Illustration by Leo Walton
Brands are absolutely everywhere. People are slowly becoming walking billboards for clothing companies, big and small. Adidas, Champion, Yeezies, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike: Just a few brands that seem to dominate what people around campus either wear or wish they were wearing. But why? Why does everyone want to go for these brands when the only thing that differentiates their hoodies from The Warehouse is a small patch on the chest? On top of all of this, whether clothes are being produced ethically now has a huge influence on what brands people buy. With the Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report having been released for this year, you can now make informed decisions when you shop.
There are many reasons as to why name brands are somewhat absurd. Say you’re wearing a plain Adidas t-shirt with the logo on the front. Did it ever cross your mind that you’re a walking advertisement? That’s the whole thing with logos, they’re a small and continuous reminder of the brand, increasing the likelihood that someone else will buy one. Not only are people advertising for these brands without making money from it, they actually pay to do so. Compare a Champion hoodie to one from The Warehouse. They’re exactly the same except one has a logo on the chest, which adds $35 to its price.
Some might say, “Oh, the fabric is a higher quality,” or, “It’s got nicer stitching,” sure, maybe this is the case for many brands, but not all the time. Payless, a discount clothing store in the US, proved this in their social experiment, ‘Palessi’. The whole basis of it was around the fact that just because the brand came across as luxurious, the products gained new popularity. However the products that were sold for hundreds of dollars could’ve been bought for less than $50. So, when you look at brands such as Nike or Adidas, what’s stopping them from doing just that?
Okay, let’s say you’ve decided to buy a product from one of these brands - you’ve found it in the shop and decided you like it enough to buy it. Are you going to still like it a week? A month? A year? This is the issue with fast fashion. You may even never wear it ever again. More and more items are starting to be made for fast fashion, with cheaper yet nicer looking fabrics at a low price. This is considerably bad for the environment. When it comes to helping the environment, it’s better to wear what you have rather than buy something new each week.
Now, let's say you're buying a jumper and you’re trying to decide between Nike and Icebreaker. If we look at their Tearfund ratings, Nike gets a B- while Icebreaker gets an A+. In the past, companies like Nike and H&M have come under scrutiny for not producing their clothes ethically, striking guilt into the hearts of loyal consumers. Companies like Icebreaker, however, pride themselves on being ethical. So the next time you go to buy a jacket, can you trust that the fabric has come from an ethical source? That it hasn’t been stitched together by a child? Could you go somewhere else to guarantee that this isn’t the case?
When it comes to buying anything today there are so many implications. Chances are something you’ve bought at some point was a product of child labour or forced labour. Maybe it’s the phone you hold in your hand, the beans that went into your flat white, or the cotton in your shirt. Simple steps like buying fairtrade or thoroughly looking through the fashion guide and figuring out where your favorite brands lie can really help. Ultimately people probably won’t remember what brand of hoodie you’re wearing. There are bigger issues at play in the garment industry, like warehouses catching on fire from unsafe practices and global warming. So at least if you’re going to buy a name brand make sure it's one that goes about making the products you love the right way.
Brands and their ratings:
AS colour: A-
Calvin Klein: C+
Cotton on: A-
Forever 21: D-
Ralph Lauren: C-
The warehouse: B-
Tommy Hilfiger: C+
To view the Tearfund list, visit the Tearfund NZ website: https://www.tearfund.org.nz/