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Northwest

Offshore Manufacturing: what is it good for?

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People like to make all kinds of exceptions, but nearly all of the arguments for clothing being made offshore rather than domestically come down to an outdated and often unspoken idea that "not being able to buy new clothes means that you are poor, and being poor is bad." As I know many members of this board can attest, buying used clothes often means buying better clothes, and that's a part of high fashion that I admire. While there are exceptions like the Helmut Lang "art exhibition" of shredded clothing or Chanel burning clothes that do not sell, many high fashion manufacturers clothes get bought, sold, resold and resold many times over. As they are shared between admirers over multiple years they are still pieces that can be sought after. Knowing that the clothing you wear is desired by another person creates a chain of responsibility, and the better care you take of your clothes the greater your reward when it is passed on to another person.

 

That cycle of buy, sell, resell and resell is what I'd much rather see for the clothing industry as a whole. Buying disposable clothing at the expense of a full life for another human being is not a "luxury" that anyone deserves, it’s fucking stupid. 

 

To me, this doesn't seem like a tremendously difficult idea. People have been doing this for years, especially in big families, and to have a societal shift to this way of thinking would hopefully disrupt the exploitation of "third world" countries by multi-national corporations. This exploitation, of course, is of this country's citizens and not its governing elite. Also, a fun game to play: name a "third world" country that got there by the whole country being lazy and no one wanting their country to be better.

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as it stands, fast fashion stores like gap, h&m, zara, uniqlo, etc cater to a low-stakes buying demographic, people who are after an element of individuality w/ their clothing, but aren't willing to drop upwards of $100 on a piece that might not mean anything to them a year (or even 6 months) from point of purchase. now take into account probably the central thesis of fast fashion: to emulate the trends relevant in high fashion, but at a much lower price point so that the average consumer will not only feel comfortable purchasing it, but come back to buy more once trends have changed. this ensures, for the consumer, a consistent offering of new things that they've maybe seen similar versions of on social media, and if the stores are to remove that element of trend-riding, as in to deny the fundamental hegemony of high fashion, it would amount to suicide for the majority of these companies. i do, however, believe, the same way if we're to tackle obesity it's gonna have to start at the level of fast food chains, if change is to occur, it's gonna begin with these stores (likely responding to some worldwide surge of demand for high-quality, unexploitative garments).

 

i know your post wasn't just about fast fashion, and i don't necessarily disagree w/ you in that this should be changed, but my point is that there's a lot more in play right now than simple self-centeredness or laziness on the part of the consumer. greed and corruption on the part of these companies, both high fashion and fast fashion, seems to me to be the central drive for this accumulation of waste and consequently inequity for third-world countries, and people are just stuck in the mindset promulgated by those stores.

 

another slant (which i don't necessarily agree with) is that this exploitative manufacturing is somehow a tool for transforming these third-world countries into states with higher standards of living. like it happened with japan and korea, and its currently happening (albeit slowly) with china and indonesia. but can it happen for countries like vietnam and bangladesh, whose current standards of living are literally so low that any manufacturing boom that occurs there is just to offset the probability of a complete and total economic disaster? and i really dont know the answer to that (maybe someone's got data). sorry this turned into such a long-winded post

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the sad truth is that sweatshops will always be around unless there is economic restructuring done at a national level - but who's going to do it? while the unemployment rate in bangladesh isn't ridiculously high (~5%), approx. 40% of the labour force is underemployed; having a low-paying job is, well, better than having none. yes, it is the intentional exploitation of third world countries by large MNCs, but the problem is much more deeply rooted at an economic level than simply pushing the blame toward specific industries.

 

 

There are some good things happening at the upper end of the market. Belgian designers producing things domestically, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons single handedly keeping many artisan workshops alive, the trend of heritage clothing and the associated means of production, and so on.

 

positive signs no doubt, but the main reason why domestic production works for these designers is simply because they have utilised it right from the start, and basically just had to stick with that business model; to replace offshore manufacturing with domestic production is a whole new ballgame. to draw an example, have a look at how several uk retailers have been trying to bring their production lines back to the uk in recent years, but are seeing little commercial success.

