Lifestyle Magazine

The Real Price Of Fashion

By Mahnoor Malik @MahnoorMalik90

800px-primark_kilburnAs London fashion week gets into full swing there are some serious issues lurking in the background. A new campaign called “See Through Fashion” which has been launched by the Global Poverty Project, is suggesting that there is widespread support for greater transparency in the production of fashion. This may be true in theory but are people really prepared to put their money where their mouth is?


The campaign recently conducted a poll of fashion consumers and found that as many as 78% would be prepared to pay a 5% premium on their shopping if it meant that workers in the factories producing the clothing were paid fairly and had safe working conditions. This is all very nice to hear but I doubt whether many of these people really would pay extra when it comes down to it. With discount retailers currently being the big success story on the high street, price is obviously crucial to many consumers who will soon forget ethical concerns in the search for a bargain.

Workers Safety Accord

5 retailers have caused some ripples by refusing to sign the Bangladesh Workers Safety Accord which was established in the wake of the infamous factory collapse in the country. The accord is a five year agreement which is legally binding and guarantees minimum safety standards. Arcadia, River Island, Sports Direct, Peacocks and Matalan must have a good reason for not signing as they would know that the move would open them up to bad publicity. The reason is undoubtedly money. These guys know that they must sell cheap and will shy away from anything which threatens their costs. If they think that they cannot risk higher prices what does that say about their perceptions of consumers? They clearly don’t believe that people will pay more and they presumably know their markets.

No Risk

These companies may have taken a risk exposing themselves to a backlash but it is a risk that may well pay off as there doesn’t appear to have been any backlash. This may be because their actions have hardly been headline news. Sadly the issue is not a big enough story to make the front pages and so there hasn’t even been much of a debate.

Price is King

I don’t think people are prepared to pay more because they value price over everything else. I run a bridal shop where we pride ourselves on quality products and exceptional customer service and yet we see a stream of people turning away from our offering in favour of a cheap buy on the internet or a discount outlet. I have never had one customer ask me about whether our garments are ethically produced, all they are ever interested in is the cost. This suggests to me that what people do in reality is very different to what they will admit to in a survey. Nobody is going to admit that they don’t care about workers overseas but the truth is that many really don’t.

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I would love to think that there will be a stampede of consumers investing in El Naturalista boots because the company look after their workers or Rock ‘N’ Regal kids clothing because it is made in the UK but I fear this will not happen. It would be interesting to see the likes of Primark run an experiment by stocking garments at a 5% mark up in their stores with signage explaining that these garments are ethically produced. How many would be sold in comparison to the cheaper options? The truth is that until everyone signs up to ethical production nothing much is going to change. Consumers will probably only pay more when they have to and they will only have to when there is because there is no choice.

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Sally Stacey is a keen writer and retail business owner who divides her time between writing and running her bridal shop

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