Last week Michael Kors made a public offering to the New York Stock Exchange. Yes, they have made the big time! I have liked the Michael Kors designs for some time. And you can find their clothing all over: Nordstrom’s, Macys, and even, Michael Kors outlets. They, also, make some nice purses. You can’t miss them, they have the big MK logo on them.
The Problem With Michael Kors
Michael Kors is an “American” designer. He had been well-known for many years but his popularity got a boost when he appeared as a judge for Project Runway. The disappointing thing about Michael Kors is that nothing about Michael Kors is American except the dollars they collect. Most of their clothes are made in China or other East Asian countries (the sweat shop countries), except for the few high end products that are made in Italy. The company is based in Hong Kong, so no tax money comes back into the country either.
Logos – The Start
I first remember logos in the 1970’s. Logos (the little names, initials or symbols) had their initial impact on tennis clothing. Tennis was popular and upper class – so were logos. One of the first I remembered was the crocodile. The crocodile meant Lacoste, meaning French and expensive. Then, there was Fila, Italian and expensive. I remember in 1977, paying $50 for a Fila tennis shirt, which I thought was outrageous at the time. The logos meant the clothing was exclusive, pricey, original and of great quality. They were mini status symbols. When you wore these clothes you felt like you were somebody important, or somebody who was “in style”. You felt good about yourself. (You felt even better if you could find them on sale). Everybody had to have them. Then, before long, logos and “Designers” were everywhere. Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein jeans, hip, pricey and skin tight, were omnipresent. Everybody had to have their own unique trademark, logo or “swoosh”.
Logos – Present Day
A funny thing happened once everyone wore designer clothing. They became no longer exclusive and, therefore, no longer chic. And over time, logo and designer clothing became everyday wear. “Logos” still had the perception of better quality than those that didn’t have a logo. But I came to a sudden realization this past year that logo-wear quality is not better, in fact, it may be worse. If you look at Fila, it is incredibly rare to find anything made in Italy, especially at an Outlet Mall. Lacoste is not made in France. It’s not just these two makers but all of them: Ralph Lauren, Eddie Bauer, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Nicole Miller, English Laundry, etc. They are all sweatshop produced.
When shopping, you may go to an outlet store to find an item of clothing. On the clothing is the price tag which reads: “Original Price $200, Now $50”. In the past I may have been swayed by this bit of marketing. However, as I look closer at the make of these clothes, I see that these clothes are quite poorly manufactured. There is no way any person, in their right mind would ever pay that original price, and if they weren’t swayed by this great “savings”, they should not even consider paying $50 for the garment, either. The garment actually costs $5.00 to make. And in China, in the streets and alleys, you could get these same logo clothing for $7 (yes, the exact same clothing selling for $200 original price). And the designers think that just because they put their logo on a piece of clothing, they can sell it for much more (many times overpriced). So, they do, and many still will still pay for it.
But, I want you to reconsider “Logo clothing”. They no longer have the advantage of being superior or unique or better quality. We have to un-brainwash ourselves. For so many years I have been purchasing logo/designer clothes, because of this above misperception. I look at the logo/designer wear very differently now. I know how much it costs to produce the clothes. I know there is really no original designer involved anymore. The people who manufacture the clothes often live in barracks and make $17 per month with no benefits, and often in a hostile environment. This certainly undercuts any good feelings I have when I find a “bargain”. Have you ever stopped and pondered why we can buy clothes for less than we could in 1980? I can buy jeans for $20! That is unreal, especially when you consider anything else you could buy in 1980, like gasoline, cereal, or a new car. We have made a secret deal with the devil, and the only way we can deal with this, is by ignoring it, since it is not happening in our neighborhood. But it has injured our neighborhoods, by adding to the pressure to outsource all of the rest of our manufacturing jobs (the United States only makes 2% of our clothing). Meanwhile, the clothing designer corporations will certainly be happy to take our money, and continue to make things in China, Cambodia, India, or the next cheapest place they can find, as long as their is no moral backlash (which is currently small, but growing stronger).
Shopping for Non-Slave Labor Clothing
Searching for non-slave labor clothing is difficult. First, it means not looking for Logo/designer clothing. The only non-slave labor clothing made by these designers can only be found in the very high end shops. These clothes are usually manufactured in France or Italy, and still very expensive. The other 99.5% of their clothing is made with slave labor. At first, it feels strange looking for non – logo/designer clothing. There seems to be a giant empty spot on the left chest of a shirt, or the back of the pants, or the front of a baseball cap where a logo could go. I used to think that the people who would wear the non logo clothing were just buying the inexpensive stuff, and not “in style”, but I had been brainwashed. I used to think: Logo = Better Status. Now, I think just the opposite: Logo = Cheaper manufacturing, poorer quality and it “costs” more. Now, it’s: “Those poor people wearing the slave labor logo/designer clothing, they just haven’t gotten the message.” I try to buy made in the U.S.A. as best as I can, but, if not American-made, then made from non-slave labor countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain and Japan. And I am realistic, American-made clothing will cost more, because their prices reflect the real cost of making clothes, and not “artificially” cheap due to slave labor, government-subsidized massive overproduction and monetary manipulation. Keep up the good fight. Buy American.
“I tell women not to believe everything they read about fashion.” -Geoffrey Beene