There is a great documentary out at the moment. Its called 'The True Cost' and is out on Netflix and in the Apple store. Its a great film to watch because it really gives you a big insight into the fast fashion industry. It makes us constantly reflect on our business and how we can continually improve our supply chain.
Something that has always bugged me is the upturned nose and negativity to 'made in China'. People have this misconception that because its made in China its most likely cheap, tacky and horrific. But what people don't realise is that China is one of the best places for apparel production.
I've lived in China and I have travelled to dozens of factories and yes I will admit there are some seriously dodgy ones out there. Its like anywhere in the world, you will find someone out of line and breaking the law. However, in the vast majority there have been great professional factories that not just support their workers, but also their families.
I think people forget that China is still a communist country and that during the cultural revolution and the Mao ruling there was very little access to non propaganda education. So what happens when Deng Xiaoping takes over and no one can read, write let alone finish high school? Factories were opened, machines were given and the manufacturing industry began. When you have literally millions of uneducated people out there, the best option for them was to work in factories.
Now that happened quite a few decades ago that we saw those three words 'made in China' begin to appear on almost everything. It use to be Taiwan, it use to be Korea and then it was China. What people fail to realise is that China is a 'developing' country and in the quite literal sense. When working in the textile industry we had many clients who were looking for agents to help them invest in new technology, experienced technicians from overseas and wanting to continually travel to make sure they were up to date. People don't just outsource to China because of the lower prices. They outsource to China because the quality is at a world standard but a better price.
That said you may ask 'Well what about all those clothes that fall apart? Or cost $10 in the shops?' how can that be world standard? I highly recommend first you watch that documentary because the bottom line was those clothes that are cheap, that fall apart are designed that way and yes there are a lot of factories pressured by the big brands to lower their costs. However, you may notice that a lot of clothes are now made in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and now Lithuania. Why? Well because they are cheap, they don't have labour laws in place, companies can push the limits and again, they are dirt cheap.
In relation China is actual considered to have an extremely high cost for production as its quality continually improves. During my time there we saw an economic down turn with companies moving their manufacturing to Turkey. I witnessed many meetings in which companies showed us government sponsored proposals to create communities for rural areas where they would build factories with housing, schools for children and other facilities. They were and are trying to keep a hold on their share of the manufacturing pie but also keep jobs for their population.
So when I had the choice between production in Italy vs China for our cashmere collection it was very simple. Italy has a longer history with cashmere and fibre refinement but it doesn't necessarily mean that China couldn't match it. China has caught up, I have seen it with my very own eyes. Burberry moved their cashmere production to China so why shouldn't we? So next time you hear those three words along with a negative implication ask yourself the real reason why. Because along side all those big luxury brands moving their apparel production to China I am completely confident in our decision.
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