Vogue Italia tweeted just yesterday “Il Made in Italy ha un valore ed è giusto che costi di più. È bello risparmiare per scegliere, conquistare qualcosa”, loosely translated as “Made in Italy has a value, and it’s right that it costs more. It’s good to save for your choice, to achieve something.”
Embrace Lingerie is an Irish Brand and we have chosen to produce our designs in Italy. For us, this is the perfect alchemy. We present fresh innovations and work with artisans experienced in haute couture design to refine our styles. It’s ambitious for lingerie and expensive, but the point is to challenge design and move forward to new discoveries and of course to achieve the quality a “made in Italy” label commands.
Embrace Lingerie was named not only for the comfort of feeling embraced by design rather than restricted by it, but also as a mission statement to embrace life and the people around us.
We are all part of a larger Global community and have obligations to each other. One of these is to ensure that our actions don’t contribute to the hardship of others. We do this when we support unethical practices of Brands who exploit workers to increase their profits. Recently I have become more and more intolerant of media promotions of lingerie and clothing at impossibly low prices. There seems to be an acceptance to distract from the obvious, that garments and particularly bras cannot ethically be retailed at prices as low as €6.00 or €8.00. Bras have many components: closures, cups, wires, fabrics, elastics, straps etc, packaging, shipping costs and of course wages for production. Now add Company overheads, marketing and a healthy profit and please help me to understand how this is possible.
To put this into perspective, wages for garments made in Cambodia account for 1.5% of the price we pay for the garment in the shops. That means that if the €8 bra in question was made there the machinist made just 12 cents. Workers who make these garments are being paid as little as $1 a day and this is not enough to feed themselves, despite differences in costs of living. The workers work overtime, sometimes through the night and are paid on a per garment basis, so the more they make, the more they make, which in turn means that product quality is not a priority.
In comparison, the Italian factory producing Embrace Lingerie pays Italian industrial wages, factory workers are paid per minute, so the more time they spend on a garment the higher their pay. They make a Cambodian factory’s daily wage in less than two minutes work.
Low cost Brands are making a killing during the recession, riding on the fear of spending and this in turn is keeping us in the recession, to their advantage. One of the positive ways to exit a recession is to increase spending, which goes back into the economy, increases employment and the taxes created improve standards of education, health etc. (at least theoretically).
On February 7th Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia and an ardent supporter of ‘Made in Italy’ called for questions to her blog, , and in a response to one of the questions posed she wrote “I always fully support Made in Italy production. If a label says Made in China or Turkey or Romania it is already a clarifying sign... the prices should be lower, though. In any case, not all brands carry out production this way. Made in Italy is still synonymous with quality in the world! Let’s support it.”
On the high end some well known designers are also producing in low paying factories and I feel that it is a complete betrayal of consumers to charge designer prices when their costs and quality is no better than the high street labels. Brands using Asian dollar factories delude loyal customers into buying into the brand rather than the product. So I urge you to check the label of origin before you buy, if the price is high end, the origin should reflect this, as much as if you’re shopping for a bargain and it seems too good to be true, there’s a reason suffering somewhere as a consequence.
When you invest in a cheap garment you have no guarantees, in fact in addition to workers low pay, you are contributing to higher landfill due to discarded garments from fast fashion, health and environmentally damaging processes including jean sandblasting, hazardous chemicals used in fabrics, and high carbon footprints.
At Embrace we use European produced fabrics, eco fabrics, and breathable fabrics. We buy fabrics in Europe, print, label, dye and manufacture in Italy to reduce negative environmental effects and keep a low carbon footprint. All of these processes and suppliers are paid industrial wages and each worker in our chain can support their families. This in turn puts money back into the European economy and creates a positive chain reaction.
During the housing boom, we were constantly told that house prices were driven by demand; we were making the prices rise. Now we are being told that fast fashion is being driven by demand, we are keeping the prices low. The truth is that we have to choose from what is offered, so when we only had the choice of high priced housing, many succumbed to this and bought beyond their means. Similarly, if we are only shown cheap clothing we believe that we should not pay more, but truthfully we are shopping below our means. We drive the economy, we can change perceptions.
We need to take a stand and not be fooled by profit making machines that care little for their workers or their customers by selling products that are inferior, damage the environment and are made in unethical or dangerous conditions. We need to take a stand to drive ourselves out of recession, by not throwing our money away but spending when we can on quality products that have a positive impact.
There is room in a market for low cost and high end but both should be ethical and clear on the value of their product and reasons for its cost.
Embrace Lingerie is one small butterfly flapping its wings, but we hope to create a butterfly effect whereby a storm of change begins and we have transparency in what we buy.