Good quality at reasonable prices is a cliche that you’ve undoubtedly heard a million times. But what does it really mean and what does it imply?
In the world of the textile industry, this usually means that garment workers and, to a lesser extent, factory owners carry the burden of affordable prices.
But never the client.
The holy profit margin must not be meddled with or the balance of the world would collapse. At least in our experience, this is the feedback we get from potential clients that love to throw this phrase around.
In the remainder of this blog post, you’ll learn who can’t and who can take the “pay cut” in order to make good quality at affordable prices and what are the global negative outcomes of it being the workers or the factory owners.
Now let’s see who has to carry the financial burden of the “good quality at affordable prices” business model.
Who is capable of carrying that burden?
Is it the workers?
Short answer no, long answer noooooooooooooooo.
Workers should be compensated fairly for the work that they do. And if they’re supposed to make garments of higher quality, that means that their skills are of higher quality too. And high-quality work pays better. Meaning they aren’t the ones to take a pay cut so that the end user can pay less for a better-fitting t-shirt.
It’s got to be someone else.
Is it the factory owners?
Also no and here’s why.
To attract high-quality workers, a factory should be able to pay them appropriately. It should also have the appropriate equipment that’s maintained and updated for high-quality work to happen. On top of it all, a garment factory has the responsibility to the world to carry its business in an environmentally sound manner. That costs a lot of money to happen.
Is it the customers?
It can’t be the customers. Affordable prices refer to them, they’re the ones that get good clothes cheaply.
So who can it be, you wonder?
Brand owners must carry the financial burden of this business model
That’s right. They are the only ones that, when compensated lower than expected, don’t suffer inhumane working and living conditions nor do they pollute the planet by having a lower profit margin.
They’re the ones that can offer stake ownership to people contributing to their administrative, IT, marketing or logistical efforts, in case they can’t pay the industry standard and still remain in business.
In other words, brand owners are the only ones with real wiggle room.
Good. Since we got this entire pickle sorted out, let’s see what happens when workers or factory owners take the financial burden of making good quality clothes at affordable prices.
What happens when workers take the burden?
When workers become “affordable”, they become underpaid and overworked. And keep in mind, this is the state of the textile industry right now – a vast majority of textile workers work for a pittance and can’t make ends meet. Because of brands that request high quality at an affordable price and factory owners that protect their profits.
These workers are malnourished and susceptible to disease, and can’t afford to feed and put their kids through school or afford to cater to their children’s talents. That’s millions of fellow human beings suffering because of a handful of a**holes wanting to own a private island.
Child labour is often the consequence of “good” quality at low price
If the very fact that someone has to suffer because of “good quality at affordable prices” wasn’t enough, here are some more reasons that aren’t purely empathetic.
Such people can’t participate in social life properly and can’t make for a better society because they can’t afford to nor can they make the time. The very fact that they can’t afford to put their kids through school perpetuates that poverty and undereducation through generations. It works wonders for capitalism, though. Capitalism loves precarious work.
And capitalism at the stage it’s at today is chipping away at our existence on the only planet we have (as much as some deluded billionaires would beg to differ).
What happens when factory owners take the burden?
When a clothing manufacturing service becomes “affordable”, the factory, all of a sudden, starts using cheaper and more poisonous raw materials (especially dyes) and it starts skipping processes that keep the industrial waste away from the environment. Also, since it earns less, it might not be able to invest in new machinery that would help them work better and faster and at no cost to the environment.
For example, a factory that caters to a “good quality at affordable prices” request won’t be able to invest in solar panels so that it could detach itself from the coal-burning grid.
So neither option is a good option because it will have a much greater negative effect than having a brand owner take the financial cut by pushing the “high quality at affordable prices” business model.
There’s one more question left to ask here. Is a piece of clothing really of good quality if it’s made under shady circumstances?
What makes good quality clothing?
Surely high-quality materials make it. Tencel, cashmere, merino wool, organic cotton, recycled cotton or other sustainable options are available. At a very high price.
High-quality designs, patterns and finishing are definitely part of it. You know that feeling when you find a piece of ready-to-wear clothing that just fits perfectly and is visibly made by an expert seamstress/seamer? Guess what? Can’t have it without a high price.
What about a great message connected to that piece of clothing, like something made by Patagonia? Yep. High price is the answer because good branding and marketing campaigns will cost you an arm and a leg.
So does affordable price really go together with good quality?
It doesn’t. It’s an oxymoron and we implore you to avoid it.
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