There has been much debate among the inmates of Newgate about the trend-bucking increase in profits at a certain budget high street fashion chain recently voted least ethical clothing retailer in Britain. Now the credit crunch is biting we can see just how much impact the welfare of third world garment workers will have on British shoppers and it's not a pretty sight!
The chain in question has created a website promoting its ethical record and attributes its low prices to to simple styles and economies of scale. However, much of the clothing on sale at the cheaper end of the market features hand-sewn beads and sequins - as seen in a BBC documentary being sewn on by children - which are highly labour-intensive.
While it has often been argued that buying sweatshop-produced clothing gives developing countries an economic boost, it seems likely that recession in Britain will put manufacturers under further pressure to reduce costs and lead in the long term to more outsourcing to child labour and unsafe or illegal factories. This applies even more to intricate embroidery and beadwork.
If we must have inexpensive fashion, we need a new 'austerity chic' featuring well-cut simple styles which can be made cheaply by skilled machinists - after all, who needs sequins on their pyjamas? Unfortunately we also need a better-educated public; consider this recent comment from a fashion website - '18 squids for a sequin shift?! I am *so* having it!'
Looks like we're facing an uphill struggle.
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