Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Ethical shopper confounded

Made in Italy? Not really.

I have a long piece in the Guardian today about the perils of buying ethically and the assumption that if you pay more you will automatically get better quality, and why so much production has moved to China, and why the major fashion houses are telling us their goods are made in Italy when they are not.

The abysmal high-street Christmas sales figures, together with predictions that we are facing recession, has led some fashion writers to wonder if the craze for fast fashion is coming to an end. It is time, it feels, to return to a more prudent and ethical way of shopping: not to forsake fashion altogether - God forbid - but to shop more wisely.

I had begun my autumn resolution with a jacket from Armani Collezioni, which cost £495. As I walked out of the shop and down Bond Street, I experienced a lightheaded elation. I had moved on and up to a higher plane, taking me closer to the source of style, and further away from mass-production.

Then the thread on the buttons started to unravel. How could this be? This was Armani, and not cheap and cheerful Emporio Armani either. Not quite couture, but, I assumed, lovingly made in a Florentine atelier by a raven-haired beauty who took a 90-minute lunchbreak to eat a three-course meal followed by espresso and adultery, and carried her paypacket home across the Ponte Vecchio in a Fendi Spy bag.

But then I met Dana Thomas, Newsweek's Paris fashion and culture correspondent, who had just published a book (Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre), which exposed the illusions of the luxury market. There are, she told me, only a very small number of companies still producing goods that live up to their own advertising. The Hermes Birkin bag costs £3,500 and has a three-year waiting list because it is made in exactly the same way as it always has been, by hand. A Chanel dress will be much the same quality today as a Chanel dress produced under the guidance of Coco Chanel herself in the 1920s. But the huge demand for designer luxury goods, initially fuelled by Japanese consumers in the 1980s, means that there are not enough skilled Italian and French craftspeople to make them, and most designer clothing and accessories are produced in China and other countries in the Far East


Read on


Toby Wollin said...

Bravo. Great piece. My husband and I were just talking about this same issue this morning. With the best will in the world, it is not as if governments can wave the magic wand and companies can and will return clothing and shoe manufacturing to the UK and the US. Just finding the operator skills here is difficult - we won't talk about all the machinery and equipment which has been hauled off and either junked or sent overseas. And the more that is sent overseas, and the more workrooms that close, the fewer young people get into the field, and the faster the skills disappear.

miss cavendish said...

It's important for the consumer to know this iformation. When I purchased my LV Musette several years ago, I was shocked to see a "Made in the USA" embossment inside. I couldn't believe it! My quintessentially French bag made in the States! I probably should have returned it.

Phyllis said...

Speak truth to power! Great article.