Why is this so cheap: what stands behind low prices

What stands behind low prices

Have you wondered why do we have so low prices for the clothes?..

This article is written by Carol Chan, Content Coordinator & Acting Store Manager at Karma Athletics

It is so powerful and so sincere, that I decided to place it in my blog

(original article you can find here in LinkedIn)

Today, fast fashion has made clothes available for cheaper than ever.

This is great for the people who buy them, but it’s horrible for the people who make them. Because big brands like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M are competing to put out the cheapest prices on the market, as much as 97% of our clothes are now made overseas. Instead of the 2 traditional fashion seasons (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter), fast fashion companies are able to produce over 50 micro-seasons each year. THREE WEEKS is all it takes to get a design through production and into retail stores. We seem to have discarded ideas of owning quality pieces of clothing that can last a lifetime.

In order to keep up with the demand of fast fashion, garment workers (mostly women) in developing countries are being paid a mere $38 a month. This means that they are literally making around 20 cents an hour. In addition to poor standards for the workers, the environment is being dumped with toxic dyes and volatile compounds from the manufacturing process.

Safety measures in the factories are frequently disregarded and more often than not, workers pay the price. In September 2012, over 300 workers died in a factory fire in Pakistan. This is the same factory that had just been certified for international labor standards. In November 2012, a factory fire occurred in Bangladesh, killing another 112 workers. Most notably in April 2013, the Rana Plaza complex, housing over 5 garment factories, collapsed and killed over 1100 workers.

When companies were asked why they tolerated such practices

in the factories making their clothes, they often replied saying that they never commissioned those factories in the first place. Factories approved by the companies are themselves subcontractingtheir orders to factories that do not meet labor guidelines. When informed of this, companies claim that they have no idea this is happening and that their contracted manufacturers did it without their consent.

After the backlash received by the general public over Rana Plaza, CBC reports that international companies have come together to create agreements like the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to improve factory conditions. However, it is impossible at this time to know if the changes will affect how the system currently operates.

In order to be completely certain about the supply chain involved in making your clothes,

I urge you to support companies who are being responsible about their supply chains – especially when it comes to the people they employ and the environment they extract from and produce in. One way to do this is to support local businesses and artisans who make things from scratch. Etsy is a great way to track down these makers in your community. It’s empowering to be able to know exactly who made your clothes, where they made it and be able to support their business.

Next, demand more information from companies about where your clothes come from so they can find out too! Companies should know their supply chain from “seed to stitch” and have this information readily available to consumers. Brands that do this extremely well include Patagonia, Everlane, and Zady. Together, we can help fashion brands become transparent in their sourcing and live up to sustainability and human rights standards.

Finally, think about doing a wardrobe detox or check out how to create a “capsule wardrobe” or Project 333 in order to live a more minimal life. Instead of buying excessive amounts of trendy clothes to add to your closet, think about what you gravitate towards wearing the most. Buy clothes you feel beautiful in, comfortable in, and confident in. Choose clothes you’ll wear again and again. If you want to try out a new trend, maybe stop by your local thrift store first to see if they have any dupes for the look you’re going for. You’ll be saving these garments from being thrown into landfills.

To soothe our conscience,

the common narrative being told is that low wages, unsafe conditions, and factory disasters are all excusable because of the necessary jobs they create for people with no alternatives. Even if this were true, it is unacceptable and morally wrong to disregard the value of a person’s life just so someone overseas can accumulate more profit or buy another ‘cute sweater’. Instead of trying to justify your actions, think critically about what kind of impact you want to have on the world and what statement you’re really making with each purchase.

It’s time for us to take a stance.

The next time you shop, instead of asking “Why is this so expensive?” ask yourself “Why is this so cheap?”


Bangladeshaccord.org. (2015). About the Accord | The Bangladesh Accord. Retrieved 5 October 2015, from http://bangladeshaccord.org/about/

Bangladeshworkersafety.org. (2015). Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety – Action Plan. Retrieved 6 October 2015, from http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org/progress-impact/action-plan

CBC The Fifth Estate. (2015). Made in Bangladesh. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2013-2014/made-in-bangladesh

CBC The Fifth Estate. (2015). What companies are doing now. Retrieved 15 October 2015, from http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/blog/what-companies-are-doing-now

Claudio, L. (2007). Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry. Environ Health Perspect, 115(9), A449-A454. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.115-a449

Etsy. (2015). Etsy – Shop Local. Retrieved 10 October 2015, from https://www.etsy.com/localsearch?ref=fp_nav_local

Everlane. (2015). Everlane. Retrieved 11 October 2015, from https://ca.everlane.com/factories

Lund-Thomsen, P., & Lindgreen, A. (2013). Corporate Social Responsibility in Global Value Chains: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?. J Bus Ethics, 123(1), 11-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1796-x

Ross, M. (Producer), & Morgan, A. (Director). (2015). The True Cost [Motion picture]. USA: Life is my Movie Entertainment company in association with Untold Creative.

Patagonia. (2015). Patagonia Corporate Responsibility. Retrieved 11 October 2015, from http://www.patagonia.com/ca/patagonia.go?assetid=67372

Wikipedia. (2015). Capsule wardrobe. Retrieved 11 October 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsule_wardrobe

Zady. (2015). The New Standard. Retrieved 11 October 2015, from https://zady.com/thenewstandard


Read another article on this topic HERE

Price Decrease Should Not Come by Any Price

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