The True Cost of Cheap Clothing

July 7th, 2015

Last week I watched perhaps the most powerful documentary on the fashion industry I’ve ever seen. It’s an in-depth look into the production of clothing in the “Fast Fashion” industry, and the profound impacts that the relatively new concept of “disposable clothing” is having on our environment and our communities. It’s called The True Cost. I suggest watching it before buying another piece of clothing.

The film starts with some staggering statistics about the rise in consumption: 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased worldwide each year, which is 400% more than a decade ago. Three out of four of the worst garment factory disasters in history happened in 2012 and 2013. And as the death toll increased, so did the profits. The year after the Rana Plaza disaster was the fast-fashion industry’s most profitable yet, and the world’s top four fast-fashion brands — Zara, H&M, Fast Retailing (which owns Uniqlo) and Gap — had sales in 2014 of more than $72 billion, compared with $48 billion in 2013.

On Articles of Style we talk a lot about the benefits of buying quality over quantity. Our goal is to help you invest in well-made items that fit you properly and will last you the test of time. We commonly advise our readers to avoid the trap of buying products that are cheaply made or trendy in style – for good menswear rarely needs to be replaced. Today we take a closer look at this concept, by exploring the effects that cheap clothing has on our world. The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry, behind only the oil industry, and every link in the supply chain contains shocking levels of social injustice.

As recently as the 1950s, 95% of the clothing that Americans wore was made right here in America. Today that number is about 3%. The other 97% is outsourced to developping countries around the world. “Fast Fashion” retailers are no longer concerned with waiting for new seasons like “Spring/Summer” or “Fall /Winter” to release new product. Instead, they unveil new products in their stores weekly, if not daily. This means they have dramatically cranked up their production in the past 15 years or so, all in a ruthless attempt to move more cheap product to low-end consumers and increase annual profits for the shareholders. Fashion brands can manufacturer wherever they want, too. And switch factories at any time, for any reason. This means that desperate factories in impoverished countries are forced to compete with each other by continually lowering costs and increasing the burdens placed on the garment workers who have no say or rights in this equation.

In order to better understand how the clothes we buy impacts our world, I’m going to attempt to walk you through the lifespan of a typical “Fast Fashion” item, like a shirt from a store like H&M, as we try to calculate the true cost of disposable clothing.

The Burden on Farmers

The story begins with a poor farmer in the plains of Cambodia who produces the world’s cheapest cotton. Yesterday he was delivered his new cotton seeds, loaned to him by the bank that represents the seed company. The farmer can’t plant just any cotton seeds, since only those genetically modified to produce super-dense crops can provide the yields he needs to reach his quotas. In order to reach these yields, however, it’s going to involve a lot of chemical spraying. Using a backpack-mounted sprayer, the farmer coats each of his fields weekly with a mixture of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, all sold to him by the same company that sold him the seeds. These are the same chemicals that, as proven in court, have caused diseases such as jaundice and cancer to the farmer as well as two of his children. He doesn’t make enough money to afford the growing list of chemicals he needs to kill the resilient pests in his fields, let alone health care for him and his family. Eventually he loses every last dollar buying his children’s medications, which, astonishingly, are sold to him by the same company that sold him both the seeds and the chemicals.

With his debt and the health of his family becoming more and more overwhelming, the farmer begins to understand why 250,000 farmers in Cambodia have reportedly committed suicided – most of which by way of drinking the very chemicals that caused their health problems and debt cycle in the first place. Nevertheless, despite all of the hardships and a never-ending cycle of poverty, the farmer manages to produce his cotton quota. It wasn’t without plenty of literal blood, sweat and tears. It never is. This cheap cotton is eventually purchased at record-low prices by large textile distributors who weave it into cheap fabrics that are then sold in extreme bulk quantities to low-end super-retailers like H&M and Zara.

Pesticides spraying in Pirawalla on the Punjab Plains

The Burden on Garment Workers

This super cheap cotton is then shipped to Dhaka, Bangladesh where it is received by a factory owner who employs 5,000 sewers, 85% of whom are women. These women make roughly $2 a day, for 12 hours of sewing work. There are growing cracks in the walls and every day the workers fear that the building might come crumbling down, as it did last week in a neighboring town. A thousand garment workers were killed that day, even after voicing concerns about the structural stability of the building. Every day this factory produces 180,000 shirts, and dumps 20 million litters of chemicals into the local water supply, which has been causing record levels of disease and birth defects in the local community.

