February turned up an interesting article in The Fashion Law about Balenciaga and their now dubious Made In Italy labelling. These days they are sporting Made In China labels and they’ve been more transparent than their competition it would seem.
This is not uncommon. Brands will often put their country of origin on the label rather than where it was manufactured. As TFL states: ‘…the country of origin according to the European Union’s rules of origin is where the final production process is carried out…‘ thus meaning a part of, and perhaps a large part of, the product could easily be made in China or indeed elsewhere and simply finished in Italy. UK Business Forums went some way to explaining the United Kingdom’s take on this, on one of their queries recently.
To the layman this basically means it wasn’t made in Italy, but with EU laws so sketchy on that front, it means brands can still tout countries of origin even if they are not strictly true. And not enough consumers are challenging these claims or questioning the labelling on their favourite brands.
In my mind, and in the minds of many consumers, ‘Made In’ should mean made ENTIRELY in. Where products are predominantly produced abroad and simply finished in the country of choice this, for me, makes the label more than a dishonest sales tactic.
The hard reality is that in many countries, it simply is not possible to manufacture on home turf. In the UK for instance, where we don’t produce textiles in any reasonable quantity or variety, it would be almost impossible for a Made in the UK garment to be entirely of UK origin. And even if you can source what you need (and with a little searching you can find a surprising amount) the costs of those items invariably pushes the final garment price beyond what a brand feels it can retail for and still remain competative enough to survive.
If you want to reinforce the transparency of your supply chain you additionally need to consider if the UK companies you are buying your base products from source everything to make their product in the UK. For instance, a zip manufacturer might make its zips in the UK, but are their base products from abroad?
Buying pure British is remarkably difficult. Brands that used to be recognised as UK owned have been quietly bought out by foreign companies as profit margins slide and the UK continues to struggle in a difficult financial market post 2008 and pre-Brexit.
Even if all your design and manufacture is done on British soil, something that’s almost impossible for large brands to achieve since we no longer carry a substantial manufacturing industry here, for smaller companies and individual designers manufacturing in the UK is an easier claim to make and stand by since it actually works out cheaper to do things in house.
It is in the customers best interests to challenge labels if they have any concerns. If you think a product is marked up because of its ‘Made In’ label and it may not be from where the label suggests you have the right to ask about their supply chain. You don’t have to accept it if you’re unsure.