Patagonia is obviously a leader in social responsibility and has been for decades. They offer very high quality garments and we are fortunate to offer the patagonia brand to anyone interested in embroidering their logo on them.
Patagonia just emailed out the 3rd video in their “FootPrint Chronicles” series and it makes an incredible point on the definition of quality. Quality should not be defined by the attributes of a garment, its technical specifications or length a product lasts. And brands cannot expect quality when focusing on the cheapest way to construct a product. Getting a better quality garment is attainable by increasing the quality of the working conditions and wages of the people making them. They begin to take pride in what they produce because they have the time and tools to invest in making a quality product.
Simple right? well, I’d say to some degree. American consumers are price conscious and buy that way. that’s fair. If given a choice to buy a $5 t-shirt at Old Navy or a $50 t-shirt that is made in the USA with organic cotton grown and top working conditions……most would buy the $5 tee from Old Navy right? But, if there was a happy median where t-shirts were produced in Vietnam (like in this video) with top wages and working conditions for Vietnam….we could still get it for $20 at retail in the US. Would you make the decision to spend more money on a product because of the working conditions it was produced under? Maybe? I bet (and I believe the point of the video) you would pay more for a better quality garment AND one produced in favorable working conditions. I hope Patagonia’s right!
I hope they’re right for social and business reasons. I don’t think cheaper and cheaper production is sustainable long term for all the humanitarian and environmental it sacrifices. It also changes our values in what is quality. Our business has become so price driven that production has moved overseas or to depressed communities in the US to take advantage of low wages. We embroider and print all garments in Concord, MA! This is not a place to be a low cost provider. Salaries are high, real estate is expensive and the standard of living is higher than average. Its difficult to compete with shops in East Los Angeles or Alabama who have significantly lower costs. I think it also lowers quality. We have competed by developing technology and processes that improve our efficiency to pay for the difference in cost and improve our quality…..without the need to be located in a place where wages and quality of life are lower than average.
I believe quality is (as patagonia states) not just a tangible attribute but the entire value of a product, its environmental impact and who produces it.