 

 

fundamentally, the entire issue of making fashion more sustainable requires changes at all parts of the production-consumption cycle, and neither party is willing to be the one who bites the first bullet - consumers undermine the impact of making conscious choices when consuming clothing at an individual level without considering the power of demand as a collective, and continue to support these unsustainable/unethical practices; manufacturers simply respond towards consumer demand - why change anything if they're still buying it?

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Really interested and happy to see that others not only think about this issue but take the time to think through the multitude of factors that influence it.

 

A question to the thread at large that I have been tossing around in my head that relates to the creativity side of fashion and manufacturing. Regarding conservative versus radical design elements (think Nike Air Carnivore versus Common Projects Achilles) and individualism, companies that produce offshore such as Nike often can make more radical design choices because their stakes are not as high. They have already established shoe models like the Air Force One that continue to bring in business no matter the year they are manufactured, and will choose to at least give new models a try and see if they develop a following. Common Projects is a similar company in that they have core styles that continue to sell year after year but their experiments (think mountain trail runner)  are of significantly higher stakes due to cost to manufacture and cost to a retailer if they do not sell.

 

In a world that continues to obsess over the individual, it is far easier to announce individuality with radically designed, low cost items. Is this part of the reason that fast fashion companies and larger multinational corporations continue to find customers? If there was greater recognition of how similar human beings are and a decrease in popular demand to be able to announce individuality with their clothing would these companies begin to falter as demand for high quality, if similar, items grew?

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Planet Money recently did a story following the steps involved in the offshore production of a tshirt
 
Video Journalism
Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt
 
Podcasts
Episode 496: Where The Planet Money T-Shirt Began
Episode 497: Love, Betrayal And The Planet Money T-Shirt
Episode 498: The Last T-Shirt In Colombia
Episode 499: Richard Nixon, Kimchi And The First Clothing Factory In Bangladesh
Episode 500: The Humble Innovation At The Heart Of The Global Economy
Episode 501: A Shirt, A Meat Grinder And The Book Of Everything
Episode 502: The Afterlife Of A T-Shirt

Episode 503: Adding Up The Cost Of The Planet Money T-Shirt

The Tragic Number That Got Us All Talking About Our Clothing
 
 

A question to the thread at large that I have been tossing around in my head that relates to the creativity side of fashion and manufacturing. Regarding conservative versus radical design elements (think Nike Air Carnivore versus Common Projects Achilles) and individualism, companies that produce offshore such as Nike often can make more radical design choices because their stakes are not as high. They have already established shoe models like the Air Force One that continue to bring in business no matter the year they are manufactured, and will choose to at least give new models a try and see if they develop a following. Common Projects is a similar company in that they have core styles that continue to sell year after year but their experiments (think mountain trail runner)  are of significantly higher stakes due to cost to manufacture and cost to a retailer if they do not sell.

 
Er, I think there are other important factors involved. There are counter examples like Outlier who produce most of their stuff locally and release more experiments that their bigger competitors.

Edited by SuE

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I find Outlier to be a company deserving of praise, but I wish their choice of manufacturing location was at least in part to intentionally combat offshore manufacturing. In interviews Abe himself has said that they chose the New York garment district to manufacture in because they were going to be working with small batches of experimental products. The intent was certainly to be a different kind of clothing company, but not necessarily an ethical one. This is not to slight Outlier, and I do hope I am remembering that interview correctly. Full disclaimer I own three pair of their pants, the minimal backpack, the merino henley, merino t-shirt, and probably 7 pair of their merino socks...even if it wasn't their initial aim I am extremely happy to see American companies working with tech fabrics and producing within the US.

