I recently stumbled across a Huffington Post article by Shannon Whitehead titled ‘5 truths the fast fashion industry doesn’t want you to know’. What particularly caught my attention was number two on the list, ‘discounts aren’t really discounts’. Whitehead alerts readers to the scandalous ‘reality’ of fashion outlets stocking items we believe are last seasons labels for a fraction of the price, but are in fact garments of lower quality, with the same ‘high-end’ label stuck on their amateur & poorly created design.
As someone who is an avid supporter of quality goods but also can’t resist outlet sales, I wonder, should I be disappointed by the misleading advertising of factory outlets? Or, was I already subconsciously aware, but unprepared to give up that thrill of a bargain. To say that we, as consumers, are responsible to delve further into the background of what we are buying off the racks, is an understatement. Today, with media developing at such a dramatic pace, it is absolutely vital to think beyond the, albeit convincing, often deceptive practices in leading market places.
Quality at retail outlets varies widely. Retail analyst Maureen Atkinson says, ’you can’t fill the stores all the time, so then you need another source’ (as cited in Mancini 2016). It is likely, as you peel through rows and rows of what could be perceived as consumer heaven, there are significant differences you will see between items made specifically for outlet sales and those genuinely discounted from the original retail store. In particular, the quality of fabrics, stitching, and a lower percentage natural material content. Even major fashion house J. Crew admitted to manufacturing lower quality products specifically for outlets, ‘In some cases, we do utilise different fabrics or adjust design details to maintain a more reasonable price point’ (as cited in Mancini 2016), J. Crew said.
Ultimately we have to decide, as a consumer, how much we are prepared to pay for quality, and how much do we really care to know. Whilst we may love a bargain, what is the real cost of cheap clothes, likely made by the tired hands of poorly treated workers from a sweat shop in Bangladesh. The collapse of the dilapidated Rana Plaza on April 24th 2013, which claimed over 1,100 lives and injured more than 2,000 workers in a state of rubble and despair, brought to the surface the unspeakable conditions workers endure in order to provide for our super saving, unaware shoppers. Bangladesh maintains employees with some of the lowest wages in the world, most of whom are young women, many left with life threatening disabilities. Australia’s obsession with fast fashion is not only hurting the environment, as the ‘second largest consumer of textiles, buying on average 27 kilograms of new clothing and other textiles a year’ (Pepper 2017), but encouraging cheap and torturous conditions of overseas workers and their children.
Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson found in an investigation of Australian clothing companies and Bangladesh factories, that workers spoke of a ‘miserable existence’ with ‘long hours, pitiful pay and abuse if deadlines aren’t met’ (Ferguson 2013). You don’t have to search far to find pools of information regarding the horrific circumstances young men and women live through daily in the fashion industry. Why is it that we continue to indirectly, but actively support such inhumanity. Is it because we are too far removed from the conditions of such reality? Or, in the pursuit of luxury, we simply don’t care.
Image source: http://www.abc.net.au/
Ferguson, S. (2013, June 27), FASHION VICTIMS, Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2013/06/25/3785918.htm, [Accessed 10 July 2017]
Mancini, M. (2016, January 07), Mythbusting: Outlet stores might not be as good a deal as you think, Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/outlet-stores-quality-1.3392279, [Accessed 10 July 2017]
Pepper, F. (2017, January 12), Australia’s obsession with new clothes and ‘fast fashion’ textiles hurting the environment, Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-12/australias-obsession-with-new-clothes-hurting-the-environment/8177624, [Accessed 10 July 2017]