Luxury brands: higher standards or just a higher mark-up?

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 Wednesday 10 December 2014

“Cheap retailers such as Primark, Tesco and Asda are generally held up as the villains of the industry: accused of driving wages and working conditions down through their desire to sell clothes at extraordinarily cheap prices”

Whereas people assume buying clothes from more expensive stores means it is more ethically.

“Numerous high-end brands including Prada, Hugo Boss and Dolce and Gabbana have been highlighted in a recent Clean Clothes Campaign report on conditions in the “Euro-Mediterranean textile cluster” – the former Soviet countries of eastern Europe plus Turkey. The rise of this region as a fashion industry hub has been aided by its “Made in Europe” brand – a concept that purports to be a guarantee of standards above and beyond those of “Made in Asia”.

Germany and Italy are the biggest countries for garments from the European hub and the majority of those customers are from the luxury sector. Workers in Moldova make clothes for Primark and Tesco, they also sew for Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, and Max Mara.

From the report it states the gap between legal minimum wages and minimum estimates for living wages tended to be “bigger in Europe’s cheap labour countries than in Asia”.

In the report it says suppliers such as Benetton and Hugo Boss only pay one third of what would be classed as a minimum living wage in  Croatia.

“It is low minimum wages that draw corporations to the global south. Burberry’s decision to close factories in Britain in 2007 and relocate manufacturing to China was driven by cost based analysis – it wanted to make £1.5m a year more in profit. Profit depends on companies maximising the difference between a garment’s sale price and its production cost. High-end retailers and the luxury sector can appear to exist outside of this system – shielded by ideas like craftsmanship and design, but behind the gloss is the same dirt. The same factories and the same working conditions.”


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