The factory owner must stay on top of his workers to make sure they are sewing fast enough to meet the deadline. The most recent order is for half a million shirts at 20 cents each, but they all need to be delivered by the end of the month otherwise the brand can cancel the contract and not pay the factory anything. His investors won’t let him lose another major contract to a competing factory, but he knows that at these rates he won’t be able to pay his workers their full wage. He’s forced to give his sewers a pay cut. This month the sewers will only make $1.80/day, rather than a full $2 – which is already not enough to feed their kids and buy the medication needed to treat their diseases caused by the pollution. When the female workers attempt to unionize and demand a higher minimum wage, the owner and his male staff lock the women in the factory and beat them with their own rusty sewing equipment, including chairs, rulers, and scissors. At the cost of more blood, sweat and tears, the dirt cheap cotton farmed in Cambodia is made into dirt cheap shirts sewn in Bangladesh that are ready to be shipped and sold in America.


The Burden of Advertising

The next person in this cycle of garbage and pollution is the one who’s in charge of marketing the shirt to the almighty American consumer. The Cambodian/Bangladeshi cotton shirt arrives on the slowboat from Asia and eventually reaches the office of GQ magazine. There’s a new unpaid intern in the office working on pulling product for a story called “The Best Button-Downs Under $10”. He’s been chit chatting on the phone all morning with his contact-persons at each Fast Fashion brand who is sponsoring the October issue. Out of the three shirts that are going to be recommended in this story, one has to be H&M, another placement is sold to the GAP Brands, and the intern gets the honor and excitement of choosing the 3rd shirt (but it can’t be from any brand who purchased advertising last month and didn’t re-up for the current issue). He takes photos of the sample shirts on his smartphone and texts them to his boss with some anxiously excited emojis. They debate catchy marketing titles such as “Shirts That Cost Less Than Lunch” in order to satisfy their advertisers and shareholders by convincing their readers that buying this cheap cotton shirt is as fundamental and happiness-inducing as eating a proper meal.

The photoshoot for the advertorial story is scheduled for next week, and the expert photoshop re-touchers are already on contract. The H&M shirt will get center position in the story, because they paid the most. As it turns out, the largest expense for a fast fashion brand like H&M is not producing the low-quality garments they sell, but spending on aggressive marketing campaigns to convince consumers that buying more cheap clothing will solve their problems and have them looking like happy European super models.


The Burden on the Consumer

Kurt is a DJ and part-time promoter at a couple nightclubs in NYC. He makes $300 when he spins, which is a couple nights a week if he’s lucky. He has student loans and credit card debt, he doesn’t have health insurance, and he’s falling behind on the rent for his Chinatown apartment. But, despite his poverty level, he’s got access to a consolation prize that usually cheers him up. When he buys a brand new shirt at an unbeatable price, he feels like he got a great deal and considers himself happier in the short term. Although, the truth is, he doesn’t necessarily love the shirt he just bought and when he looks at his wardrobe he’s not really sure what his “style” is. It kind of changes with every season, which sometimes gives him anxiety and leaves him wondering what to wear or who he is, even though he’s got an expansive collection of trendy clothing. Nevertheless, Kurt buys the Cambodian/Bangladeshi shirt and ends up sweating through it at his next DJ performance. After a wash it’s just not the same shirt – the fit is off and the collar looks all floppy – so Kurt ends up donating the shirt to charity. He feels like he’s doing a good thing; somebody in need will get to enjoy that used, shrunken shirt. Oblivious to the truth about where that shirt originally came from and all the pain and damage that was caused to produce it, Kurt feels good about his recent donation so he decides to forgo lunch and buy himself another new shirt instead. He still can’t make rent or afford health insurance, but this one has color blocking and studs on it, and it was only $8 added to his credit card debt. This one makes him feel like a whole new man, he thinks. And if he doesn’t end up wearing it, well, he can always just donate it to a “good cause”.


