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A t-shit for $ 6

Many slow fashion promoters started their conscious living by comparing a cup of coffee with the garments they wear. How is it possible that a cup of coffee costs more than some of the garments we wear? This is the case for the founder of Infinity trend, Felipe Miranda, “I went to a store to stock up on clothes – the shop had been recommended because of its low prices. I decided to buy some cotton T-shirts and was surprised to find that they only cost £2 each. On my way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the price. It didn’t make sense to me – I was in London, where a pint of beer costs £5. How could a brand-new T-shirt, which had been made on the other side of the world, be less than a cup of coffee?” 

I was surfing the net, on Instagram specifically when I saw the event of an eco-promoter which was promoting ecological t-shirts with a GOTS* certification at a price of 59.9 Swedish crowns. There was something I couldn’t understand at that moment, why was it so cheap? In a conscious store like Gran Pa, a T-shirt with a GOTS certification costs around 250-400 kr (around 30-45 USD). Something just didn’t fit. I was so intrigued and I wanted to find out more. 

How is it possible to buy a t-shirt for 59,9 SEK?. Well, perhaps that is not all that weird, we can find many t-shirt out there and maybe with lower prices. However,how is it possible to find a t-shirt with a GOTS certification for 59,9 SEK? Especially when you normally find a t-shirt for 250-400 SEK on recognised environmental friendly brands. How much did it cost to make that garment? 

Let’s do the math!! 
  • The t-shirt with GOTS costs 59.9 SEK 
  • The taxes are 25%—> 59.9/1.25= 47,92 SEK 
  • If the company is a normal retailer, they are used to getting 1/3 of the garment’s cost (it could be more)—>47,92-(47,92/3)=31,9 SEK
  • Let’s make the assumption that the cost of transport and management is 10,99 SEK—> 31,9-10,99=22 SEK 
  • Let’s make another assumption: that the 22 SEK are solely for cost of production and material and that both are equally distributed. Cost of production= 22/2= 11 SEK. Cost of material= 22/2= 11 SEK. 
  • Now, we assume that the company is very generous and they pay to employees a 30% of the production costs —> 11*(0,3)= 3,3 SEK. So, employees get paid 3,3 SEK for every t-shirt they made. And how long does it take to produce a t-shirt? It will depend upon the manufacture productivity, but between 20-40 min. 
  • Take into account that this is just an approximation and that we made many assumption. Consider as well that we were generous with many numbers. So with our generous assumptions, and assuming that it only takes 20 minutes to produce each T-shirt, that would mean that the employee is only receiving 9,9 SEK per hour. That means for an average working week of 37.5 hours, this employee would receive only 371.25 SEK per week (it may be possible that they receive much less). 
  • So if I do like most other bloggers and convert that back to cups of coffee…..That would be just over 7 large lattes from Starbucks. I don’t know about you, but that would not be enough for me to live on each week!!

Cost is not the only important aspect when talking about producing clothes, the quality of clothing is just as important. The $6 t-shirt stated that it had the GOTS certification, but what does this certification mean? This certification only controls that the cotton is grow organically and that there is no child labour or slavery throughout the process of collecting the cotton from lands and production of raw material. However, there are different kinds of cotton and qualities. Organic is great!!! But they should be oriented to good quality materials as well. Who guaranties that the t-shirt I bought won’t get a hole in the coming weeks?, or that the color won’t disappear easily washing it or by exposure to the sunlight?

Another different aspect is production, manufactures should be good enough to assure a good finish of the product, so we don’t just buy it, use it 2-3 times and then discard it because it got discoloured or because a thread is hanging. That is fast fashion and it’s something we don’t want to be associated with organic products. It doesn’t make sense to buy an organic t-shirt when the quality of material and the product are not high enough. 

However, what do you expect from a t-shirt made for a women who earns less than 5 cents of dollar? The responsibility is on us, asking our stores where the garments comes from and under what conditions they are made? If your store is responsible enough they will answer these questions easily. I think that if you knew that your garment was made under bad working conditions you wouldn’t buy it. 

Find stores that are oriented to be environmentally sustainable and respects human rights. There are a lot out there waiting for you. 

*Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a private standard for Organic clothing for the entire post-harvest processing (including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with organic fibres (such as organic cotton, organic wool etc.). It includes both environmental and social criteria.

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