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The Primark Issue

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Gone are the days when following fashion trends was meant only for privileged individuals. The older generation of our society still remembers that going shopping basically meant enjoying the full attention and kindness of salesmen, peacefully trying garments and proudly paying quite a lot of money for each purchase. However, today’s generation is used to everything happening so fast, you cannot even realise what’s going on. From online shopping that is accomplished through a few clicks on your Mac, to the instant live-streaming of the world’s most anticipated catwalks, young people do not take “slow” for an answer. Besides, this is one of the main reasons that let “fast fashion” bloom so quickly. The fast fashion industry quickly escalated into a new term, “supermarket fashion” that is, with Primark being the king of this particular kind, thus making the tourists in Oxford Street going crazy every time they stumble upon a Primark store.

One can easily understand why Primark seems so appealing to consumers, especially young ones. Each store is packed with a huge variety of pieces of clothing, accessories and even home decorations at ridiculously affordable prices. Most of the clothes are based on current fashion trends, many of them obviously destined to be short-termed, such as Game of Thrones t-shirts or yoga pants to name a few. Some Primark designs are considered more timeless in terms of style, but the majority of clothes are basically cheaper replicas of designer collections seen on the catwalks, satisfying the ego of those consumers who crave for the latest “it” looks. Classical or not, the truth is that it’s quite difficult to exit a Primark store without an armful of new purchases, that will most likely lie in the back of your wardrobe forever.

What is more, shopping at Primark is the cheapest way to try out new trends, thus refreshing the customers’ wardrobe without breaking the bank. This kind of stores actually democratises fashion for those who cannot afford paying a lot of money for clothing; for these people, Primark is not just a way of being dressed nicely, it’s actually a way of being dressed.

However, there is another side to the story. Have you ever wondered why these products are being sold in so low prices? Terrible quality is one of the reasons why, which you will notice yourselves after washing the garment a few times. Filling our wardrobes with poor quality clothes is definitely something to avoid, but we should also bear in mind that this kind of products are extremely difficult to be donated in charities, since giving away clothes in such a bad condition is pointless. As a result, Primark shopping affects sustainability matters too.

Unfortunately, bad quality is not the only reason why Primark clothes are so cheap. The ugly truth behind the brand’s affordable products is portrayed at the people who make them. Extremely poor workers, sometimes ex-prostitutes according to a recent Vice.co.uk article, forced to work more than 15 hours a day, earning a maximum of £80 per month. In other words, these workers are actually slaves. They usually come from places like Bangladesh or China, and not only they don’t even make ends meet with their salary, but they often get injured during work, due to the terrible conditions at the manufacturing factories. It was only last year when one of the brand’s factories collapsed, killing over 1000 workers. And more recently, some poor workers tried to make contact with the Western World, crying for help with an unexpected way: by sewing “help me” labels at the Primark products. Over the last few months, three people have noticed these labels at their clothes stating things like “forced labour”, alarming the customers about how their precious clothes are made.

Is the positive side of Primark shopping so rewarding that it can overshadow the negative one? Or are we so selfish to ignore the story behind the clothes just to purchase another useless dress for less than £10? The choice, of course, is yours. Nothing in life is black and white and each decision is respected. As long as you know the story and try to help by any way you can.

Both the picture and the text are parts of my assignment for the London College of Fashion.