The Cost of Recycling

Once Kurt tosses the shirt into the local donation bin, it embarks on another epic journey known as the world’s recycled clothing system. This is another insanely labor intensive and wasteful process that uses more energy than it produces. We touched on the recycled clothing cycle a bit in our Guide to Shopping Vintage, but we will get into greater detail about this globally intertwined marketplace in another article. Long story short, only about 10% of the clothes donated to charity are actually sold to vintage, thrift, or second-hand shops for after market re-sale. Kurt’s shirt, like most, was not picked-up for re-sale by a store owner, which means after yet another entire process of shipping and handling, it gets marked as “donation” and gets dumped somewhere in a country like Haiti. Haiti receives a ridiculous amount of recycled clothing. So much, in fact, that it has virtually destroyed the local garment-making industry that was indigenous to the community. Turns out with so much free clothing being dropped into the country all the time, it’s hard to keep people employed sewing new garments. Chances are, with all the abundance of recycled clothing, not even an impoverished person in Haiti is interested in Kurt’s shirt that was worn once and shipped around the world twice. Eventually the shirt is deemed unwearable and is thrown in the garbage.

Cargo Boat Close up

The Burden on the Environment

It’s important to realize that every step in this process has profound effects on the environment. Farming, manufacturing, transportation, marketing, sales, recycling, waste management – these all require tremendous amounts of energy and release tremendous amounts of harmful bi-products on the environment.

Finally, Kurt’s $9 cotton shirt that was worn one time arrives to it’s final resting place. It sits on one of many, many giant landfills which are consuming our earth, polluting our air and water, and killing our wildlife. It is estimated that 40% of these landfills are made up of old textiles used for clothing. As it turns out, when people can wear something one time then throw it out, they do. Like napkins. At alarming rates. The average American throws away roughly 82 lbs of clothing per year…that’s 11 million tons coming annually from the US alone. And it all just sits there, somewhere, on the land, releasing gasses that ruin our planet.


Is There a Solution?

I believe there a solution. In my opinion, it’s three fold:

1) Educate the consumers. As bloggers with the power of the internet and the ears of consumers looking for advice on buying clothing, it’s our duty to teach people about more than putting together a cool outfit. At Articles of Style we want our readers to invest wisely and develop lasting style, all while preserving the environment and understanding who they’re giving their hard-earned dollars to. Large corporations are not going to stop making cheap crap unless we stop wasting our money on it.

2) Produce quality goods. It’s on fashion brands to produce quality goods that last the test of time. Good design is meant to last, not be replaced after one season, or even worse, one wear. Clothing should never be considered disposable. This is a wasteful way of doing business and it harms every person in the cycle, from the farmer to the sewer to the end consumer. There do exist several forward-thinking fashion companies, as highlighted in the documentary, who use sustainable practices to create their garments – from organic farmers who are paid fair wages, to garment workers who are treated with care and respect, to products that are designed to enhance the life of customers rather than add the burden of storing more worthless junk.

3) Provide transparency. In the digital age, there is no excuse for a brand who produces a product to not be upfront about where and how it was made, and the conditions of those who were contracted to make it. This should be a point of pride for the brand, not a dirty secret. As a consumer, it’s our duty to ask questions and not be fooled by price tags that seam unreasonably low. There are people all around the world who are paying a steep cost in order to sell you that shirt for $9.

In conclusion, I believe it is possible for us to slow down the shockingly detrimental effects caused by this new “Fast Fashion” industry, but it’s going to take a lot more education and effort among consumers. To get started, I suggest watching The True Cost. If you’re a fashion enthusiast I have a feeling it will change your life, or at least the way you spend money on clothing.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

The photos in this article are not owned by Articles of Style. 

  • Dallas

    What about these garbage clothing being marked up by some “exclusive” brand for like $50+ for just a T-shirt. It’s a gamble if you are buying quality or not because the price is just based on what company sells it rather than quality. Too bad the “you get what you pay for” is a complete lie nowadays


    I actually feel ashamed at the amount of clothing I own. At 47 years of age I have accumulated a fairly large wardrobe and I like quality so a lot of my gear is well over 10 years old. I have Red Wing boots that are over 20 years old and still going strong. The only problem is, I only wear about 30% of it and I feel guilty every time I buy a new item. I give away a fair bit but as your article illustrates, that’s not exactly a solution either. Still, what I give away is still considerably less than my wife and daughter, who are a lot more keen on shopping for new clothes than I am. In fact, this article should really be targeted at the ladies. I must admit T-shirts are a big part of the problem. I accumulate them far quicker than any other item of clothing. I mostly use the cheaper ones as undershirts and pajamas.

  • Guillermo Quintero

    Great article, Dan. I haven’t combed through all the comments but I’m interested to know of the environmentally and socially responsible companies (assume I’ll find them in the documentary). I’m also interested to know what brands constitute “quality.” I’m assuming a higher price doesn’t always mean high quality, what information or company attributes can consumers be looking for? Thanks again.

