Is Throw Away Fashion Killing Our Industry?

Just the other day I was trying to understand how Primark manages to sell its products so cheaply. I haven’t found the breakdown of statistics I am looking for just yet and I’m not entirely sure it exists to the layman. But I am constantly astounded by the prices in its stores.

As a designer working from home I have minimal outgoings which means I can make things fairly cheaply compared to a boutique store for instance. But one dress in Primark might cost one hour of my labour time. How do they do it? Of course, labour is cheap for them, but there are still fabric costs, buildings to maintain, shipping, transportation and storage, packaging, advertising and selling once its products hit the UK.

Another store bites the dust (source)

And whilst Primark might say they are helping consumers during the recession, it is these cheap products and the mindset of consumers to expect everything for next to nothing which is fuelling the problem. More expensive and reliable brands are going out of business because of them. And when even charity shops are refusing Primark clothing on account of its poor manufacture, you know there’s a problem somewhere.

So I am amazed they are still getting away with it and that despite the complaints customers keep going back for more.

I was inspired to write this blog by an article I read on earlier this week, which reminded me what an impact this kind of mentality is having on the health of our high streets.
Primark’s profits are on the increase because we’re greedy. 
We’ve worked our way into a recession by becoming addicted 
consumers. And if your salary won’t stretch to cover designer 
buys, you can get the same hit from a Primark splurge with 
relatively little damage to your wallet.
How Primark, dubbed ‘Primarni’, actually does it, noone seems to really know. But when you realise what’s actually involved in the production process it really blows your mind how they can sell product for the prices they do. This article published just last year still highlighted issues with Primark’s ethical values from several years ago when Panorama exposed the questionable morals of its manufacture abroad.

Just £13 – how? (source)

But has anything actually changed?  Prices are still the same, and it seems the ethical stance has fallen by the wayside as shoppers feed their addiction during the recession.

Whilst all around us, stores are closing down or holding permanent sales in an attempt to draw customers in, so a trip to Primark will suggest otherwise as customers cram as much as they can into shopping baskets and flimsy paper bags.

It’s a huge concern, and when you are in the industry, trying to keep a business alive, it’s a terrifying and disheartening reality that your customers would rather buy throwaway fashion that they may never even wear than something that will last for years and fit perfectly.

And it’s a terrible shame that our industry has boiled down to the price tag and not the cut, the fit or the longevity of the product.

We once had a great fashion industry, which now seems to only be accessible by the privileged few. And this is a very sad reality which is going to continue to have disastrous effects on what is left of our industry in this country. And who knows where it will end without an end in sight to the recession. How many more recognised brands will disappear from our high streets, and how many freelance and independent manufacturers will fall by the wayside? 

……..if companies actually instilled the philosophy to pay workers 
the equivalent of the UK’s basic wage amd provided European 
Standards of Labour we would probably all be walking around naked.
Where the industry goes from here, who knows. It can’t go on as it is, otherwise pretty soon the only stores left selling clothes to the average shopper on the high street will be Primark, charity shops and supermarkets and that would be a terrible legacy.

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