There’s a new clothing store in New York City. UNIQLO is a Japanese company providing casual clothes for all people. The launch of the US flagship store has been highly publicized over the last month; I haven’t been able to enter the subway without seeing their ads.
I confess to being swayed by the marketing; the clothes look simple and casual – good office layering workhorses – and the photographs of knitwear indicate some attention to detail that you don’t often see in machine-knit garments. The prices are very affordable, without being so low as to ensure shoddiness. On top of that, their Grameen UNIQLO line looks wonderful — a social equity collaboration with Bangledashi producers ensuring that funds from the line are reinvested to eradicate poverty and improve sanitation and education for local people. And yet.
And yet I look at that ad for their Cashmere sweaters, and shrivel. No matter what volume it’s sourced at, I can’t fathom how it’s possible to purchase washed, carded cashmere roving of a quality that can be spun to the barely-light-fingering gauge required for those garments, and spin it into yarn and dye it to be colorfast and knit the garment – on a machine or otherwise – for less than the $50 the company is charging for one of those sweaters. Then add on top of that the pattern making, designing, finishing, marketing, etc — and everything about this item screams to me that it must be made in a sweatshop, with cheap labor, by people who are struggling to earn enough to survive while handling luxury fibers for the rest of us to pay a pittance for – and caustic chemicals and dyes that endanger all of us and our world.
I would dearly love to be proven wrong, but for now, my assumption of that reality positioned against the green and social marketing turns my stomach.
Who has some real information?