  • Tomas

    re colored my jeans several times already…specially black ones which I can only wash a few times without showing discoloring…

  • k_mcsparin

    So tell me why this site seems to only sell men’s clothes? Women can’t find well made clothes anywhere.

  • Guccio1971

    Applauds to you, Dan, for this informative and powerful article. If someone reads this and doesn’t sit back in his/her chair to ponder I suggest they better check their pulse. Captivating and eye opening…..well done my friend. “The True Cost” will be on my weekend agenda to watch.

  • Stuart

    @tsbmen:disqus this resonated with me. The change of tone in this particular article gave a glimpse into how passionate the AOS team is about fashion as a socially responsible enterprise. While I love the style guides and how to’s that are a staple of AOS, I’d love to see a few more thought pieces like this. Well done.

  • Rob

    Thanks for sharing this Dan, very thought provoking. I’ve never been one for wanting to buy and wear once (although it does happen very occasionally, when I’ve made a duff purchase), but now I am at a loss as to what to do with clothing that I’ve had for years and is either fairly unwearable now, or that I really no longer like… it sounds like both donating to charity shop and throwing straight into the bin are undesirable options. Is there a sustainable way of disposing of clothing?

  • Thomas

    Calling out fast fashion brands like H&M etc, is all well and good, but you failed to mention brands like BOSS and others, who cost a multitude of the brands mentioned and generally produce under the same shitty conditions in only slightly better (if even) quality.

    The problem is, as so often in our world: The lack of a middle ground. Most of the high level big brand stuff shown on this blog, the prices are inflated because of brand prestige. Even if I could afford it, I’m just not willing to pay that.

    On the other side, the problems surrounding fast fashion aren’t really news to me, and luckily, I’m not in a position were I can’t afford to spend more than 10$ on a shirt. But I can’t afford to spend >100$ on a shirt either, just because its from Ralph Lauren.

    Where’s the 30-50$ shirt, that is credibly better than the fast fashion stuff without having an expensive label?

    • tommyjohn_45

      It’s quite difficult to find anything of substance in that price range, but not impossible. As Dan mentions, second hand is always a good bet. I’ve also found that with the wave of online shopping, new start ups are a good solution. You can often find new brands that have ultra slim margins on their mark up because they want to get their name out there. Other than that, though, you’re getting what you pay for and quality fabric/labor will come with a cost.

  • Unseen Flirtations

    A compelling and important article. As a frequent reader of the site it’s great to see such thought, insight and integrity. Thanks. Coincidentally, in 2014 I wrote two separate poems on this very issue. Pasted below, for your interest.


    The Magic of Modern Sweatshop Slavery (pt 1)
    Nimble fingers rumpelstilt
    Our second skin
    And clothe our guilt
    In bargain bins
    And we begin
    To think that magic
    Does exist.

    But nothing comes of nothing – so
    Treasure your disposables.
    If they exist
    Then they exist
    Remember this:
    And hold them close.

    The Magic of Modern Sweatshop Slavery (pt 2)

    Obroni wawu – ‘dead white man’s clothes’

    Our rumpelstilted second skins,
    Consigned to waste in bags and skip,
    Will undergo a second phase
    Of transformation, on the ships

    That cargo from our concrete floors,
    In bricks of golden dense in weight,
    To desperate, distant, dusty shores
    Where Aspirations lie in wait

    Prepared, in coil, to spring attack
    And rip at fibres. Culture’s sewn.
    The absent master’s slavery’s back:
    The ownerless have found a home.

    Connected by the threads they weave,
    They wear their own discarded robes
    That cheapen what was once believed
    And walk with pride in borrowed clothes.

  • Chris Piane

    Bravo Dan! One of your best posts ever. Please keep speaking the truth and providing us with responsible, trusted guidance, particularly regarding the serious issues you’ve discussed in this piece.

  • Max BornInTheNineties

    What a fantastic article! This is why I love Articles of Style; more than just ‘5 ways to wear…’ posts, this blog writes about the totality of menswear. I thought this post was well researched and thoughtfully written.

    People have to understand that clothes, the labour as well as the materials, are very costly products to craft. And that you can’t sell clothes as cheap as these fast-fashion companies do without seriously screwing over the people involved in garment production.

    The average guy has to learn to accept that you can’t really make a shirt for $10. At least, not a shirt that has any kind of longevity to it. Nor is there such a thing as a $10 shirt that isn’t the product of miserable, unlivable working conditions.

