How to buy almost-luxury items for nothing.

“You have one notification, your favorite youtuber has uploaded a new video”. What do I do? I click.  

This female youtuber, which I watch from time to time, decided to do a review of some big Chinese retail websites to compare the quality with other well-known brands. She chose to purchase and show clothes, shoes, accessories and storage materials for her make-up.

I’m not a huge fan of this kind of video. I like to watch reviews before purchasing an item I would like to own but I’m not the influenced person who would buy something after watching a video where it was said the product was fabulous. Especially now, when youtubers are sponsored and paid to advertise so many different kind of items. “This video is sponsored, but if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you guys I promise!”. Of course.

This time, I can see in the title that she will talk about some companies I’ve never heard about before. Who are those giant retailers that sell a large spectrum of products worldwide without owning any storefront in Europe or actually, anywhere on the planet? I’m about to discover this.

The unboxing is quite raw. Printed plastic bags are everywhere and I don’t need a close-up to see the poor quality of the pair of shoes she’s about to review. The fabric seems to be thick and synthetic and I wonder, contemplating the shape of the stiletto, how can a normal foot be comfortable in this thing. Shameless, she explains that she picked this one because of the undeniable resemblance with a best-seller from a French luxury company. For obvious reasons, I will not give this lady’s name, neither the company’s, but I let you imagine what kind of poor “imitation” this was. The price, around 20 euros, is supposed to let you have a pure copy of a 450 euros original. Globalization seems to give people, all around the world, what they thought they needed absolutely.  

At this point, I don’t know what to think. The fake one is not bearing any logo but isn’t it forgery? By looking at other youtubers doing the same, I guessed it is not, I mean, would they put themselves in a not-so-legal position just for a pair of shoes and a couple of views?

Anyway, I cannot think straight after a couple of minutes. The women tells that the quality is good and “God! For only 20 bucks, it’s worth your money! If you can’t afford a near 500 euros pair of shoes, they look just exactly the same”. I start scrolling down to the comments section and I can read many feedbacks, from I believe, very young girls, saying they will start buying on this website.

Some comments say it’s wrong to put money on this and people responded “everything comes from China anyway, even If you buy those kind of items in France, so why bother?”. Truth be told, they are not completely wrong. The great majority of those items are coming directly from developing countries, whether the cloth is sold for 5 euros or 500.

This leads me to so many questions: aren’t people aware of what kind of economy they are feeding? Have they never heard about the dynamics of this kind of fast-fashion retailing? How can they rush to buy look-alike items when it’s absolutely obvious that those are fake? Dear readers, if you don’t know where I’m going and why I’m upset, let me tell you why.

First, it has nothing to do with China particularly (this part of the world is always taken as an example, some kind of a reference for blurry reasons). Many clothes are made in developing countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and so on. The name of the country does not really matter actually, but their laws do. Also, to be fully honest, I’m pleased to know that foreign people love to buy “Made in France”, I don’t see why I would not be happy to buy items fabricated by lovely human beings who need to work and get an income to live their lives in those nations. If I could assure that a “made in Indonesia” cloth is contributing in a tremendous way to the sewers who made it, I would be thrilled.

Nonetheless, those countries struggle a lot with poor work conditions and it’s really hard to define, when buying a piece of clothing, if this was made by an underpaid child in insanitary conditions or not. But let’s be honest, companies need to make margin and when a T-shirt is sold for less than 2 euros at full price, you cannot imagine that the employees were paid decently. Diving blindly on those websites is accepting everything that comes around it, it is like sending a nice postal card to the company saying “Please continue!”.

Second of all, it’s not only about work condition and ethics, it about economy. When buying on this kind of websites, money goes right away abroad, they won’t be any local intermediate who will hire some individuals to deal with customer service locally. Buying clothes in a store next to you will definitively enhance employment and quality of life in your city. Virtuous spirals in economic theories are very easy to understand: people purchase, companies grow and hire human beings to open new shops, those ones are getting a salary on which they pay taxes, taxes that will serve to invest in local dynamism and public structures for example. So at this point, are those 20 bucks shoes really worth your money?

This kind of money flows are destroying local economies and feeding a world where everything should be cheaper, even if it means to let workers all around the world facing indecency and insufficient income to live properly.

Moreover, it’s just not about enhancing certain type of dynamics, it’s about agreeing with copies. When you purchase a forgery, you do not give any money to the designer who should be paid. Fast-fashion companies tend to imitate trends and piece of clothing designed by other talented people. There is no way that designers could create new collection every week.

The thing is, I try to buy locally for sure, whether the item has been manufactured abroad or not, but I have no idea how to make sure that my money goes to decently paid employees all around the world. I’ve tried to get as much information as possible on clothing brands, expecting to find one that would help me to make sure their products are made in conditions I support. Unfortunately, all brands outsource manufacturing in those developing countries and the fact that a coat cost 300 euros is not a warranty it has been made in better work conditions than low cost fashion items. It only warranties that designers and their teams are recognized financially.

