It’s sale time again…

DJs, you continue to have my vote for best mid-to-high income department store. Then again, you really only have one other department store for competition… and in the CBD, DJs wins hands-down.

The customer service remains impeccable (even if I am walking through the store not buying anything but just browsing), the store fitout at DJs Queens Plaza is also impeccable and your product range is… well, it’s as close as you can get to impeccable.

Found some right bargains today. Relatively speaking of course. Some ties for work and a fairly simple tie bar and set of cufflinks that should work with nearly all of the ties and business shirts I wear.

Also managed to pick up a couple of casual tees by Filippa K to wear to work on Fridays or on weekends. And while looking at the tags on the shirts that say “Designed in Sweden, Produced in Portugal”, those tags reminded me of an article I read at the New York Times early last week about the clothing industry, especially that which is based in Prato, Italy. And a leader article on Ethical Fashion in the October 2010 issue of Monocle titled “Moral Fibres”, beginning on page 63 of Issue 37, Volume 4.

About how there is a large illegal immigrant workforce, Chinese in origin, in Prato working in close to PRC conditions making clothes that technically are “Made in Italy” even though pretty much everything used in the manufacture of the garments is actually “Made in China” (or as I like to call them, MIC garments).

Lest this sound that I’m bagging Chinese (how can I bag my own race?), I do have concerns over garments manufactured in this manner. The workers in those factories would be earning wages far less than what they would and should be entitled to under Italian law. The fabric for those shirts isn’t anything local in origin but is instead imported in from China (Prato is home to a significant textiles industry). And while Italy is known now for high-quality garments the stuff that is coming out of these particular factories is aimed at the low-to-medium end of the market.

Which may explain why my parents might have been able to find “Made in Italy” clothes in Singapore and Malaysia at rock bottom prices. Sadly those Made in Italy items have since fallen apart on me. The profit margins on these Chinese-made “Made in Italy” garments must be quite high given that labour standards are being followed properly.

After raids conducted on these factories, some get shut and these workers are out of a job and are likely to be deported back to the PRC.

Why, oh why are we Chinese so good at screwing our own people just so those on top make most of the profit when a lot of the hard work, day-in/day-out is done by those who are desperate to make a living for themselves? Whether it be in China or if we import a whole bunch of them over from China into a developed country and screw them over there.

On one hand, if I don’t buy MIC garments, I’m potentially helping to screw up Chinese manufacturing and put a fellow Chinese person out of a job. But when these workers aren’t being paid decent wages or have horrible working conditions, why should I support their employers by buying their goods instead of buying goods from another company who is working towards ensuring fair and equitable working conditions and pay for garment workers? Even if it means that I pay a heck of a lot more for the garment compared with the MIC garment. OK, paying just “a lot” more relatively speaking, even after the non-MIC garment is discounted at the place of purchase.

Others who may not have the funds to spare will probably have no choice but to end up purchasing the MIC garment due to its low cost. Others who do have funds to spare may still choose to purchase a MIC garment (or heck, Made in Bangladesh/Dominican Republic/Honduras/Philippines/Vietnam/”insert-developing-country-name-here” at a price that one knows that most of the profit on it is going back to the brand that has outsources its garment manufacturing at the lowest cost possible. And yes, I will admit that a fair number of MIC garments are high quality and have low issues in terms of toxicity. Others don’t. Think of some of the fairly recent issues with MIC products courtesy of cost-cutting by greedy, dumb, stupid employers and you get my drift.

But when one does have the funds, supporting businesses who are trying to meet fair work and pay standards and who employ workers in countries that shouldn’t be exploiting their textile workers is a better option in my books. And I’m certainly hoping that the two Filippa K tees I picked up today truly were “Produced in Portugal”. Going by what other European textile manufacturers, like Inditex of Spain do, there should still be a healthy textile industry in Europe that competes and stands head-and-shoulders above most of what is produced in the developing world and values quality over the cheapest cost possible.



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