    Dan is right to say that education, quality and transparency are the solution. Furthermore, I think that educating the consumer will and has created the desire for quality and transparency within the garment industry.

    If your clothes cost the same as they did in the 1930s, not accounting for inflation, then something is obviously wrong.

  • Christian Birky

    Thanks for going in depth on this Dan! It’s impossible to disconnect ourselves from the way our clothing is made, for better or for worse. I felt terrible when it fully hit me that while I cared deeply about people and the environment, I had a closet full of stuff that was made by young, exploited workers using toxic chemicals. I had to take responsibility for that, but rather than focus on feeling guilty, I think this is a huge opportunity. It is incredibly rewarding and meaningful to wear great clothing that is made by people you know or learn about, and in a way that is sustainable. The growing awareness of these issues opens the door for brands that reflect the values of consumers.

    Really appreciate your willingness to talk about this. Quality and timeless style are why I come to this site, and looking forward to seeing the social/environmental side of this tied more explicitly into your content!

  • scb0212

    NPR’s Planet Money podcast manufactured a t-shirt and documented every step of the way as a project to demonstrate the global economy. It’s a fascinating listen: &

  • Ilya

    This is the most important thing you ever posted. Thank you, Dan.

  • AFH

    I await Part 2: The Camorra (Napoli Mafia) and The Fashion Industry.

  • AHV

    I’ve been a reader of this blog since 2010, but never once have I commented – until now. Felt compelled to – I think it is incredibly ambitious and courageous of you to take on this issue. Much respect!

  • AdamE

    Great writing on this piece.
    For sure I agree with the buy less, buy better mantra, since good men’s clothing is long lasting and hard-wearing. The other important point out of it, is to think twice before buying any clothing, fast fashion or not, think whether you’ll wear it regularly, or wear it a few times, and eventually donate it…

    The other suggestion I’d make is that if you have men’s dress clothing that you’re looking to get rid of, rather than the Sally am bin, consider looking up local charities that give them to people re-entering the workforce. You know that they’ll get appreciated and put to good use, you save a boat ride for your clothing, and delay the trip to the landfill…

    Whether this makes people give up buying fast fashion or not, is unlikely, but at least hopefully people are aware of what it entails, and when they do buy from one of these places, hopefully they do so sparsely…

    Better than the buy less, buy better philosophy, I’d also advocate a simpler philosophy that can apply to all aspects of life, Give a shit (literally my new year’s resolution last year)! Give a shit about what you wear, and where it comes from, give a shit about what you eat (shit in = shit out… I’m not saying going organic everything, or ditching GMOs, but think about what you’re eating, and where it’s coming from…), give a shit about what you do (be it work, or for fun, and if you don’t give a shit about it, then consider stopping doing it…), give a shit about your body (take care of it), etc…

  • Brent

    I do hate GQ and esquire. Over advertised garbage. Funny how some high end designers use low low end materials.

  • Shawn

    Really nice article! I mean nice in the way it opens our eyes – not nice in the subject that it is evoking.

    I think it is important to say that, while this is a clothing website thus talking about the environmental and social consequences of cheap and disposable clothing, this kind of subject applies to all areas of our lives. Be it the food we eat, the cars we drive, the electronic gadgets we replace year after year even if they still work because we need the new version (ahem – iPhones and such?), heck, even the disposable Bic pens we throw out when they’re empty or dry (instead of using a refillable fountain pen that will last for at the very least a couple of years).

    We have to realize that this fast-consumption world we live in can’t be sustained for many more years – one day we will have to open our eyes.

    But I realize that, unless one is very fortunate, few people can purchase the best of the best in everything, each and every of his everyday items built by creative craftsmen, artisans from families of artisans for generations, in ethic conditions with above-average wages. It simply is not possible to be this conscious in each aspect of our lives, so we have to make choices were we can.

    Since joining this whole menswear thing, I am becoming more and more adept of the buy-less-buy-better (better; meaning not necessarily thousands of dollars but at least, rationalizing every purchase), I’ve had the same camera for years and don’t feel the need to upgrade every time a new DSLR is released, I use fountain pens and mechanical pencils on a daily, I use my cellphone to death before considered changing it, despite hype, etc. I still haven’t jumped on the agro-bio-local-ethic food thing tho. Maybe the next on my list.