 

Returning to offshore manufacturing, though, I find the overlap of the Planet Money video feature and ProfMonitoff/saffronrevolution's posts to be worthy of further discussion. Bangladesh is featured prominently in the Planet Money video, and definitely tries to offer both sides of the garment industry in Bangladesh. The girl they chose to focus on, Jasmine, talks about her work but more specifically how her choice to work there stems from very specific societal issues in Bangladesh (which is noted to be a significantly poorer country than Colombia, which is used as a comparison). She chooses to work in the garment industry and live in the city because there is little food and no opportunity to pay off the dowry of an elder sister.

 

The issue of dowries is, of course, an issue of gender and the perception of gender value in Bangladesh. As an earner, men are considered more valuable because they are given more employment prospects as long as they are perceived to be the sole earner for their wife and children. However, such a system finds itself at odds with Jasmine and other women working in the garment industry, earning money, and having greater agency because of this. Women should not be "taking jobs away" from men, even if they are better qualified and more apt at a task than their male counterparts.

 

This gets to Saffronrevolution's post about raising the quality of living. Comparing Jasmine's former life to her present life in the factory it is an improvement in both agency and monetary status but this change required her to convince her family to leave their home. This is a decision that they would not have had to make if the culture of Bangladesh did not view marriage as a necessity for women and their husbands as deserving of a dowry. I think that, emotionally, her life has probably changed for the worse. She looks extremely tired, she mentions that this is a factory where she feels "safe" in comparison to past factories, and her small room at a boarding house is shared with two others.

 

ProfMonitoff mentioned the distance from manufacturers and disconnect it creates, which is why the footage included of the factory  collapse doesn't get passed around the internet too often anymore. Its a intentional disconnect with malicious purpose that will be maintained until a change occurs on a large scale.

 

International trade presents marvelous opportunities for good, but in the name of efficiency and low cost we sacrifice citizens of other countries. I would earn what Jasmine earns in a month in a day at a minimum wage job in Washington. Washington, admittedly, has one of the highest minimum wages in the USA but no matter where you live the comparison is stark. If the world is to fall out into niches of manufacturing in the name of efficiency, which seems quite likely, considering how most countries operate on a similar system of concentrating like businesses (even on a city level think malls, restaurant areas, garment districts, farmer's markets, etc.) then we cannot have the tremendous gap in standards of living and income that we do now.

 

The popular series of books the Hunger Games plays out this scenario, with the USA/First World scathingly satirized as fools who concern themselves with fashion, entertainment, and food while the "districts" under their control struggle to produce the resources that demanded by the petty amusement of the Capitol. Whether teens/young adults that consume this story as entertainment are making this connection or not, the end scenario is not hard to arrive at. If you systematically continue to treat other people as trash long enough, they will forcibly change the system.

 

So this leaves us back at the question of how do we change such a system. Major problems to address:

1) Emotional/physical distance from the manufacturing process

2) Psychology of fashion: desire for "easy" individuality; perception of recycled clothing

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You guys are only seeing the immediate term. Developing countries aren't some orwellesque factory states doomed to make sneakers for all eternity. They're developing countries leveraging the fact that they bring low labor costs to the international trade economy. They're engaged in a cultural and economic transition, and parts of that transition are uglier than others, but they'll get along just fine without us feeling bad for them because we have the luxury of a moral high ground. They just need our dollars.

 

edit: that's not to say that wastefulness, rampant consumerism and emotional disconnect on our part aren't things we should strive to overcome, but for us to be concerned with that is still a moral luxury. 

Edited by Inkinsurgent

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They basically are though. People love to bring up China, but there were tons of other things going on there at the same as all the manufacturing.

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I feel like this thread is feeding the footnotes for a college paper. (Still an interesting read through, though.)

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You guys are only seeing the immediate term. Developing countries aren't some orwellesque factory states doomed to make sneakers for all eternity. They're developing countries leveraging the fact that they bring low labor costs to the international trade economy. They're engaged in a cultural and economic transition, and parts of that transition are uglier than others, but they'll get along just fine without us feeling bad for them because we have the luxury of a moral high ground. They just need our dollars.

 

edit: that's not to say that wastefulness, rampant consumerism and emotional disconnect on our part aren't things we should strive to overcome, but for us to be concerned with that is still a moral luxury.

