The High Cost of Cheap Fashion

RECENT POSTS

Where Does Your T-Shirt Come From? Follow Its Global Journey

Includes interactive visualization (Prezi)

Best viewed in full screen mode

A simple cotton T-shirt doesn’t seem quite so simple when you try to trace the vast global process involved in making it.

The extraordinary success of fast fashion giants like H&M, Zana and Forever 21 lies squarely in the ability to produce a massive amount of clothing – billions of garments a year – in the cheapest, quickest way possible. It seems pretty counterintuitive that the least expensive way to make a shirt is to buy cotton grown in Texas, mill and dye it in China, manufacture it in Bangladesh, and then ship it half a world away to an H&M or Gap store in San Francisco.  But when you factor in the dramatically lower labor and material costs offered by suppliers in developing countries, this kind of global supply chain model begins to make more sense. Continue reading

Who Made Your T-Shirt? The Hidden Cost of Cheap Fashion

Includes video/audio clips and infographics

(Photo by Art Cummings/Flickr)

 

Everyone likes a good deal.

And for that reason, most of us have flocked to clothing stores like H&M and Old Navy for the unbelievably cheap and expansive selection they offer.

T-shirts for five bucks; jeans and dresses for under $20. It’s almost like you can’t afford to not buy it.

Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been: today average Americans spend less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes, about half what was spent 50 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s almost cheaper today to buy a whole new wardrobe than to pay to wash your old one (a bit of an exaggeration, yes, but really not all that far off).

But you know the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Same thing goes with your $5 t-shirt – it comes with some steep hidden costs. There’s no possible way retailers like H&M could be making billions in profits selling clothing at such low prices without there being some catch.

So what are we, the consumers, not seeing?

Continue reading