This is an exercise in collecting information about how clothes are made. By providing some insight into the process, I hope to shed a little light into the work that goes into making clothes - hopefully making the reader (whoever you may be) think about the items they buy and their value.
1138 garment workers died and many more injured when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed in 2013. They didn't sew for pleasure or as a creative outlet like I do, but for low wages that don't even cover basic life necessities. I make some of my clothes (at the time of writing this, it's 31 items out of 65 in my wardrobe - I counted) and as a maker, I appreciate the time, energy and skill that goes into making clothing. So why should garments made in oversea factories, (mostly by women my age and younger) be undervalued?
As a personal project, I time the making process (and I'm by no means the speediest, most efficient sewist and I don't sew in sweatshop-like conditions). The 31 items in my homemade wardrobe were made in my free time, for my enjoyment. For the remaining 34 items (with 14 of those items
being either second-hand or from an ethical brand), I am more than willingto pay a fair price to ensure those garment workers earn (at least) a living wage. But what is a fair price?
If I was paid the minimum UK wage (£7.05 since I'm still in the 21-24 age bracket) for the time taken to construct my pink denim jacket for example, it would cost £44.90. This combined with the specific project material costs ((£8.90 a metre x 0.85m) + £1.85 topstitching thread = £9.42) makes £54.32. I'm not including any waste of materials or time in this calculation here. If I follow the lead of this Elizabeth Suzann article, who has a 66% gross profit margin on their Artist Smock (which "may sound astronomically high, scarily low, or normal" depending on the type of business). That would give my pink denim jacket a retail price of £90.17.
For the sake of comparison, a global fast fashion brand sell a similar pink denim jacket (albeit with a frayed hem) for £34.99. How can that price be so proportionally low? Someone, somewhere else is paying for fast fashion - with long hours spent working in poor conditions for low wages.