot of money, around 65 million dollars a year. According to the article the garments at K-Dash, which are priced extremely high, are being made in Guangdong in China where workers reportedly earn as little as $1 an hour, and working up to 84 hours a week in terrible conditions. For a family who earn such a ridiculous amount of money you would think they would make more of an effort to make sure the garments were produced in a well equipped and clean environment where workers were properly paid and looked after. I think companies like this should be taken to see where their products are produced, so it can be put in perspective for them. Awareness in the West of dangerous working conditions and low pay was raised by the 1993 fire in a Thai toy factory that killed 188 workers. This event brought a lot of bad publicity to companies who were using sweatshops, this forced American company Wal-Mart to drop a clothing line after it was found to be using sweatshops to produce the products. 

Another article I read was about investigations into sweatshops in China and how they go about finding out truthful information and what they actually find out. “No one is willing to tell you the truth of what they are doing,” said one of the investigators staking out a factory. Chinese labour laws are strict, the work week is 40 hours, after which generous overtime must be paid, ranging from 150 percent to 200 percent of base salary, until a total of 66 hours, the effective legal weekly limit. Workers are entitled to at least one day off a week. No one younger than 16 is allowed to work in a factory. If the laws were well implimented their would be no problem, companies just get greedy and stop thinking about the wellbeing of the workers. Last year 68 percent of the factories that were investigated did not pay workers overtime, and nearly 70 percent of factories worked staff beyond the legal limit of 66 hours a week. The factory inspectors have a very difficult job because even though they want to protect the workers thats not always what the workers want, their must be a reason why they work the extra hours or why they even have that job in the first place. Rural families have trouble paying rising tuition fees so they send their children to factories as an alternative to school. A lot of underaged worked purchase forged identity cards to fool the factory management, workers want to provide more money for their families so agree to work all these extra hours so its not just a case of shutting down factories who are going against the law, the problem needs a proper solution.

I wanted to look through some of my clothes and find out exactly what I have that is Made In China, I was very surprised by the small amount from China and also how some pieces of clothing had ‘England’ written in huge writing all over the label then underneath say ‘Made In China’, definitely false advertising. I also thought that brands would have all their clothes made in the same place but was surprised to find out they weren’t. I also thought the price range of garments would have a deciding factor on where it was produced but was wrong about that too. 

After asking one of my friends how aware he is of where clothes he buys are manufactured he replied “not very aware. I think companies will only point out where things are produced if they are trying to create a positive public image about how they treat workers. Otherwise companies will avoid telling consumers where their products come from in case the customer thinks that the people who make their clothing are not being treated fairly and then they will lose customers. For the most part I will know where things are produced if it is custom made as production that is specific will ofter occur in the west where employee rights are stronger and companies are therefore more whiling to disclose that information.” The same question was asked to someone else, they replied with “I have a rough idea, depends on how much they cost and what brand they are, my new custom shoes were made in Holland which surprised me cause they weren’t clogs.”

If I had more time I would prefer to buy locally produced products, but most of the time I don’t bother to look, I just go for convenience and price. Even if the product isn’t locally produced just to know it was made in a factory that has workers that are well paid and working in the correct environment. I think companies should be made to make it clearer exactly where their products are made, and let the consumer decided.

Last year we received a lecture from Nicholas O’Donnel Hoare who graduated jewellery design at Dundee in 2008, he worked on a project called Trojan Egg which basically lets you scan the egg with your smart phone which will then transfer you to the website and you get a live feed of where your egg was produced and shows you the conditions the chickens are kept in, I think this would be a great idea if it was used on clothing labels so you could see exactly where the clothes are produced before you buy them.