Does expensive always mean a considerately produced product? Not necessarily. Take any couture brand then look at where their factories are. But equally does a cheap product always mean corners cut and unethical methods used in production? Usually. At least, if someone needs to make a profit. I have yet to see a brand of any sort with expenses to pay that is able to undercut on the high street using ethical methods of production and with due care and attention towards its staff and its practices.
I’ve had my eye on one brand in particular who are making things I really like and really want to buy – and that’s a rare thing indeed. Their website boasts ‘small batch production’, ‘handmade’ and ‘slow, responsible fashion’ and their ‘About Us’ page uses all the right words to ease the minds of shoppers. But I am confused by the pricetags because £30 for a pair of trousers sounds cheap as chips for something made with such care and attention. But if they are using those as selling points and they aren’t any of those things, how can they make those claims? Their website includes no concrete supply chain info. So no matter how much I love the clothes, I cannot buy them without that information.
Like all new crazes and honest tags, handmade has seen its fair share of rip offs. And it’s remarkable how many customers don’t stop to question the claims when the pricetags don’t match the ethics. It’s as if the right words will ease your conscience. It shouldn’t. It really shouldn’t.
For instance, last Christmas knitted mermaid tail foot warmers were the in-thing according to my social media. They weren’t simple products either. Fully knitted tails that you threaded your legs into during the winter months. They were half body length and sold under the ‘handmade’ label on Amazon (where else). But they were £8.99 which seemed completely illogical to me because the words knitted, handmade and £8.99 don’t sit together very comfortably.
The problem with linking cheap price tags with ‘handmade’ is that it gives the impression to customers that handmade, ethical and slow fashion are as affordable as cheap high street ranges. And they just aren’t. For whatever reason, customers are invariably happy to turn a blind eye. But every customer should be questioning their purchases or nothing will ever change. Brands only change if customers make them, by voting with their footfall.
Buying fashion that isn’t only concerned with the bottom line should be an aspiration. There should be a pride in spending more money, and wearing things for longer and valuing the effort and skills that went into production. It is not an entitlement come to by hijacking an idealism and then using the same practices as everyone else.
The knock on effect of this, is that it then also removes the idea that buying something that has been made with care and consideration is an investment and not something you wear once and throw it away because it was cheap. If you bought something that was entirely made by the hands of a 12 year old child would you value it more if it was £2 or £20?
And this in turn makes the buying process harder for customers because the labels aren’t always to be trusted. This is why I’ve given up looking at labels on the high street. In fact, it’s why I’ve given up shopping on the high street. And it makes it infinitely more difficult for genuine handmade brands to get themselves noticed on social media because everyone has piggy-backed that hashtag. If you’re looking for ‘handmade trousers’ and you type that in on Instagram you’ll get a lot more than ethical products.
Quite simply, whatever the branding tells you, look at the price label first. If that doesn’t sit right with you, there is probably a problem.