Happy True Cost Tuesday, where we unpack the reasons behind why we at Yobel only provide fair trade, ethical, and sustainable clothing and accessories. This is volume nine and you can read previous volumes here. Today I’ll be talking about three signs of slave labor in fashion.
We love educating people to increase awareness of where products come from. As all of us are out and about shopping for a new shirt, a pair of shoes or a wedding guest outfit, there are a few simple signs that a product most likely comes from underpaid and/or slave labors.
First, is cost. The cost of a product can help determine if the person who made it was paid a livable wage. An example is a crochet sweater. Crochet is a process that so far cannot be duplicated by machinery. It still takes a person with yarn and crochet hooks to create the product. Crochet is trending right now with prices starting around $35. On average it takes 20 hours to crochet a sweater. So, when doing the math on labor alone, there is no way a person would be paid a livable wage to crochet a $35 sweater.
Second, is quality. In fast fashion, the goal is to produce products as inexpensively as possible. This means the materials used are less expensive, in most cases don’t last as long and therefore, the quality is low. Another sign of low quality is using minimal materials. A dress that doesn’t have a lining, a shirt that has a pattern on the front but not the back are two examples of low quality. In those cases, the company is trying to use the least costly and smallest amount of materials for the product.
Third, is quantity. How many items of a product are available? Another goal of fast fashion is making as many of a product in as little time as possible. People making clothes are working as fast as they humanly can to meet quotas. Main fast fashion companies are producing up to 10,000 items a day. In a slower, small batch fashion world, there are limited quantities of a product and some items are even made to order as not to overproduce. If you find seemingly unlimited quantities of a product, it's most likely coming from over worked laborers.
I could write a full volume on each of the points I’ve mentioned today (and I might!) so this doesn’t tell the full story of cost, quality, and quantity but it's a start. I encourage you to think through these ideas when shopping and start looking into your favorite brands. Are their prices seemingly consistent with the time it might take to create the product? Will the product last a long time? Is the product mass produced? Try to remember there’s a person behind everything.