Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the worst factory I have ever seen... not in Cairo or Bethlehem but in Leicester.

There are many small sewing factories in Leicester, mostly producing very low quality women's 'fashionwear' - cheap tops you might find on a market stall with lots of sequins, straps and nasty prints on the front. Why?

In fairness, I only entered a couple of them, and those were quite busy. Managers spoke to workers in a variety of Indian subcontinental languages. The jobs appeared to be low paid and judging by the adverts for workers outside so many factories, the turnover of staff was large. The ones which looked absolutely awful from the outside (ricketty fire escapes, broken windows, etc etc) I didn't even enter.

Based on that, I'd say it is no great surprise that few people want to manufacture in the UK.

We really want to launch a range of UK manufactured products, and we have a few ideas up our sleeves. I was just in Leicester with a spare few hours, so I thought I'd just wander around and see what was happening. It wasn't pretty.



Blogger Karin said...

Presumably the fault lies with the consumer again. So many women want lots of cheap tops to cheer them up or boost their confidence and while I'm not into sequins, straps and 'nasty prints', I still like to buy the occasional blouse I don't really need for a bit of variety or to lift my mood. If I had to pay a price that reflected a decent wage to a UK worker I would definitely think twice, which in turn would probably reduce carbon emissions.

I suppose while cheap clothes are available many people are bound to have lapses of self-control even if they believe in fair trade and as so many people can't see the point in worrying about other people's working conditions anyway there's even less reason they should even try to resist.

The other problem with fairly traded clothing from my point of view is that there is so little variety and sizing tends to be on the small size. People Tree attempts to be more stylish but if anything it tends to be a bit impractical. There doesn't seem to be any range of Fairtrade clothing in between that and the very 'sensible' styles of Bishopston - very little that is neither too plain nor too unusual and unflatterting for the average person.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

This stuff wasn't even as good as you might see in primark. I really don't think you'd consider buying it for a second, Karin.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

No, I'm sure I wouldn't. I haven't ever been in Primark - not sure where the nearest one is and have no inclination to go out of my way to find out. My point was that while I might buy something less tacky and that cost a bit more the same principle is at work - and some people really can't afford to spend much on clothes so if they want several different tops they may well rely on that sort of factory to provide what they want at a price they can afford.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Yeah, but why buy something nasty from the UK when you can get something much better at the same price from Primark?

4:34 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

But surely those who make clothes for Primark don't enjoy better conditions than the workers in Leicester and may work in even worse condiitons.

Not sure that is the answer.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Yes. My point is that production in Leicester must be more expensive than anything Primark pay, therefore I don't understand the logic of the Leicester factory - given that the garments are not as good as a Primark product and therefore likely to be selling at a lower price.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

I see. Can't really explain how that works either.

5:22 AM  

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