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Good Read: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
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    To understand why fashion is so beguiled by overseas production, consider that even after outsourcing almost our entire clothing industry to low-wage countries, labor is still a huge part of the cost of garment production. According to recent estimates, raw materials account for 25 to 50 percent of the cost of producing an item of clothing, while labor ranges from 20 to 40 percent. Fashion is a labor-intense industry, not a technology-intense industry. You need someone to sit at a sewing machine. Clothing, even when produced in a factory, is really a handmade good broken down into assembly-line steps. The sewing machine is more a tool than a machine, as it really just facilitates and speeds up manual work. The uniquely labor-intensive nature of clothing is why sewing is one of the most common professions in the world and the most common profession in the fashion industry.

    That clothes are essentially handmade might seem obvious, but this simple fact has a profound effect on the prices we pay for our clothes. The wages paid to sewing machine operators and the money paid to garment factories enormously affects the prices we pay for fashion. To make a cheaper car, cheaper parts are necessary. Cheap fashion does rely on cheaper materials, but difference in fabric prices between two countries, for example Japan and China, might be fifty cents, not enough to really impact price tags. That’s not where savings are. It’s labor. Over here, there are labor laws. And we can’t pay less than the minimum wage. To make cheap clothes, you really need cheap labor.

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  • The True Cost, documentary released last year on film festival circuit.

    This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

    Full film ( streaming)

    Also on Netflix, iTunes etc.


  • Thanks for film link, I'll check it.

  • I do not like that the problem attributed to the fashion . This is a problem of globalization ... Real fashion - in Italy and it is happening hands of Italian masters. Only Italian designers and Italian needlework! They make their creations a soul! Small boutiques Florence, Milan, Rome ... - is the true fashion and beauty!

  • PS I'm from Russia And I do not mean DG, Gucci and similar...

  • I do not like that the problem attributed to the fashion . This is a problem of globalization ...

    Well, fashion have nothing to do with it.

    Even globalization don't.

    As first citation show (and more in this book) it is just simple and plain capitalism. Want to dream about soul and such - you will be bankrupt and no one will remember you.

  • Thing with film (and book I referenced) is that authors lack basic knowledge that existed even in 19th century.

    Both also (without understanding it) use idealism approach.

    It is something similar to Austrian economic school lovers or as I call them Utopian masochist idealists.

    Authors paint good world without certain issues, just do not have any plan or strategy how to make one (utopia). Worse even, instead of real plan they propose some good sounding pure ideas not supported with real things and existing restrictions (idealism), and ideas that are going against interests of ruling class (it means that they consider them masochists).

  • More film feedback.

    Authors made some good work, but without any good plan necessary for making really good documentary.

    We have "Fair Trade" and "Organic" capitalists taking huge time with the thoughts that must go directly to waste bin. We have personal story that intended to tie things up, yet it is not, despite having some good pieces (like real unions treatment).
    Towards the end we have small shine of light.. with words that it is really capitalism and exploitation.
    But... but... it is bad and such, but can be fixed.
    And we are back again to consumerism and how bad it is. With special intentional use of "materialism" word in completely wrong context and way.

    So, just small FAQ for people who ask some questions about book and film

    Q1. It is consumerism, or may be defective EU and US population that are causing this? May be TV or advertisements?

    A1. Nope.

    Q2. So, may be we need to write proper codes for corporations so they will improve things?

    A2. Don't work on big scale. And never will.

    Q3. Why corporations manage to pass all necessary laws and opposing proposals never go through?

    A3. Because state and laws are class things. Laws always express interests of ruling class.

    Q4. May be somehow we will make discussion, manage to improve capitalism, implement only good laws?

    A4. See A3. Any visible improvements in capitalism can be related to only two things - availability of more cheap energy and resources and ability to move workers exploitation in other place. As here we deal with thing that can't be solved using such two cases - proposed improvements are impossible.

    Q5. You mean that it is capitalism that needs to be dismantled? But will capitalists just say big thanks and give up on current practices and go practicing yoga instead?

    A5. Yes, otherwise it is just words and pure opportunism, we can see lots of opportunists in this film who seems to be good, for the interests of people.
    And no, they won't give up. Will need some escort to go to the cliff jumping practicing meeting.

  • “If it’s $500 for embroidery and then I charge $100 for labor,” DiPalma said, click, clack, clicking on his calculator. “And I charge $25 in lining, $3 for pads, and a zipper.” Click, clack, click. “A hanger, a bag, and a hangtag are another $5. So far, that’s $633 in cost,” he stated, like the proud winner of a school debate.

    Our imaginary dress would not be sold in stores for $633 however. If it cost $633 for materials and labor to make the dress, the price would then be doubled for the wholesale price (this is the price we pay for sale items). If the dress is sold through a store, the store marks it up 2.25 times over the wholesale price, at the very least, which would land the new dress on the rack at $2,848.50.

  • The story gets disappointingly familiar from there. In the late 1990s, low wages, high production quotas, and verbal abuse from the factory owners were rampant. The workers unionized, and in 2002 the union leaders were fired. The international labor community, with the support of college activists, intervened and reinstated the workers. Two years later the workers won established pay raises and medical and retirement benefits, a rarity in today’s globalized garment industry. For a time, the factory was a model case for how student activists, factory workers, and brands in the United States could work together to improve factory conditions in other parts of the world. And then the brands pulled out of the factory, which then shut down.

  • The typical 14-inch “invisible” YKK nylon zipper (the kind that disappears behind fabric when you zip up the back of a dress) costs about 32 cents. For an apparel maker designing a garment that will cost $40-$65 to manufacture, and will retail for three times that much or more, it’s simply not worth it to skimp.

    Yet you won't find YKK zippers on almost all cheap clothes and many middle ones. This guys saved 10-15 cents.