Why big retail stores are bad

By June 18, 2016Style Discovery

Big retail stores are bad. Alright. Let me qualify that… The people and the machinery that run big retail stores are only interested in $ – the bottom line. And these stores sell cheap cheap cheap stuff! Oh boy was I surprised to find brand new tee shirts selling for a mere $5 (a little more than the price of a coffee!) at Kmart. Add an extra $5 to that and you get what they call a ‘premium’ tee. And do these cheapo tees last? I hate throwing away stuff after a year or, worse still, after only a season because it is simply just cheaply made. Alright, I don’t go to big malls these days so you may say that I’m out of touch. Perhaps that’s the price of normal things? Seriously though? I can’t even buy a metre of fabric for $5!?

So I looked at where that $5 tee shirt was made. Not surprisingly, the big retailers had tapped into ‘cheap labour’ in Bangladesh. China is no longer the land of ‘cheap’ but Bangladesh is when it comes to mass production as, apparently, it is now the second biggest exporter of garments in the world. (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/bangladesh-garment-industry-rana-plaza-wage-hike-524125)

Hopefully, buying these cheap tees may increase the quality of lives in the country? Will it? Their average monthly wage is less than USD$40. It is the same old story though. Big corporations go into these poor countries then indirectly screw the workers over to make bigger profit margins. The worker might not have any proper safety standards or employee welfare, which all costs $ to implement and maintain. When you and I pick up a bargain tee-shirt of $5, it should make us wonder what extra should we (or more accurately Kmart/Target/BigW or name any other big corporation) pay so that workers get their due and we don’t suffer from a moral dilemma over buying a mere tee.

The reason why I don’t go into malls a lot – believe me I love shopping and I used to frequent these stores heaps back in the day – is because not only I decided to buy ‘less’ but also I now work with local fashion designers. Knowing how things are designed and handmade in a smaller scale, I can no longer casually pick up cheap crap. Besides, when I know that I’m supporting local businesses (remember I am one of them as well!), why would I buy from stores run by big corporations? There are plenty of people who would willingly help out the big bad boys. For me, I opt out.

If you feel the same way about all of this, I can tell you a bit about my clients. Currently, I work with two local labels – FuMoso and Megan Salmon. Both have been around for more than a decade. People may moan how bad retail businesses are, but if we shop more responsibly, there is no reason why local labels like these should not thrive.

FuMoso has a huge range of what the designer/owner, Gail Thompson, calls Basics. They are simple-(ish) garments you can layer under and over. There’s singlets, tees, and slip dresses in different colours. The finishing and the quality of the clothes are second to none. I know this because I unpicked the stitches of a few pairs of pants from FuMoso due to my recent weight loss! I hear ladies saying how long Gail’s garments last – literally years. Gail designs and produces her samples herself in her studio in Byford. An added benefit of buying FuMoso is that it’s made right here in Western Australia.

Megan Salmon, the label, is a well known establishment within the Fremantle Fashion Collective. Megan, the designer, not only designs fashion but she is also a prolific artist who paints and draws. At the back of her Fremantle store, you’ll find her continuously working on her next fashion collection with her production team. Or experimenting with new ‘dye’ in her dye studio. Or working on her original digital prints which are present in her past and current collections.

Where do you buy their stuff? You don’t have time to travel to Byford or Fremantle? Well, you buy online, of course! That’s because I built their online stores. Now you know where to get quality clothes without having an ethical / moral dilemma and you’ll also be supporting local businesses and creatives who hire local people.

Sadly, I don’t know any local menswear designers who sell everyday garments online. If you do, would you like to hook me up?

Songy Knox

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