I once auditioned for the Ice Capades. I thought I could run away from a difficult period in my life to tour with the show across America. To be fair, I hadn’t skated seriously since high school. I thought my lack of training would be the biggest strike against me.
After the audition, the choreographer sat me down and said, “You’re a little heavier in the thighs than we like.” The words burned. I was fully prepared for a critique of my shaky skating skills, but not of my body. Not only were my skating dreams quashed, but I had to go back home to my bad boyfriend with my bad job and my fat thighs.
I now know that it is because of my thighs that I am such a strong runner. Now my three daughters watch me head out the door to run several days a week. They know that running makes me feel unstoppable. My eldest daughter has even been inspired to run, revelling in the strength and power of her own body.
The latest tragedy in a grim news cycle stems from Bangladesh, where, as we all know by now, a textile factory collapsed killing nearly 400 workers inside. We’ve also learned that the factory manufactured clothing for Canadian company Loblaws’ Joe Fresh brand.
The incident has brought the topic of ‘extreme pricing’ to both boardrooms and water coolers. On one hand, you have mass retailers, who claim that customers demand cheap pricing. On the other hand you have consumers, some of whom are calling for a boycott of Joe Fresh goods until the company addresses its labour practices.
But it’s not as simple as pressuring Joe Fresh to change its ways. There is a third camp who point out that boycotting North American retailers will only hurt the workers in Bangladesh who are still better off earning a dollar a day than starving.
We have always manufactured our blankets in Canada. We’d be lying, however, if we didn’t admit that we’ve done the math on the costs to manufacture our products overseas. And we have dabbled in overseas production with another product line. At the time, we felt the need to come up with a competitively priced product for wholesale, and believed that we wouldn’t be able to compete unless we went overseas. It was a decision we did not take lightly. It also was something we backed out of not long after we started.
All manufacturers, even small businesses, are forced to make these considerations if they want to remain competitive. Overseas manufacturing is a reality of competing in a global marketplace, but that doesn’t mean it sits right with everyone. Ultimately, the choices businesses make are still their own.
In our experience, this is a really complicated issue. People claim they value locally-made products while wearing eight-dollar t-shirts on their backs. People say they value ethically made goods, but hey, this store at the mall is having a 40% off sale. People want their products made-in-Canada, but they aren’t always willing to pay the price.
Our friend, Toronto-based clothing designer Devorah Miller, was recently quoted in the Toronto Star. On her Red Thread Design blog she posted, “Those tragedies happen because demand for low prices pushes down wages and safety standards. That’s the price paid for our fantastic bargains.”
We are forced to ask ourselves what price we are willing to pay.
What do you do? Do you do the extra leg work to source local goods or do you go for the deal?