Recently I have been mulling over the vexed business of costs. However, I have long had strong views on the subject of value. I was prompted to post about this by an article in the Observer which has been niggling away in my mind since I read it. The author of the article is Lucy Siegle and the content relates to her book called To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
Siegle cites a lot of statistics which characterise the “average” consumer of fashion in the UK, and I can state right away that I am not the average. I have never been the average. Even as a teenager I never bought very many clothes, and nowadays I find that much of my wardrobe is not a lot younger than the students I teach! OK, I admit that’s a bit scary, but I have very particular likes and dislikes in clothes, and if I can’t get what I want then I just don’t buy anything at all. So I don’t feel particularly empathetic toward this average person who is buying 104 items a year. And just think of the person at the other end of the scale who is balancing out the likes of me…
But besides feeling as though I may come from a different planet, I also get really really angry about cheap clothing.
Everyone in the UK knows about that big name store that sells cardigans for £4 and t-shirts for even less. The minimum wage in this country is £5.93 per hour. What on earth makes us think that we should be able to buy any garment, with its raw material costs, the costs of processing those materials into yarn and then into cloth, the cost of making up that cloth into a design, the cost of transporting it from the Far East – because we know fine that’s where it was made – and the cost of retailing it on our high street, all for less than 45 minutes of our own labour?
It seems to me to show an extraordinarily distorted sense of the value of resources and the value of the labour of others relative to ourselves.
I could go on to talk about Slow Cloth, or the Arts and Crafts movement, or how our college textile courses are all going off track or any of a number of things. But I won’t do that. I will just show you how I have been (belatedly) finishing up the pink warp, with a little bit of turquoise slubby stuff and some more blocks: