Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's In Your Closet?: A look at where your clothing is made and how it affects it's retail price

Dragon Warrior
Have you ever wondered where your clothing comes from? Are you one of those people that reads the tag of your clothing before making a purchase? For a recent school assignment, I had to look through my wardrobe and record the country of origin, fibre content, brand name and price of 35 pieces from my wardrobe. As I rummaged through very full closet, I discovered that (expectedly) that the majority of my garments were manufactured in China with these items accounting for 42% of my wardrobe. The garments that I had purchased in China included a $100 Adidas sweater made of polyester and cotton purchased from Aritzia, a $15 fitted blue t-shirt made of spandex and cotton purchased from Garage and a $19 white eyelet dress made of polyester and cotton purchased from Reitmans. What I found interesting from this selection, was that the most expensive item (a brand name) used the same fibre content and was manufactured in the same country as the two lesser expensive items. This discovery made me realize that there is more to retail price than just the country of origin or fibre content for a given garment. Retail price can also be determined by brand name, designer prestige and store image.

Oh Canada!
To my surprise, Canada came in second place (WOOHOO!) with 19% of my wardrobe being manufactured in the North American country. This was something I was pleased to discover because personally, I am a very strong supporter of Canadian manufactured apparel items and although Canada does have a good reputation in terms of workmanship, the last thing that this nation in known for is apparel manufacturing. Clothing items that were manufactured in Canada include, Guido & Mary jeans purchased from Jean Machine with a retail price of $119.95, a plaid fitted dress from Le Chateau with a retail price of $89.95 and a floral printed tank top from La Senza with a retail price of $25.

Mass Manufactured Quality
As I continued with my treasure hunt it was revealed to me that (surprise, surprise) the majority of my wardrobe has been purchased from fast-fashion retailers such as Forever 21, H&M, Joe Fresh Style and Zara. Each of these retailers are known for providing trendy, affordable apparel items that often have lower quality standards, are made with less expensive fibres and are manufactured in countries with lower labour wages. My army green button-down quarter-sleeve length shirt from H&M, grey and navy striped sweater from Joe Fresh Style and polka dot halter top from Zara each contained high quality, more expensive fibres, including lambswool, silk and linen. This stood out to me because the average price of these items were $36, an affordable price for a top and they all contained a natural fibre, something that tends to be used with more expensive garments. After reviewing this I realized that budget retailers are able to charge lower prices for their garments because they tend to purchase them in larger quantities. In the apparel industry, the more fabric you buy the less expensive it is.

Winding Up
Taking the time to look at my clothing from a different perspective (not just admiring the beautiful details, prints and fit) made me realize that even though a certain item is manufactured in a particular country, it does not mean that the fibre content of the garment came from that country. For example, according to my results spandex is often used in garments that have been sourced from Canada, China, Morocco, Spain and Turkey. This activity has encouraged me to take a closer look at the garments that I purchase. Instead of only looking at the construction and aesthetics of a garment, I will begin to look at the country of origin and how it relates to fibre content, store image and retail price. Now, how about you?