Fashion, style

How Cheap Is Cheap Fashion?

All rights reserved to Karen Wisínska

“SOS! SOS! SOS! We are prisoners at Xiangnan jail in Hubei, China. For a long time, we have been producing clothing for export. We work for 15 hours each day. What we eat is even worse than food for pigs and dogs. The work we do is similar to (the hard work) that oxen and horses do. We urge the international community to denounce China for this inhumane act,” All rights reserved to Karen Wisínska

A couple of days ago, I was talking to my mother about fashion and the costs of it. My mom then remembered a case she heard of on the BBC channel about a cry for help note from chinese workers in Primark trousers alleging slave labour conditions.

Well, my mom is all against cheap products because it promotes “modern slavery”, she always tries to buy products made in Europe or in democratic countries with human and labour rights. I tried to explain her that Primark, H&M etc focus on young people, who wants to look fashionable but don’t have enough money to spend on clothes. My mom then told me that we, young people, should learn to save money for what we want to have, that when she was younger she was able to wear nice clothes because she saved for it.

Just to answer my mother’s question: Yes, I myself have been there once with a friend. Before last year, I had never heard of Primark and the first thing that I noticed was the strong chemical smell on the products I have touched, also that the clothes look nice at first but that it is actually of bad quality.

This talk made me wonder: How cheap is cheap fashion really?

We can’t deny that with money comes power and responsability. Everything has its costs: if you buy a dress for, let’s say, 10$, or even 20$, this money (adding to the collection of course) has to pay the designers, the production factory and tailor/ seamstresses, logistic,  the marketing and PR group, the company, the retailer, the sales person, the cleaning staff, security, power, water etc. How much of this 20$ do you think that goes to a seamstress in Bangladesh or in China? I don’t know the exactly amount but in Bangladesh they get paid about 30$ a month for more than 12 hours work/day so that “we” can wear faux fashion clothes. Seriously, what is wrong with us?

The note you see above was found by Mrs Wisínska, who lives in Nothern Ireland, she bought the trousers a few years ago and didn’t wear them after noticing that the zip was broken. Last week, whilst packing clothes for a holiday she found the note hidden in a pair of trousers by Primark and contacted human rights campaigners at Amnesty International.

In an interview with BBC News she said: “I was shocked to find this note and the card inside the trousers from Primark and even more shocked to discover that it appears to have been made under slave labour conditions in a China prison. I am only sorry that I didn’t discover the note when I first purchased the clothing – then I could have brought this scandal to light much earlier.”

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty’s Nothern Ireland said: ” It is very difficult to know whether it’s genuine, but the fear has to be that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Last year, more than 1,100 people were killed and 2,500 were injured when a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. Primark was among the retailers, which produced their clothing there. In a statement to the BBC, the PR team of Primark said:

“Primark’s code of conduct sets out the core principles that suppliers must follow to ensure products are made in good working conditions, that the people making them are treated decently and are paid a fair wage.

Primark is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), and our code is based on the ETI base code. We inspect each factory to ensure it is meeting our code requirements and support the factory by providing guidance and training if issues are identified.”

The firm is currently investigating the cases (another customer also found a note inside of a dress she bought 2013.

The Price for Cheap Fashion? It is very high. For people who wear them, it may be “just” cancer and toxic chemicals that are present in this clothes, but for other people it may mean slavery – don’t having much to eat, not being able to send their kids to school nor offering them a good place to live where they can just be children. And this happens only because fashion should be cheap enough for us not to care…



Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Carlie 18. July 2014 at 22:33

    I don’t like the idea of buying cheap stuff, they are not a good-will store. It’s cheap because someone is not being paid well for you to have this trash! Thanks for sharing

    • Elle
      Reply Elle 18. July 2014 at 22:44

      Agreed! Thank you 🙂

    Leave a Reply