Saturday, 27 April 2013

Project 333, Bangladesh, Primark and me

About a week or so ago I started doing Project 333 which aims to help you simplify your wardrobe down to just 33 pieces.  This, I have discovered, is going to be an on-going process for me as I am so confused at the moment about my own personal style.  I have managed to get my current wardrobe (which will stay the same until July, unless it gets too hot) down to about fifty items of clothing - not counting shoes and accessories.  I have decided to diarise what I wear and if I feel the slightest bit frumpy, unattractive, grey, uncomfortable, shabby etc. in any item it will be donated or put on the ever-growing pile of stuff to go in our up-coming yard sale (more about this soon).

Today on Question Time on Radio 4 the panel were discussing the awful events in Bangladesh at the collapsed clothing factory (Guardian article).  I hadn't been following this story and they mentioned that one of the floors of the building was owned and run by Primark.  I have recently bought a lot of stuff at Primark, some clothes for myself and lots of stuff to get my son Elliot off to boarding school.  In fact while I was listening to the discussion I realised I was wearing a Primark jumper.

There is no doubt that by buying the basics from Primark I have saved a huge amount of money to get Elliot off to school, and I do love my Primark jumpers, I am not going to lie.  However, having embarked on project 333 I have learned an awful lot about my buying habits when it comes to clothes, and that having more of a lot of cheap items is really not the way to go.  It is very easy for me as a middle classed affluent woman to say that we are all buying too many clothes.  A lot of people on low-incomes use shops like Primark to buy the items they desperately need, at a price they can afford.  But I also know that there are many of us who have way too many pieces of clothing, and shops like Primark can fulfil that much needed short-term comfort pick-me-up that we all crave sometimes.

Am I going to carry on wearing my Primark jumpers?  Well yes, as I don't want to waste them as they are incredibly useful and have turned out to be part of my wardrobe that I use a lot.  But I have decided that I will try and find replacements, when they inevitably wear out, of a much better quality, which will most likely mean at a higher price.  I want to find items that look great, that will stand up to being worn and washed over and over, are made by companies with a good track record for the treatment of their staff and suppliers, and make me happy, not just for a moment but for a long time.

There will always be a need for cheap clothing, and how we square the circle of providing good working conditions for the people who make them, while keeping unit costs down is a very difficult issue.  I would like to live in a world where the true value of a piece of clothing is reflected in the price it is sold at, where we learn to value the old as well as the new, and re-learn the skills of looking after what we love.

Please feel free to comment on my post, Louise

4 comments:

  1. Great post, Louise. I used to be a Primark shopper, it was the only thing that I could afford on my student budget, and I could get 4 tank tops in different colours instead of just one. Having started Project333 last summer, I haven't stepped inside Primark, as I realised how many clothes I already had. I started out with 140 pieces, and a fair few of those were Primark. I think once we realise that we don't "need" to go shopping each week or everytime we need a pick up, it becomes viable to spend more money on a decent item of clothing. It works out that if you need just one tank top, then you can spend the equivalent of 4 from Primark. Ethical clothing becomes more affordable if we need less of it.

    I still have some items from Primark, that have lasted better than expected, but I will be replacing them, or moving onto better quality items, and looking for sustainable choices instead.

    These guys are UK based, and their jeans are very affordable. The same I would spend in H&M, and some of their range is made in UK. http://www.monkeegenes.com/ Good luck with the blog, and look forward to connecting at the writing course!

    My blog is here: www.beautiful-again.com

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  2. I have written a post along similar lines on my own blog. I don't actually believe that boycotting companies like Primark is the solution - as you say, students will probably still shop there and families on very low budgets - rather that we should lobby these companies to raise their standards, pay decent wages and ensure safe working conditions exist in their suppliers' factories. I have already contacted Marks & Spencer and Lands End, whose clothes hang in my wardrobe, to check their policies and published their responses on my blog.

    My blog is: http://over60andoverhere.blogspot.com.es/

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  3. Louise,

    Congrats on starting your blog! I really enjoyed your first entry - you are off to a great start.

    Being from the U.S., I am not familiar with Primark, but it sounds like some of the stores we have here like Ross, TJ Maxx, Target, Old Navy, and the like. People have become so accustomed to buying "cheap" goods that I had to preface talking about a $22 t-shirt (~14 British pounds if I calculated correctly) with "it's not cheap, but..." Many expect to purchase tops for $10 or less these days and those low prices are definitely not without their effects on workers, the environment, etc. A great book to read it "Overdressed" by Elizabeth Cline. It really opened my eyes to SO many things about the garment industry and changed the way I think about shopping. Project 333 has made a profound difference for me as well.

    I am definitely guilty of going for quantity over quality. As such, I have an overstuffed closet (now at around 215 garments, down from close to 300!) full of items that are good but not fabulous. I have vowed to purchase quality pieces that I absolutely LOVE moving forward and to buy MUCH less overall.

    I was very sad to read about the building collapse in Bangladesh. I looked and some of my clothes were made there, including my t-shirts from Old Navy. I wonder if any of those workers who lost their lives had made my clothes. Very, very sad situation and probably quite preventable.

    Sue is right in that we should lobby the companies to raise their standards. If enough people raise their voices, the companies will listen and change their ways. It will take time but it can be done. Thank you for raising the issue and discussing it in such a thoughtful and eloquent manner!

    My blog is http://recoveringshopaholic.com

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    Replies
    1. Debbie, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. It feels quite strange having one's thoughts out there on the web for everyone to see, but also oddly liberating. It's also wonderful to talk to people cross continent who are interested in the same things.

      Having read Sue's blog and the responses she got from the companies, I really applaud her approach and may be asking a few questions myself. I am particularly impressed by Marks and Spencer's response - and pleased as I like their stuff (in small doses of course!!)

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