Dear readers, I’ve searched, I can assure you, to know how I can make sure that the money I let go is received and used in the best way. I do not believe that we should only buy what has been manufactured locally, there is no cotton fields in France and their will probably never be. Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are beautiful countries which don’t deserve less to be recognized and helped in their skills. I do believe every country has its own talent.

We have to face it: whatever the company is, outsourcing in developing countries is a basic. There is two type of functioning: some companies design the items, select the fabrics and purchase the activity of sewing abroad. Those companies are mainly the one who put high prices, prices that are not reachable for the large majority of people, wherever they live. Other companies decide to position themselves on the fast-fashion section and order already available clothes to some intermediate companies, this is why they can renew the collection very fast, they don’t have any design to build, nor any designer to pay. Prices are mainly low and if you are very careful just like me, you will recognize the same items sold by different brands at the same time.

Dear reader, what do you think? Are you willing to follow those young girls, ready to purchase any items at the lowest cost possible, without thinking about the consequences? Do you have any strategy to develop the economy you want to live in? If you come from those developing countries, could you tell me what your point of view is?

I know some companies create and manufacture items in industrialized countries to make sure we don’t enhance bad work conditions but prices are incredibly high. Then, can we blame clients who just want to get things at a prices that fit their wallet size?

As far as I’m concerned, I’m miserably lost. I cannot stop dressing myself and I don’t have enough money at the bank to purchase clothes labelled with “made in locally”. Transparency is not yet reached and I don’t know how to avoid brands who exploit human beings. I avoid brands who are so cheap that they don’t give any hope regarding work conditions and I try to enhance local dynamism by purchasing in physical stores. Maybe I’m just a fool.

Dear readers, for those you don’t see what kind of situation I’m referring to in this article, you can find many data on the internet regarding work conditions, hours, goals set and sanitary issues. For example, please read the following article available on the BBC website:

Dear readers, take care.

6 thoughts on “How to buy almost-luxury items for nothing.

  1. I don’t think there’s any one solution, but there are different things people can do to make better choices. We can pay attention to the quality of items. Better quality will last longer and also indicates better work conditions (because the workers aren’t being pushed to produce as much as possible as quickly as possible–when workers can make items at a reasonable pace, the stitching is straight, seams aren’t missed, threads aren’t coming loose, and so on). Because better quality lasts longer, you can wear it longer. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we really need to follow every single trend (especially when they’re constantly changing). It’s also worth remembering that shopping at second-hand stores creates a more interesting and unique personal style, unlike following the trends and buying what everyone else is buying (which will be outdated in five minutes). For some people, it might even be worth learning how to sew or knit so they can make some of their own clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment! I never thought about the sewing but indeed this is a good point. I will surely check from now on. The vintage clothes are great to really create a own style, fast trends generally make you happy when you buy them but you get used to it very fast. I always choose quality over quantity but I feel like I never really know what is behind the brand.
      Anyway, it is great to read comments like yours !
      Take care

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the thought-provoking article! I wish I knew how to be sure what’s going on in the factories–even when you find out something about how a company is run, it can change within months. Still, making any effort is better than making none, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, great research. This topic is huge in Australia with clothing waste filling a football field size area in every city every week. Large amounts of poor quality, cheap fashion clothing floods our market and remains largely unworn, dumped with price tags still attached. Instead of fast fashion, there is a trend towards slow clothing which means restyling/repurposing your current clothes, and thinking hard before buying. Is that inexpensive little dress only good for one wear? Will the fabric dyes end up polluting our water source? There is a booklet which rates the sustainability code for fashion stores. Jane Milburn, a sustainability consultant, says Think, Natural, Quality, Local, Few, Care, Make, Revive, Adapt, Salvage. I think everyone has to make a living but not at the expense of our environment or our future health.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing! The amount of clothes thrown away is proportional to what we buy. Unfortunatly, as items are cheaper and cheaper, people dont see the value of it anymore. There used to be a time where children’s clothes were made out of their parents’ vests and dresses as people knew how expensive this was.
      I’ve never thrown away clothes. I give it to friends and family, sell it on specialized websites or give them to charity.
      I did not know Jane Milburn prior your comment. I’m glad you mentionned her as I will be able to know more about her work and slow fashion!
      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your interesting reply, Hélène.
    I remember when I was a child I wore the same dresses until I grew out of them! I think the way you recycle clothing is intelligent and sensible. Unfortunately in my city charity shops are becoming very selective and will only take excellent quality clothes. The rest is dispatched to church-run organisations to sell cheaply via their refresh shops. Also there are organisations who donate to women’s shelters and newly-released prison programs but again the quality has to be good. Most groups have stopped sending clothing off-shore to rag-making industries because it was polluting the countries who processed it.
    The cycle of excess and wastage continues.
    Regards, Gretchen.

    Liked by 1 person

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