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The hidden cost of cut-price fashions.

Byline: Melanie Harvey

THE trend for cheap chic is on the wane, apparently. How do I know this? Because posh fashion commentators with too much time and money on their hands have been twittering on about it all week.

It seems our supermarkets can't cut the costs any more and some are even suggesting a backlash against pounds 4 jeans and pounds 1 T-shirts.

Now I have always had a bit of a quandary when doing a supermarket sweep down the clothes aisles.

Yes, I love a bargain like the rest of us. There is nothing better than wearing your pounds 10 skirt for work and the best-dressed girls telling you how much they like it.

"Is it from Jigsaw?" they ask. "No Tesco", I reply, proud of my shopping skills.

But what is the true cost of all this bargain hunting?

Recently Asda, Tesco and Primark were accused of buying stock from factories that pay their workers as little as 4p an hour.

I am lucky that I do a job where I get to sit at a nice big desk in a bright airy office with all mod cons every day.

These workers endure cramped conditions, sometimes for 80 hours a week. I doubt they have the luxury of air conditioning or water coolers and the whole thing leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

But I am not sure we can really blame ourselves for overseas working conditions, or guarantee expensive clothes equal a fairer life for those who make them.

A few years ago, I spent some time in South Africa.

I came home raving about the fabulous meals you could enjoy for half the price of Scottish restaurants. But I couldn't shake off the feeling of guilt when we passed the townships and their outrageous poverty on the way to our next luxury hotel.

But let us not forget we have poverty in Scotland, too. There must be a lot of struggling parents who welcome the chance to buy a school uniform for under a tenner for their kids.

I also doubt consumers can convince multi-national companies to cut their margins. Profit is king to these people.

It's a complex argument and one that will continue to rage about everything from fruit pickers to the people who rear and milk our cows.

They will argue they too don't get paid enough but I am sure most people don't really want to pay more for a pint of milk or a punnet of raspberries.

One thing I am sure of, though. Fashion editors down south aren't welcoming the end of cheap chic because it will signal an end to child labour.

They are just relieved they can once more justify spending the monthly shopping bill of the average family on a pair of shoes.

And no more the shame of cheap copies of their favourite designer dress.

You can hear the sighs of relief all the way up the M6.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 11, 2007
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