 

I wish I could share your optimism with the laissez-faire attitude but history isn't on your side. Latin American countries have been in 'transition' for over a century with still no end game of 'developed nation' status in sight. See Episode 498: The Last T-Shirt In Colombia for a pertinent example.

Also cross posting from the other thread as TresUnCool requested:

 

Northwest, i appreciate the humanism and good will in your post. However, the idea that, save for a couple of bad eggs, our production in second world countries (not third world, third world countries are defined by a lack of industralisation) is a form of exploitation is simply untrue. These countries are able to compete economically because manual labor is cheaper there than it is here. Eventually their economic growth will lead to better lives for everyone. Remember that it was pure economic success that led to the end of child labor in europe.

The best thing we can do for developing countries is to keep buying their products so they can evolve economically. Eventually morality will catch up.

Whoa this thread is going to turn into a politics flamewar, isn't it? Duty calls...

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'Third World' has a defined meaning although it is often mistaken for poor countries with a lack of industralization. Second World refers to the old communist bloc.

Regarding outsourced production in second/third countries as exploitative is not "simply untrue" and is still a cause for concern

Economic growth doesn't lead to better lives for everyone. The gains aren't evenly distributed and end up concentrated in the hands of a few. Child labour wasn't eliminated due to economic success but due to economic unrest from workers worried about competing with children for lower wages and activist agitation. Buying their products doesn't gurantee that the countries will evolve economically (not when the rich countries are kicking away the ladder).

 

fwiw, I'm not enamored with the 'Made in USA' or 'Made in Italy' or 'Made in England' movements partly because I don't live in those countries lol

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I wish I could share your optimism with the laissez-faire attitude but history isn't on your side. Latin American countries have been in 'transition' for over a century with still no end game of 'developed nation' status in sight. See Episode 498: The Last T-Shirt In Colombia for a pertinent example.

 

The current economic model isn't old enough to look back at history and extrapolate. The model involving the least amount of assumptions is that allowing developing countries to compete economically with what they have to offer is the most likely route to economic success for them. 

 

That meanwhile the west is being a bunch of giant money-grabbing assholes about it is unfortunate in the short term, but history is all about competition. 

 

 

edit: i'm not the bastard child of thatcher and reagan, really. 

Edited by Inkinsurgent

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Is there anyway a designer/company could produce fashion at the prices of zara and H&M, not necessarily as fast, ethically? Paying it's workers a living wage in all factories and/or setting up centres they could use while being employed by the company?

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You guys are only seeing the immediate term. Developing countries aren't some orwellesque factory states doomed to make sneakers for all eternity. They're developing countries leveraging the fact that they bring low labor costs to the international trade economy. They're engaged in a cultural and economic transition, and parts of that transition are uglier than others, but they'll get along just fine without us feeling bad for them because we have the luxury of a moral high ground. They just need our dollars.

 

edit: that's not to say that wastefulness, rampant consumerism and emotional disconnect on our part aren't things we should strive to overcome, but for us to be concerned with that is still a moral luxury. 

 

This statement I most certainly take issue with. The most basic idea of economics is supply and demand, and the current state of the world's economy sees developing countries competing to supply the demand of historically dominant/lucky countries. The idea that these countries have any sort of "leverage" is almost laughable if this cycle was not hurting other people. I do not have "leverage" in construction if I tell an employer that I can put a nail in a wall. I have leverage in construction if I am an electrician or a plumber. I have leverage if I have specific skills that can only be replicated by other professionals like myself, in which case I am in competition with them. Low production costs can always be undercut if your country's citizens are desperate enough, and so MNC's will play "how low can you go" with these developing countries. Prices going up in Bangladesh? Too much media attention on the factory collapse? An MNC can pack up and move out, albeit at a loss. Their workers do not have that choice.

