Since the heyday of Coco Chanel, a designer who evoked a standard of unwavering quality, the process of manufacturing clothing has become unrecognizable. Technological advancements have made virtually every step of the process mechanized, removing the essence of hand tailored quality and replacing it with prêt-a-porter for the masses.
In today’s society, quality is often swept under the rug in order to achieve the quantity needed to make the bottom line. With the consistent expansion of the world’s population, consumers want to consume. Not only do we want everything, but also we want it at a price. In light of recent health and safety concerns of products coming out of China, the time has come to reevaluate what getting merchandise at a cheaper price is really costs.
Putting that into perspective, China is responsible for producing thousands upon thousands of products for retailers all over the world. The apparel industry alone imports into the United States $21 billion of clothing made in China per year. The economic burden generated by this extreme output is creating fierce competition within the country, forcing rapid inflation and putting a severe strain on the labor force. Labor is a large aspect that goes into the cost of manufacturing products. The low cost labor currently available in China is appealing not only to the manufacturer, but also to the consumer, as the cost of making a product directly correlates to the price that product is sold.
Although the low cost labor might be an attractive option to manufacturing in China, the risk it poses to quality standards is not. The accusation made by a New Zealand retailer that uncovered extremely toxic amounts of formaldehyde in Chinese imported clothing has forced the apparel industry to take note of the growing problem of quality control in merchandise made in China. Lower than the standards of numerous other countries, including the USA, these garments are passing inspections in China before they are shipped. Therefore, the difficulty in flagging a faulty product is enhanced.
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