Wandering down a city high street the other day I couldn't help but notice how much low-cost clothing there is on offer. I'm not talking about sales items, I mean clothes that are just really cheap - sweaters for £3, dresses for £7...
As someone who designs clothes and has them made, I don't understand how they can be sold so cheaply - even when you consider mass production.
Cheap clothing is usually made in faraway countries where workers are not generally treated well. Factory owners do not have to consider the human rights issues and they often employ children. The wages are poor and the conditions poorer. Using this low paid labour is a way for manufacturers to keep their costs down and be competitive. This has a knock-on effect as other companies adopt the same manufacturing techniques to remain in a competitive market.
But we all know that already; I'm not breaking anything new to you there. And we all know that it's not just the cheap clothes that can fall foul to the practise.
So why do people still buy cheap clothes?
I thought it was because we are all suffering our own cashflow problems. But analysts looking at customer habits claim that people are still spending money. It's just that their priorities are currently lying with meals and holidays. According to 'Deloitte', the consultancy, leisure is attracting one and a half times more spending than retail.
I wonder if cheap clothes are simply the current fashion? I have noticed a shift amongst my friends. Whereas once we saved for our desirable item and was as pleased for the friend sporting her much loved Choos as we had been when she first gave birth, there is now a look of disappointment rewarded to anyone sporting a pair of expensive jeans. After all, ''I got these for twenty quid at a well-known supermarket and they're just fine''.
I don't understand - Why do we feel we should 'wear' a bargain but we can eat a treat? As a nation are we in danger of becoming champagne drinkers wearing Primark?
The thing is, these bargain clothes aren't really that much of a bargain in reality. There is no argument that unless you have been very unfairly ripped off, clothes that cost more are usually made better - as a generalisation, they have cost more to make and therefore they cost more to buy. They have cost more to make because the quality of the material is higher and the workmanship is more individual. Subsequently, they last longer, fit better and make you look hotter.
If any of us can be bothered to work it out, the cost-per-wear value of more expensive clothes is good too. But throw-away fashion still lures us. You buy the skirt cause you think it looks okay - and it's only a fiver, so it doesn't really matter anyway. You'll get a couple of wears out of it.
But there's more to it than that. Throwaway fashion is adding a huge strain to the environment. We are more likely to throw away cheap, mass produced garments than we are pricier alternatives. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013. And donating cheap clothes to charity shops doesn't always work because they are so cheap to buy in the first instance. Plus, these clothes aren't made for the second-hand market - they won't last long enough.
Maybe if we care, we need to re-evaluate our shopping habits. We need to spend our money where we spend our time and considering that the large majority of us will wear clothes all day and possibly through the night too, clothes are definitely where our time is.
Doesn't it make sense to invest at least, in some timeless pieces? Pieces that we know we can adapt to suit our occasion; pieces that will sit proudly in our wardrobes for years to come.
And when I say 'invest' I'm not talking about spending ridiculous amounts. I just mean good-quality, fairly-made clothes. The characteristic to quality clothing is in the material and the construction, not the logo.
Check out the detail of the garment you like; before you try it on and get carried away with your purchase. Notice the tightness of the stitching and the feel of the material. Test that the thread is holding the fabric firmly by gently pulling on the seam and check that the buttons feel secure.
Clothing is never going to be an investment in monetary terms but it is an investment in yourself. Do your research before you open your purse and aim to fill your wardrobe with a few versatile, durable pieces that you know you'll love and keep. Before you buy, consider;
• how much will I wear it?
• do I really like it?
• and, does it look good on me?
If you follow this basic advice, rather than being overstuffed with cheap, impulse-bought crap, your wardrobe will become a place of pride, showcasing your personal style with key pieces that mean something to you.