 

As "Made in China" became more of a dirty term in the cultural consciousness, it was crushing to watch people see "Made in Peru" and mentally twist their mind to think that a major change had been made, because they had less familiarity with factory conditions. All it takes is less familiarity and geographic distance. When most Americans think of South America, it's probably a vision of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps factory conditions are better, perhaps the workers are paid more, but the worst part is the majority of people would never know because they do not demand to know. It takes money and connections to and document these places of production, but no company will supply such a service unless the customer demands it.

 

On top of all this, I think it takes great mental gymnastics to deny recognition of human suffering. We are emotional, visual, and linguistic creatures and the majority of us possess empathy. The combination of these features allows us to understand each other, and determine what the other needs. If you've ever watched elephants around a sick/dying calf, it is all the more heartbreaking to see what separates humans from animals. The elephants do not possess the ability to ascertain why the calf is sick/dying, or how to fix such a situation. As visual/emotional beings, they can only recognize that there is pain and there is an end. There is no prevention or solution; there is finality and mourning.

 

It is also worth mentioning that we can conceive of a tomorrow, which is one of the greatest blessings and curses ever bestowed. Tomorrow brings with it the chance to try again, but it also gives us the chance to postpone what ought to have been done today. As countries develop, we can believe that prosperity will eventually arrive to its citizens, but history offers too many examples of concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. Examine oil fortunes in the Middle East as an extremely important example. Wide-spread wealth and a place on the world stage have never come to countries of great faith, and the debate between the reality of economics and the promises of faith has become an explosive issue.

 

We should not condemn other countries to exist as oligarchies. We possess the ability to recognize that the economic model being repeated is creating problems and we need to seek solutions. To only sit and mourn these problems and losses is to spite our existence as human beings.

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NW, you make good points and i agree with your humanist view as a whole, but at this point in time the kind of labor these countries offer is in fact a competitive product for the simple reason that both the volume and price of that labor is unavailable elsewhere, and will remain unavailable for the simple reason that the western world by and large has surpassed that form of labor.

The conditions that exist in these countries are something they themselves will have to overcome. Not because the white man comes past on his moral high horse demanding people in bangladesh get their sundays off, but because all fundamental cultural and polititcal emancipation has to come from within. The most likely peaceful road to political and cultural change is a place at the table of international trade, bumpy and ugly as that road may be. But hey, when isn't history a bumpy and ugly thing? The economic prosperity and political liberties we enjoy are the fruits of a century of war and genocide and yet today we feel like we should go and tell other nations looking to make a place in the world to make nice.

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The current economic model isn't old enough to look back at history and extrapolate. The model involving the least amount of assumptions is that allowing developing countries to compete economically with what they have to offer is the most likely route to economic success for them. 

 

That meanwhile the west is being a bunch of giant money-grabbing assholes about it is unfortunate in the short term, but history is all about competition. 

 

 

edit: i'm not the bastard child of thatcher and reagan, really. 

 

I believe your model has the most amount of assumptions (see the kicking away the ladder link) but let's agree to disagree and leave it at that.

 

NW, you make good points and i agree with your humanist view as a whole, but at this point in time the kind of labor these countries offer is in fact a competitive product for the simple reason that both the volume and price of that labor is unavailable elsewhere, and will remain unavailable for the simple reason that the western world by and large has surpassed that form of labor.

The conditions that exist in these countries are something they themselves will have to overcome. Not because the white man comes past on his moral high horse demanding people in bangladesh get their sundays off, but because all fundamental cultural and polititcal emancipation has to come from within. The most likely peaceful road to political and cultural change is a place at the table of international trade, bumpy and ugly as that road may be. But hey, when isn't history a bumpy and ugly thing? The economic prosperity and political liberties we enjoy are the fruits of a century of war and genocide and yet today we feel like we should go and tell other nations looking to make a place in the world to make nice.

 

You're assuming that previous cultural and empancipation efforts in other countries didn't have people who crossed lines to help in the struggle.

Edited by SuE

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You're assuming that previous cultural and empancipation efforts in other countries didn't have people who crossed lines to help in the struggle.

I wouldn't know any pertinent examples save for the marshall plan, but that was hardly motivated by universal humanism.

