There is this mythical preconception that buying ‘cheap clothing’ from Chinese retailers equates to mistreatment of workers, poor quality of clothing and mass produced clothing that is developed from torturous hours of labor, whereby workers are forced to live in their own squalor. And for the most part these preconceptions remain a prevalent issue in mainstream ‘budget’ retailers like Primark, H&M and more. While the concept of ‘slave trade’ remains questionable at New Chic (and I pray that workers are getting a fair wage) the myth that cheap, ‘fast’ and mass produced fashion is equivalent to committing ‘fashion suicide’ is a ridiculous assumption to make. Lets set the record straight; not all budget retailers clothing is made from ‘poor quality’ materials. In fact the materials used at New Chic-in my experience- have been relatively high quality in ratio to its budget friendly price. What I cannot be held accountable for is its attitude towards sustainability for production issues, animal welfare, fair trade, the environment and treatment of factory workers. With the collapse of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory and the death of at least 1,130 workers who worked for Primark, H&M and Victoria Secret among others there has been an unease purchasing ‘fast fashion’ ever since. It is a highly contentious topic to explore granted but like I explained in ‘Should We Boycot Primark’ sometimes our monetary issues affect our ability to purchase sustainable fashion, especially if like me you have a limited spending budget. I wish that ‘sustainable living’ could be made more affordable but I know that in order to create a successful profit margin prices need to be raised.
But I digress, the point being is that questionable ethics aside, ‘New Chic’s clothing is surprisingly well made. When it came to ‘fast’ Chinese fashion I was dubious, given my previous experiences were less than satisfactory but to my pleasure my prejudices against ‘fast fashion’ were dispelled. I will always continue to seek more sustainable alternatives when I can but this year my money has been slowly dwindling to a crisp and I cannot afford to ‘buy’ clothing any longer. Well why buy clothes at all I hear you ask and that is my point exactly. I have exactly enough money for rent and luxuries seem to be a thing of the past which is why I will not turn down clothing even if I question the quality of their material. But I will always give retailers a second chance to prove to me that they are more than just a website but a retailer who looks out for their customers best interests. I admit it took me a long time to accept clothing from New Chic given my previous experiences and my concerns for the welfare of their factory workers but rest assured I will never stop asking those questions. Even if I end up being boycotted for demanding to know whether they promote good welfare and fair wages for their customers, I think we all have a right to know.
We all have the choice to choose what we do and do not wear but for some the choice to purchase ‘free range’ food , use solar powered energy or buy eco-friendly fashion is a myth in itself. Realistically if you were given the choice between this gorgeous £24.17 Crane Print V-Neck Three Quarter Sleeve Trench Coat or an £140 Annie Casual Parka from People Tree which would you choose? I imagine the majority would choose the cheaper option because it is more accessible and I count myself in the majority too. I don’t want to be that person who cannot make informed decisions about her clothing choices but unfortunately finances are rocky. So you may judge me for wearing cheap clothes but ask yourself this; do you buy from H&M? Tick, do you indulge in a cheeky Primark binge? Tick, oh but I buy clothes from Mango and that is more upmarket right? Wrong and a double tick for you, all of these brands regardless of their price differences are responsible for the deaths of thousands of factory workers. So before you go pointing the finger at Chinese sweatshops, I think that you need to look a little closer to home.
We spend so much time pointing our fingers at ‘fast foreign’ retailers that we forget that the same classic retailers we know and love can often be significantly worse. Out of all the known countries in the Rana Plaza tragedy, the majority of retailers were either British or American but none were Asian. While there are undoubtedly sweatshops in China, the brands are owned by European merchandisers meaning that the treatment of the workers is in the hands of their owners- The Europeans. So whilst I cannot say without a shadow of a doubt that New Chic is ‘cruelty free’ meets ‘sustainability for production’ guidelines or supports ‘fair trade’ I can say that it produces well made clothing, with intact stitches, good thickness of material and is budget friendly. For me New Chic already ticks all my boxes and if you are on a budget or just plain ass broke New Chic is the retailer for you. That being said if you are concerned by its ethics concerning the exploitation of workers or are conscious of a ‘fast retailers’ carbon footprint then I would urge you to question all the clothing retailers you buy from on a regular basis. Chances are you will find that even the most sustainable of retailers will never be 100% sustainable, cruelty free or capable of creating an ecological balance in the clothing industry.
The concept of creating an ecological balance in the clothing industry is almost as impossible as ensuring you live a ‘cruelty free’ lifestyle. Even if you are a vegetarian, vegan or the worlds greatest eco-warrior an aerosol, creating gas or simply travelling on the bus all contribute to unsustainable living and it is time that we acknowledge that. While you might not be able to determine your clothing is sustainable I do urge you to ( like me) question the policies, ethics and myths surrounding fast fashion and be aware that you might be unconsciously contributing to the exploitation of workers. So how do I feel about this? It makes me uneasy that I wear clothing that might or might not affect workers qualities of lives but I will not boycott a retailer even as ‘mass-produced’ as New Chic because at the end of the day boycotting does not solve problems it creates issues. In other words if I was to refuse to wear New Chic’s clothing I might be affecting a workers salary, meaning that they no longer have enough food to eat or can barely break even with their rent. It is a highly contentious and vicious circle of life and sometimes we have to accept that in order for life to have balance there must be an equal divide between the positive and negative, even in the fashion industry.
What are your thoughts on ‘mass-produced fashion’ and its impact on workers?
Photography- Jumanna Khanom Coat- New Chic Watch- H&M Ring- Coconut Lane Chelsea Boots- Stephanie’s Closet Crop Top- Miss Selfridge Skirt- MissguidedHat- AsosSunglasses- Lindex