Last week, I read a status from a friend on Facebook that really struck a chord with me:-
“So hard when my business is struggling and I keep seeing my friends liking and sharing posts from one of the main cheapo, poor quality, overseas made brands that are putting me out of business.”
Ouch. I feel that pain. Because it’s happening a lot. And I’m seeing it from people I thought actually cared about the same things I care about. About supporting British business and industry. About buying the best quality they can afford and thinking about their purchases rather than, “Never mind the quality, feel the width”.
It actually makes me feel sick* when I see someone I consider a close friend helping advertise these fly-by-night companies, who mostly import cheap copies from China and have them labelled as their own designs. I think about the friends and contacts I have in the fashion industry who have worked hard to build up their retro brands and doggedly stuck to their principles – having everything done in the UK and doing their bit to support British manufacturing, even though it undoubtedly costs more – also feeling sick as they watch their friends and customers marketing this stuff for those companies who don’t give a hoot about ethics, supporting this country’s economy or even about the customers who adore the retro/vintage/rockabilly/psychobilly look and scene. What will these “brands” be doing when the whim of fashion turns to something “new”? Where will those people who are longtime devotees of the look get their clothing then? Because I can assure you that those big, cheapo brands are bandwagon jumpers and they will drop the current look for the next big thing quicker than a yummy mummy with the whiff of a new “designer” fragrance. They haven’t worked long hours perfecting their craft, their designs and their skills. They haven’t searched and researched in order to bring you quality products manufactured with integrity. They copied the ideas of those designers who put in the hours and work, handed them over to sweatshops in far flung lands, no doubt squeezed the margins on those factories and are now flooding the market with “their” products.
I’ve noticed a huge change in the pages of Vintage Life magazine since some of these “brands” started swamping the marketplace. The pages are now filled with “look books” from the likes of them and most of the smaller advertisers have disappeared. Where have they gone? I shudder to think. There used to be at least 8 pages of “classified” adverts for smaller British brands. Now there are 2. And while we’re on the subject of advertising, you know all those features with pretty products from different companies? Little pictures of delicious items that the magazine have been clever enough to track down and want to share with their lovely readership? Doesn’t work like that. In order to have your product included in one of those “What we’re loving this month!” features, you are expected to pay a lot of money. It doesn’t look like paid for advertising but I can assure you that it is. And it’s expensive. Most of the smaller companies can’t afford it, which is why you see the same few big names cropping up time and time again, including some from the US.
So there’s the irony. Those big companies with their huge advertising budgets who are swamping the market, are also getting the “liker and sharers” to do their advertising for them. Double whammy! How they must rub their hands with glee. “All we have to do is offer one of our cheap as chips products and thousands upon thousands of people are spreading the word for us! It’s cost us, ooh, less than a tenner! Result!” And that’s if they do actually give away all the frocks they are offering… There’s a lot of fakery goes on with Facebook. Plenty of accounts aren’t actually real. It’s a huge problem.
The boutiques are also hit by the swamping tactics. As the market becomes flooded with these wares, the smaller, middle-ground companies get pushed out and people expect to buy a frock for £24.99 so the boutiques have little choice but to stock those products instead. Obviously they need to shift a lot of those products in order to pay the rent and overheads on their premises, let alone make a living but if that’s what the customer demands… Of course, it isn’t long before the boutiques are forced to give up and close their doors. This is happening all over the country, which is taking away jobs and livelihoods and removing choice from the consumer.
So please, think about what you buy and think about what you’re “liking and sharing” on social media too. Consider the wider implications of your actions because those ripples go a long way and their consequences may well not be to your liking.
Next week, the importance of that choice. And coming soon there will be a links page entitled “Miss Wednesday Loves…” It will be chock-a-block with loveliness of excellent quality and wonderful design and, frankly, spilling over with integrity, although not in a “flappy sandals and knit-your-own-yoghurt” way. Your go-to resource for all the things that – gasp! – Miss Wednesday cannot provide. Watch this space.
* It should be pointed out, however, that whilst it is a horrid feeling, it’s tempered by the knowledge that none of the people I consider friends will have done this maliciously and therefore it’s never made a blind bit of difference to my feelings towards them and their friendship.