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So on a more practical note: do practical alternatives exist? What means of economic development do smaller states that are low in natural resources have that do not rely on sponsorship by the western world? 

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So on a more practical note: do practical alternatives exist? What means of economic development do smaller states that are low in natural resources have that do not rely on sponsorship by the western world? 

 

Another question that I find fascinating and difficult to answer. The notion of "geographic luck" that Jared Diamond explores in Guns, Germs, and Steel was prompted by thoughts about these kinds of issues. Specifically, Diamond was asked , "Why do you have so much and we have so little?" He gives his best answer to why wealth/resources are currently distributed in the pattern they are, and the recognition  that smaller states exist with little access to natural resources exist and face unique problems is telling about the global economy and history.

 

Guns, Germs, and Steel is an excellent read, and I highly recommend it, but to summarize even its major points would take a lot of text (even for me) so here's what I took away as the end lesson: geographic luck in concert with social philosophy, advances in technology, and biological oddities (Europeans spent a lot of time with their farm animals and eventually became mostly immune to their diseases) allowed for European countries to assume a position of dominance in the world when they began expanding outwards in search of additional natural resources for their growing populations. Due to enormous advantages in weapon technology and biological genocide on the peoples they visited, they were able to claim whatever resources they desired from these countries, denying the birthright of these peoples to the resources of the place that they lived in.

 

Imperialism by force has fallen out of favor, and with good reason. South America and Africa continue to struggle to recover from the slave trade and the claims of other countries to their resources, but their struggle is far from over. The far more insidious force of economic imperialism allows for the same countries who stole their resources by force centuries ago to now take a chunk of the country's rightful earnings by having access to the technology needed to properly take advantage of their resources. When a new mineral deposit or oil deposit is found in South America or Africa, the majority of their countries do not possess the technology necessary to mine/drill and refine these resources. In exchange for at least part of the profit, they allow MNCs to properly mine/drill and refine these deposits for them. But think how much is lost for these countries who could certainly use this money for infrastructure to promote additional trade(which they would also need to even access these resources, for example), education for their children to give them some hope of competing in a global economy, etc.

 

These states are not low on natural resources by accident. They are low on natural resources because the economic balance of power makes them choose to have some money rather than none, while more prosperous countries use their resources to their own ends.

 

On an individual level, I understand the Randian notion of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, but I still partially disagree with it. I think that we all must choose what we wish to do with our lives and follow it through to the end, but in all human endeavors we must learn, and this cannot happen without being taught, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Humans are mimetic creatures, and the basic level of learning is to learn by imitation. Struggling countries cannot imitate the route that has brought countries like the USA to a place of power at least partially because, as citizens, we should be appalled at our history. We are a country built on the back of slavery, murder and marginalization of our native people, economic exploitation of the less fortunate, and continued, willful consumption of fuel we know to be injuring our chances of surviving as a species, and . We have many bright spots as a country, but it is necessary to highlight our faults so as not to forget them...the brighter memories get a lot more attention.   

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At the end of 2011 and the start of 2012,I had enough.

Too much junk, too much clothes and far too much shoes..

I have sold off loads of all of them

 

I saw a dutch consumer network being set up and it was about cutting down buying clothes

The plan was for a year.. I held up till july, then the missus told me to get new underwear.

I now do watch where something is made and if I trust the brand enough to part with my money.(I hardly buy any Nike for that reason) 

 

During 2012 I started looking in to off shore manufacturing and although some people  here say it will turn out allright in the end.,it will  probably leave parts the countries ecosystem in ruins.

 

I saw pictures of turkish denim factories were H&M jeans were dyed, bleached and sandblasted, without proper protection and where the waste just seeped back into the stream. The blue river the turks called it.

This would never go down in first world countries.

So it is not just the cheap labor that is brought into this mix but the environmental damage that the brands don't have to pick up the tab on are enormous bonuses, especially in denim..

 

The so called fashion merry go round that has been created over the last 20 years has been incredible and almost propagandistic  and with most  labels producing 4 collections a year the consumer is driven crazy by this constant influx of new images.

