The fashion industry is booming. But fashion gets less and less expensive by the day. The situation has reached a point where the term “disposable fashion” is now commonplace. This refers to clothing that can be bought so cheaply, in relative terms, that the customer has no incentive to actually go through the trouble of washing it and wearing it again. So how is it that the apparel industry is doing so well?
It’s not about prices. It’s about volume. The number of fashion collections on offer from each brand has shot up dramatically. Production volumes of all their merchandise have ballooned in tandem. The strategy is to produce more and to sell more often. Aggressive price reduction is vital to accomplish this. Whereas in the past, brands offered fewer designs at higher price points, today it is just the opposite. The trend has proven lucrative, irresistible, and probably irreversible. Brands are giving their customers what they want: more clothes for less money.
With lower prices comes a commensurate push to slash costs all the way down the supply chain. Brands must maintain as much margin as possible, even at these higher volumes. They will offer bids on larger production orders to their supplier factories, but insist on more favorable pricing in return. If it wants to win the business, the supplier will accept. However with less resources to expend per unit of production, the cuts get passed right on down to the lowest rung on the ladder: the line workers who stitch the garments. The lower the level of economic development of the host country, the lower the pay those workers will be willing to accept.
And so it is that garment manufacturers pursue profitability precisely by moving from country to country explicitly seeking lower costs from suppliers that inevitably pay lower wages. Those countries and their unskilled workers are happy to receive them. The choice is between those inadequate wages or tilling fields or no work at all. Pay is low simply because the market is doing its job. And, depending on the vantage point, the can be good or bad.
Let’s bypass the market so we can provide the workers extra income another way. Let’s tip4good!
tip4good is a startup in disruptive innovation combining new mobile payments technology and generosity to permit consumers to thank the factory workers who made their garment by paying them a gratuity. Please help us continue to grow! Just join our leads list to support our pilot program: www.tip4good.org
Humanity deserves the opportunity to make this work.