By: Bolupe Olasende, Columnist
H&M and Zara are examples of brands that outsource their production. The conditions in which these factory workers endure in countries like China and India, has been a topic of controversy lately, as many more brands continue to fall prey to the villain that is, fast fashion.
According to Lexico Dictionary, fast fashion can be defined as “Inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.”
That Chanel bag or those Prada shoes, which already sell with several dollar signs on their price tags, actually have one additional price; the hidden price of outsourcing their labor, which falls in direct conflict with the reputation and integrity of each brand.
These brands carry with them the prestige of being made with the extraordinary care of brilliant minds and diligent hands. We look at these brands with high esteem and covet them. Some people even go as far as spending an entire paycheck to wear these designer labels. The grounds that make, what could be considered, outlandish behavior acceptable is trampled over in the means to “save money.”
Fashion, in recent years, has been ensnared by the claws of fast fashion due to high demand for some time now. But these brands continue to market themselves using the emotional appeal of “products crafted at home.” Imagine a $2,000 Prada bag being made in China for $5 or less.
Now, even if product quality still remains intact, there are still other factors like the manufacturing cost and the country-of-origin effect that we have to look at. The exclusivity and allure disappears once one realizes that the Paris and Italy born brands now base their roots in China and other countries.
Designer brands realize this, and choose to withhold this information from consumers. For example, Louis Vuitton has some parts of their footwear made in “well-kept secret [factories], their identity closely guarded” in Transylvania, Romania before they are “finished” in Italy and France, where “Made in Italy” or “Made in France” tags are affixed.
There is a distinction in brand opinion when a consumer looks inside their wallet, purse or shirt and sees “Made in China” versus “Made in Italy” or “Made in France.” These brands have been known to take radical means to keep their exclusivity in tact like burning unsold merchandise.
The complete lack of transparency leaves me to believe there is purposeful trickery and deception at play. The product costs no longer reflect the updated manufacturing cost. So, why are consumers still paying big bucks when the production is no longer artisan?
The exorbitant amount of money people pay to own these brands has always been up for scrutiny. But with rising environmental efforts to promote more economical living, there is an added need for consumers to be aware and responsible with their purchasing habits. Now that even the top brands participate in unethical manufacturing practices, there are even less options for consumers. The future of fashion may come to a tumultuous end if ethical shopping options are not practiced.
It is important that we stop supporting powerhouse brands that exploit labor and the pockets of the public and start supporting small, ethical clothing businesses. This trade off will save you money and give you a clear conscience.