Especially for younger people, the money isn't there for Saint Laurent or Lanvin so they turn to H&M and Primark etc for their fashion fix.

 

I am still hoping for a sort of Punk rebellion against that system from the younger generation but the force is strong  in that segment so all there is to do is telling my daughter that it's better to buy two pieces of expensive and well made clothing then 8 lousy ones made by kids and underpaid workers.

 

But the funniest thing..I bought her a vintage Hermes  LS T op with the horses and carriage.

The girl sitting next to her : It is spelled wrong..should have read Homies then you have the proper one..

Problem in a nutshell..

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Having lived 15 or so minutes away from a mall the majority of my life, another problem that immediately jumps out at me in regards to Offshore Manufacturing is the reselling that occurs between stores. If you've ever perused a Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, etc. you find many of the same brands in department stores like Macy's and Nordstroms. These stores thrive on the perception that you are getting a deal on the brands that can be found in the department stores, and that you too can be of the economic bracket that can afford to shop there. It feels like responsibility gets passed down the line of these stores and lessens the pressure on their buyers dramatically. If something doesn't sell well, resell it to the next "tier" of store and keep on marching. There aren't the same kind of consequences that you face in a small business.

 

Working in the mindframe of a small business, every brand my employer carries is a brand that is "working for us" in that we carry the brands that have the best turnover. We run our own sales like any other store, but we want items that sell themselves. When we carry quality goods a sales associate can help persuade a customer to buy it but the customer should already want it based on its inherent qualities.

 

I think that lessening emphasis on physical appearance is freeing in many ways. I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've felt self-conscious about appearance in my life or felt shamed by my peers about what I do or do not have. But to lessen the value of appearance to the point where "someone will eventually want this because it is clothing" is a very strange notion to me, and it feels stranger still to see cultural artifacts like wrong winner pre-printed Super Bowl winner t-shirts on the backs of children struggling to survive.

 

Does tossing our scraps back to disadvantaged countries make an unethical system of production justified? That seems to be an argument people make. I feel like the privilege that has been acquired should lead us to create and maintain fewer pieces of value rather than a multitude of shoddy items.

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So on a more practical note: do practical alternatives exist? What means of economic development do smaller states that are low in natural resources have that do not rely on sponsorship by the western world? 

 

Japan had a really successful recovery in the wake of World War 2 and US occupation by building an economy around importing relatively cheap raw goods and turning them into industrial machinery and consumer products built on the same industrial machinery. But Japanese firms were the ones turning big profits there, the sweat shop model ranges from exploitative contracting to outright theft and all of the benefit returns to companies based in other countries. I don't see a bright future for Bangladesh if they stick to this business model.

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Exactly what I am thinking.. Bangladesh is at the end of that push in Asia. Maybe Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam.

The cheap production countries are drying up and are partaking in the now easier global economy. Soon the focus from China will shift to Africa as it's production backyard because of the emancipation of the Chinese worker.

And then the whole thing will start with Africa..Leaving the asian countries in ruin because of the sudden shift of work and environmental issues..

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I'd love to see this thread continue on, and another issue came up recently in my workplace that I found interesting.

 

We recently provided uniforms to a company that was having an open house and had previously not required uniforms. However, because of increased size and success they preferred that their employees visually represent a sense of unity/consistency within the company. Many people must wear uniforms for their jobs that bear the logo of the company that employs them, so why is it that those uniforms are made unethically? Is the quick turn around and low prices? Is it the fact that many jobs that require a uniform are lower "status" and have a high rate of turnover ( i.e. fast food restaurants)?

 

Running a small business has many stresses, and financial pressure can feel crushing to new small businesses especially. I am lucky to work in a store that has run successfully for 35 years, and the owner of the store is willing to put money into choices that will pay off in the long run, (such as LED lighting). If anyone has experience with starting up a small business, was cost the deciding factor for most of your decisions? That sounds like a pretty naive question to ask I suppose, but I am curious.

