Would you pay a higher price for ‘ethical’ clothing?


The horrific building collapse in Bangladesh has thrust ethics as is relates to lower priced clothing back into the spotlight. I’m glad NPR’s Morning Edition covered the topic. Here is an excerpt:

At the Joe Fresh store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, customers are bombarded with pastel polo shirts, button-down shirts and chino pants. On one shelf, you might find clothes made in Peru, Vietnam and China. Toward the back, there are piles and piles of shorts, just $19 each, and each made in Bangladesh.

Outside the store, Reene Schiaffo emerged with a bag full of Joe Fresh merchandise. She says she knew about the Bangladesh factory collapse but gives the company the benefit of the doubt.

“It didn’t affect my sale, because I know a lot of times these retailers don’t exactly know where the stuff is being made,” she says, “but they have to pay attention more because that’s not acceptable.”

Listen to the segment here.

Public Radio International’s (PRI) and WNYC’s The Takeaway also covered the topic. Novelist M.T. Anderson was a guest on the show and he made a comment that made me wonder. He said the dangerous working conditions in these factories are obvious–not only to the workers, but, to “those of us who in particular are demanding to have a pair of jeans for $15, as opposed to $16 and $17 dollars.”

But are those prices realistic?

I could be wrong (Please note: I am NOT a shop-o-holic), but I’ve never seen a pair of jeans made in America for anything less than $58. For instance, Glenn Beck’s “100% Made in America” jeans line, named 1791 Jeans, start at $129. His t-shirts start at $30.

Yes, it may be more ethical to shop 1791 Jeans, or Levi’s (also starting at about $129 in some cases), but is it realistic for everyone? I’m coming at this from a perspective of a child of immigrants who worked for low wages at factory jobs. (Never mind the $16 jeans. Most of the time, we wore hand-me-downs.)

Sometimes, it seems that many topics covered in the media are for those executives who own or invest in these (in this instance, garment) companies and the college graduates with white collar jobs (and salaries) who can afford to pay the “100% Made in America” prices.

How can those who would NEVER be able to buy a $129 pair of jeans being be more ethical? Has anyone considered that?

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