  • Brent

    I have multiple items from GAP that I have owned for years. cardigans, rain coat, chunky wool sweaters. Heck even a few crew necks and jeans from Gap. Like going on 6 years for some items.

    • AFH

      I bought some t-shirts from The Gap that barely survived a wash though. There’s definitely a lot of variation there.

  • Miguel

    Dan, I’ve been on vacation and I come back to this great article highlighting the issue with this fast clothing companies, they’re just pumping clothing everyday and most of us don’t know (or didn’t know) where they can from and how they do it so fast. It’s a shame that most of this companies are using under develop countries and paying their people a joke for a salary, it reminds me of Apple and Nike, how they produce their stuff while paying their employees overseas a laughable and abusive rate.

    I have to agree, I stop buying clothing at some of this stores because their clothing doesn’t hold, I don’t care about the price but if I’m wearing something from your brand, it better last me at least 3 years.

    Thank you for once again for this kind of articles, this is what separates your site from the other.

  • Geoffrey Alan Bruce

    I bought most of my clothing from GAP, for casual wear. I’m in my twenties playing in an indie rock band, so I need a variety of clothing that will NOT look like anything you’d fine on this site. So that usually equates to cheaper clothing.
    However GAP is not as low quality as H&M, Zara, Topman, etc. and can hold up pretty well.
    Especially for things of lower quality, I’m very committed to mending, re-purposing etc. I’ve sewn up holes in t shirts, sewn on buttons, and if I have a shirt that’s looking a bit ratty and run down, I use it for my super casual wardrobe, and wear it almost ironically. And these pieces, I intend on RUNNING INTO THE GROUND. Repairing and re-using until there’s nothing left. My jeans are only done now after I’ve repaired the crotch 4 times. I’d much rather pay for tailoring costs or have a little blemish than constantly buy new things.
    For the several pieces I’v changed my mind about, I’ve managed to sell/give away almost all of them to friends, and have a few more pieces I plan on doing so with.

    I definitely agree with the article as a whole.

    But depending on life style, social situations, level of activity, sometimes you need less precious clothing. But my solution isn’t to wear it for a few months, throw it out, repeat, but rather to add character and wear the hell out of them.

  • CJ

    Fantastic article, Dan. I’ve seen a lot of discussion of these issues on Reddit and other places in recent months and I think your write-up is a great summation of the issues at hand. I hope it encourages people to be more inquisitive of where the products they buy come from in general. It is however hard not to get caught up feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by the thought that whatever steps I take as one person who even the three people in my family (myself, wife, and daughter), those steps make such an abysmally small difference in the grand scheme. The real difference people can make is talking to friends and acquaintances and increasing awareness thus affecting change.

    With that, one question:

    82 pounds of clothing per year thrown away? On average? I don’t know ANYONE (anecdotal evidence obviously) who wastes such a huge amount of clothing and the people I know are not particularly conservation minded either. Who are the people that bring the average up so much? I realize that a single pair of jeans can weigh 1 – 2 pounds by itself, but that number, to me, seems ridiculous.

    Finally, I find it very hard to pity the individual on the consumer side of this even though that is category I would fall into.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Thanks CJ. One family being socially responsible about where they spend their money IS making a difference! As far as the 82 lbs, if you’re reading AoS, you’re probably investing in better clothing that you aren’t so quick to toss :) Cheers

  • JBells

    Thank you Dan and team for your continued work. This is a great eye opening article that I think many readers will take to heart and hopefully cause ripples in the pond. It has been great to see the site evolve in such a positive way

    • Dan Trepanier

      Thanks JBells, we couldn’t do this without supporters like you.

  • Lothar

    Going forward, will the AOS crew still feature clothes from these companies the way it has in the past? Or will you guys be excluding these brands from your content entirely.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Yes. It won’t be cold turkey, per say, since we often feature gentlemen in their own clothes. But as we prepare to launch our online bespoke platform this Fall – all made in America – you will gradually see less and less of these types of products in our pages. Thanks for keeping us in check Lothar.

      • Reuben

        Dan: Count me in as a future customer, cant wait, keep up the good work. Thanks

  • Michael

    Very eye opening and another reason why AoS is at the forefront of the industry at every level. Thanks for the insight Dan

    • Dan Trepanier

      Thanks for the kind words Michael!

  • smush parker

    Great post will read later on.

    Npr planet money did a similar disection of the garment industry.