 

On a similar subject, do school uniforms promote unethical manufacturing as much as not having a uniform? Children's clothing continues to be a subject I think about a lot when it comes to manufacturing because the psychological state of parents is something I can be sympathetic to but is also extremely limiting (especially in the old/recycled clothes = I'm poor/not providing for my child like I should). My younger sister attended a school where uniforms were required and I am certain not a single piece of the clothing those kids wore was produced in conditions I could be proud of. The idea of clothing our children in clothes made by people robbed of a childhood/life they could enjoy is extremely hard to swallow.

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I wore a uniform for school from kindergarten - 12th grade.  Whenever a kid would rebel and question why uniforms were necessary, claiming that they restricted individuality and expression and all that, the faculty's explanation was largely this:

 

The reputation of the institution is dependent upon the public's perception of the students/faculty within.  Wearing a uniform sent a message about the school's unity and dignity that student's normal casual dress would not.  

 

More arguments I've heard from the faculty are the behavioral argument (students will act academically if they dress academically) and the anit-bullying argument (kids won't be made fun of for different/inferior dress if everyone dresses the same).  Although I went to a Catholic school, and one would think that a religious institution's values would include equity, the conditions in which the uniforms were made were never brought up.

 

Does this mean the institution was unconsciously promoting poor labor conditions by mandating these uniforms? Well, yes and no.  I think the school was demonstrating an ignorance of the issue rather than promoting for or against it.

Edited by Schoon

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Ignorance of the issues that we create through consumption is forgivable to a certain age, in my opinion, because access to information regarding the less glamorous side of living in an unimaginably wealthy society is so rarely mentioned by any mainstream media source.

 

I happened to participate in a program that emphasized that being ignorant of the ills you cause through consumption in the age of the internet is unacceptable. I struggled to come around to the truth that, as a person, you are responsible for every choice you make, and most of these choices will be about consumption. In the context of biology, philosophy, and capitalism, choosing not to consume is not an option because that is effectively suicide. Life is sustained by consumption of other life, suicide is a crime against yourself (according to Kant), and people need to buy and sell (not just one or the other).

 

This is something I continue to think about, especially as companies continue to blend the lines concerning where ethical manufacturing occurs (the often discussed "Made In Italy" tag that was once held so high). This is one of the best arguments, for me, to buy from local companies that do everything in-house (see Tanner Goods, etc.), but their customer base's aesthetic preferences remain significantly different from the fashion-forward and ever-changing expanding tastes of the superfuture community members.   

 

There are excellent aesthetic efforts from former sufu members, such as Silent Whisper, and I'd love to know if anyone has info on their manufacturing facilities/conditions. That there isn't clarity regarding questions like this still speaks volumes about the industry itself and the standards of its consumers.

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I wore a uniform for school from kindergarten - 12th grade.  Whenever a kid would rebel and question why uniforms were necessary, claiming that they restricted individuality and expression and all that, the faculty's explanation was largely this:

 

The reputation of the institution is dependent upon the public's perception of the students/faculty within.  Wearing a uniform sent a message about the school's unity and dignity that student's normal casual dress would not.  

 

More arguments I've heard from the faculty are the behavioral argument (students will act academically if they dress academically) and the anit-bullying argument (kids won't be made fun of for different/inferior dress if everyone dresses the same).  Although I went to a Catholic school, and one would think that a religious institution's values would include equity, the conditions in which the uniforms were made were never brought up.

 

Does this mean the institution was unconsciously promoting poor labor conditions by mandating these uniforms? Well, yes and no.  I think the school was demonstrating an ignorance of the issue rather than promoting for or against it.

 

it's silly to isolate clothing if you take into account all the other things schools must acquire

do you think all those products are made under acceptable conditions?

i can understand why members of this community would be primarily concerned with how a school's uniforms are manufactured, but for most individuals and institutions, the production of clothing is seen as a symptom of a much larger problem which is much harder to fix

 

with that said, i'm confused by people who care about the origins of their clothing for moral reasons yet hardly ever think about the origins of everything else they consume

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