$4.95 Dresses | H&M Bucks The Recession
Everybody's sick of the recession, obviously. Nobody enjoys a recession. It's like an economic root canal and it turns us all into miserable zombies, moaning and clutching at ourselves. But there are some bright spots amongst all the doom and gloom, like H&M making a real effort to make clothing affordable. For those of us who have gotten used to paying over a hundred dollars for jeans and dresses, the prospect of a brand new dress priced at $4.95 seems ludicrous, but H&M are doing it.
How are they doing it at a time when everything only seems to be getting more expensive and most of the fashion world is warning that cheap Chinese labor is swiftly becoming a thing of the past? (Thank the gods, production costs in China are rising, which hopefully means better conditions for workers and less ridiculous exploitation we can only hope.)
Well, H&M is relying on the fact that it works the fashion verticals. H&M designs its own clothing in house, produces it at its own factories and sells it at its own stores. That means consumers aren't paying middlemen who traditionally jack the price at every step in the process from design to store.
H&M operates in 37 countries and employs over 76,000 people. Contrary to expectations, H&M claims to be encouraging increases in minimum wages in developing countries, like Bangladesh. Their website proudly proclaims: “Unrest in Bangladesh is unfortunately not unusual. H&M has, together with other companies, tried to influence the government of Bangladesh to raise the minimum wages. The minimum wages have now been revised and we consider this a step in the right direction.”
H&M also appears to be taking its responsibility to the environment somewhat seriously. Their 2010 spring Garden Collection was created entirely out of environmentally adapted materials, which is apparently another term for sustainable materials.
As if that weren't enough, H&M is also partnered with UNICEF in the 'All For Children' project, which operates in India and Tamil Nadu and aims to get child laborers out of work and back into school.
There has been a ridiculous state of affairs in fashion of late, with workers on the production end being paid a pittance and consumers paying through the teeth, with rampant profits going to a few major players. Though one must undoubtedly retain some sense of cynicism about these paradigms which remain in place for the most part, companies that make eminently affordable fashion whilst also genuinely supporting the communities in which they work are probably worth supporting.