Big Fashion, Bigger Problems


By Jeremy Bamidele

In 2014 Ralph Lauren suffered publish backlash for manufacturing in China the Winter Olympics American team uniforms. While the place of manufacture was newsworthy due to its use, outsourcing apparel manufacturing has become an American tradition. Even as politicians rage against the practice of outsourcing, many find themselves participating and supporting brands upon which outsourcing is the primary means of production.

While many points to the economic advantages of outsourcing and increased production costs within the states, others decry that American manufacturing is sub par and not an option.

While both these stances are supportable, there are long-term consequences of outsourcing that must not be ignored. The fact that the money rarely returns to nourish our economy leads me to wonder what can be done to change this.

Fashion is particularly hard hit by the outsourcing obsession especially when dealing with large brands, many of which are incorporated.

“The status of incorporation is particularly important, as most corporate legal destinations do not allow for ethics to play a role in business making decisions, said Executive Producer of Fashion Week Los Angeles, Gio Ferrigno. “Consequently, companies are legally bound to financially act in the immediate financial best interest of shareholders despite the ethical leanings of those same shareholders.

To combat the trend of outsourcing, many consumers are turning to the vintage fashion market. This decision is also accompanied by additional benefits of higher quality and more unique style choices.

Though cost prohibitive for many, purchasing domestically manufactured goods is another positive way to combat outsourcing. But with such a high markups at each stage of the selling process, I question whether the high retail prices of American made goods are unnecessarily inflated.

While such a question may seem ethical in nature, it rises out of long-term business concerns. Markets are becoming increasingly globalized with many fashion brands opening up flagship stores around the world. However, the purchase of fashion goods remains very much local for the majority of apparel brands.

While showrooms can alleviate this problem, they create much more in their places. First and foremost is cost. Having your clothes available in a showroom is expensive especially since it is often done before revenue is coming in—the result of buy contracts. That is why the majorities of brands don’t have an international presence and are forced to sell their brand to a conglomerate or remain forever small in scope and local in nature.

This may seem fine, until you consider the previously mentioned reality that fashion conglomerates, by nature of their business structure, leech the lifeblood out of their economies and buying the power of domestic consumers.

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