Fall is upon us, cool and sweet, a gentle whisper of the harsh cold about to usher our way. Along with this onset of crisp air it’s tempting to revamp our wardrobes with new items and the newest trends. Of course, with the staggering amount of new trends thrown our way we tend to find ourselves searching for a cheap fix. Naturally, we all enjoy a good deal. A little bang for our buck. But where do we draw the line? At what point do we begin to view a deal in a larger scale? Understanding that nothing works in isolation, but rather our ‘deal‘ is connected to many people along the supply chain.
My boredom with my ‘old’ clothing and the chilly air has left me with this desire to revamp my Fall/Winter look and has had me thinking a lot about the ‘$10 Deal’. That cheap t-shirt or sweater promoted as a a STEAL. However, I have shifted my thoughts to see it now as a $10 ripoff. I seek not to create a doomsday theory here, but rather look to engage more consciously in these so called DEALS that are offered at every turn.
In regards to the production chain, from start to finish, an item-let’s say a t-shirt-passes through many many hands. First a designer puts their creativity into a tangible sense and a t-shirt is born. Materials then had to be both created and purchased for which crops, water and labour are required (in 1999, 81 million tonnes of pesticides were sprayed on cotton alone) . Machines are assembled and sewers hired to create the design. Water is used to wash the garment and packaging created to ship the t-shirt. The t-shirt is then placed in a store by an individual and later sold by yet another individual. Beyond that, tags and labels are created and the store is heated, the walls built, the paint laid. So many small details made it possible for the $1o t-shirt to go from a cotton crop to on your back, yet only $1o was paid.
So who loses in this ‘deal’? A big company like Levi’s who is currently arguing over a $2.oo raise for their workers in Haiti (a raise from $3.05-$5)? I think not. It’s more likely the garment producer or farmer who is losing the most. But I would like to make the argument that almost everyone in this supply chain is losing. The designer, as their design is not produced to it’s full extent, the farmer, the sewer and yes even the consumer. If you purchase a cheap garment that was made poorly, you are not going to feel good wearing it and chances are it will fall apart fairly quickly.
We definitely understand the need for affordable clothing, but affordability must encompass all involved. Canadians spend an average of 21.5 billion on apparel each year (2009 Stats Canada Report). It’s evident that money is being spent and garments consumed. I am not advocating that consumers stop spending these funds, but rather relocate them. Continue to purchase clothing, just look at it like an investment in quality over quantity. You may buy fewer garments, but you will purchase ones that are well made, ethically produced and environmentally conscious. Less would be consumed, less waste created and clothing would last longer. It’s a win win.