When I was a kid, clothing was made in my own country.
Clothing was expensive, people didn’t generally own much of it, and it was worthwhile for parents to sew and knit, because that was the cheaper, better option.
You could pretty much guarantee that, while they weren’t great jobs, they people who made our clothes were paid decently, and worked in decent conditions. The people who made our clothes weren’t children. And they went home to houses they might even own themselves.
That has all changed.
I was in town the other day, when I actually thought about what I was wearing:
A Levis Jacket. Levis used to be an all-American brand, made in America for Americans. Now Levis are mostly made in Asia, although you’d probably struggle as a common person like me to find out exactly where.
A Sportscraft shirt. Sportscraft were an iconic Australian brand for many years. Now not a stitch of their clothing is made in Australia.
A Jeans West leather belt. Jeans West is another Australian chain that sources all of its clothing from overseas. Is anything even made in Australia or New Zealand any more? Jeans West is now owned by Hong Kong company Glorious Sun – there ain’t anything “west” about Jeans West any more.
Jeans from The Warehouse. The Warehouse is a discount store in New Zealand. Still owned by a New Zealander, but practically everything it sells is cheap Asian imports. Including the jeans I was wearing.
Nine West Boots. Nine West is an American chain. Once again, my boots, although expensive, were probably made in a sweatshop in some third world country. I have no idea where, and the boots have no label indicating their country of origin.
I think it would be fair to say that not a stitch of my clothing was made locally. Furthermore, I don’t believe I could even track down where my clothing was made even if I wanted to.
This clothing wasn’t cheap (my shirt cost $150) but most of the profits aren’t going to the people who made the shirt. I doubt they’d have seen more than a few cents of the cost price.
What we’re seeing here is very poor people being exploited by a very small number of very wealthy, who own the companies. People in the middle, like me, don’t have a choice about buying sweatshop clothing, because there is no way to find out where our clothes come from, and no alternative to buy locally anyway.
Yes, some clothes are still made in New Zealand, but even they are made from imported fabrics and threads, and imported inks and dyes are used.
The truth is, we’ve been caught neatly in the trap of globalism. The only way out that I can see is to start up manufacturing locally again, made by companies that are willing to accept smaller profits for their shareholders than they would get from globalised, offshore companies.
I also think we need to buy less clothing, but clothing that will last and not date, and buy recycled fashion. We need to say no to fast fashion.
Either that, or we accept the status quo.
I didn’t mean for this to be a depressing post. But I think clothing and fashion are big issues that we, as a society, need to deal with and talk about.
What do you think?