How much did you pay for the last item of clothing you purchased? Was it a bargain? As The New York Times reports: "As consumers adjust to soaring prices for gasoline, food, education and medical care, just about the only thing that seems a bargain today is clothes - mainstream clothes, anyway." Part of the reason stuff is so affordable? Most of it is made overseas. In a piece for Forbes, Lauren Sherman writes: "Unless you're a 19-year-old with a closet full of American Apparel items, it's very rare to see the words 'Made in the U.S.A.' stamped on the tag of your shirt." Even Coach bags are made in China.
While gas prices climb higher and higher, the Times' Eric Wilson explains:
Clothing is one of the few categories in the federal Consumer Price Index in which overall prices have declined - about 10 percent - since 1998 (the cost of communication is another). That news may be of solace to anyone whose budget has been stretched just to drive to work or to stop at the supermarket; in fashion, at least, there are still deals to be had.
Of course, sometimes the "deals" come from manufacturers in China who move elsewhere (in China or out of the country) when their workers demand higher pay. Or maybe you wear Victoria's Secret underwear, made in Sri Lanka, by "skilled and educated" women working in a country torn by war, terrorism and racism. Or! Your "deal" could come from a company like Zara, which manufactures its clothing in La Coruña, Spain. "Because the company does its own manufacturing," Sherman explains, "The clothes reach the sales floor more quickly and efficiently, thus serving more consumers."
The truth is whether we're in a recession or not, all brands just want you to buy their stuff. You may not need it, but they need you to want it. So they're going to price accordingly. "We as a business cannot afford to have a customer take a second look and ask, ‘Do I need this?'" Bud Konheim, CEO of Nicole Miller tells the Times. "That is the kiss of death. We're finished, because nobody really needs anything we make as a total industry."