  • Juan Zara

    After reading this well thought-out essay, I really feel obliged to thank you for writing it.
    You have yet again proven to be different than the sea of self-centered fashion bloggers that seem to be flooding the internet. Thanks for that, and thanks, most of all, for calling out everyone involved in this blood-thirsty industry that’s helping destroy our planet. I long for the day when GQ goes bankrupt, it was about time someone dropped them in it.

    As someone who has worked for a fast-fashion company (with which I am ashamed of sharing my name,) I am always happy when someone calls them out on their greediness and plain cruelty. I have seen the way their clothes are handled, I have seen shipments of hundreds of thousands of items arrive at their warehouses, and I have seen the workers at those warehouses. I can assure you that even these people’s working conditions are precarious. Safety precautions are very often forgone in order to meet deadlines, overtime fees not paid (or paid only partially) and night shifts paid as regular hours. And all of this in a supposedly “first-world country”.

    As a result, much like I have avoided food infested with preservatives, chemicals and GMOs (and pretty much everything that isn’t organically-grown and region-protected,) in the past five years I have completely stopped shopping at fast-fashion stores and places that don’t state country of origin or speak regarding the condition of their workers. No matter how broke I was and still am.
    Unfortunately, that includes many Italian companies who employ illegal immigrants in hidden factories, avoid paying taxes or outsource the work to Eastern Europe while still claiming their garments are Made in Italy.

    People need to wake up and smell the coffee, see what’s really going on in the world and who are the people that are destroying it, becoming rich in the process. So thank you, Dan. I know this article won’t change things overnight, but I am sure it will enlighten some people, and that small change does make a difference.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Steadily crushing the comments section. Thanks again for sharing Juan! Always look forward to hearing your perspective.

  • Dustin

    Transparency is so important here. I’m disappointed that so few brands and labels offer any meaningful information about how their clothes are made or how the materials are sourced. I want to know the shirt I buy didn’t require someone else to suffer.

    • Dan Trepanier

      I think we’re going to see great change in this area, although it will have to come from the demands of the consumers. We’ll be doing our part with our collection, you’ll see :)

  • tommyjohn_45

    Eye-opening post, gents. While most people are somewhat aware of the process, it’s rarely considered in the equation of spotting a good deal. What adds to the frustration, is seeing marketing from these lines, portraying themselves as a sustainable, conscious company that gives a sh*t about the welfare of their employees and the environment.

  • JoeFromTexas

    It’s clear that a lot of thought and soul searching went into this essay and the documentary that inspired it. Thanks for putting it together Dan. To help be a part of the solution, rather than the problem, I would love to see a feature (with links!) of the forward thinking fashion companies mentioned in item 2 of the solution.

    We probably all have pieces from Uniqlo, Gap, etc., and it would be hard cross them off, but we do have to start considering the consequences of our actions.

  • motaskah

    the solution is to not buy much clothing from retail shops. Buy it secondhand at vintage shops. Also, don’t buy much clothing. Homeless people are the best people in the world cause they re-use and recycle and don’t cause much pollution. be like homeless people.

    • tommyjohn_45

      One problem with that solution, someone had to buy it in order for it to end up at a thrift/vintage shop… While you, personally, may not be directly contributing to the problem, the cycle would still exist.

      • motaskah

        If more people started taking themselves out of the equation the world would be a better place. The real solution is not birth. No more human babies. All problems solved

        • Tuxedo Park

          Thanks Rust Cohle.

        • Mxolisi

          Spoken like a true elitist propagating a population control agenda!

  • facelessghost

    Interesting perspectives, and an important reminder of hidden costs.

    I’m certainly not going to argue against the “buy less, buy better” mantra, or tell people to ignore simply ignore externalities and hidden costs (even though it’s so easy to do so). But we should also remember that we live in an extraordinarily complex world, and “solving” one problem can easily create others. Anyone interested in this topic might also be interested in articles like this one from Paul Krugman:

    • Dan Trepanier

      “Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all” is the defacto argument provided by the big businesses in question. This is classic exploitation. Given this logic, there is no chance for these impoverished workers to get out of the cycle of “no good options”. We brush it off as “at least they can do something”. Is that the best we can do? Disposable Fashion businesses are some of the most profitable in the world and have made some to the richest people in history – at the cost of employing people in countries that slave for non-livable minimum wages, have no trade union rights, no maternity benefits, no pensions, etc. These people also DIE in large numbers, without trial. Can we not offer them better conditions? No piece of this giant pie belongs to them…