Since the arrival of Primark on Oxford Street in May 2007, consumers from all backgrounds have gone crazy for the unbelievable prices that the latest trends are being sold for. According to Lucy Siegle, author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World, British consumers now only use 17% of our clothing budget to buy 40% of our clothing from value retailers. Primark specifically have been unbelievably successful on the British high street, so much so that they managed to knock Marks and Spencer off of the top spot as the biggest clothing retailer for all clothes sold in the UK.
Campaigners walked into Primark stores, armed with hidden recording devices and the t-shirts that I designed…
Knowing these facts, I felt as though I had to do something to raise awareness towards the negative effects of fast fashion and what effect it is having on the environment and on the people that work in factories that produce these items of clothing. Consequentially I set up a small campaign called Consumed, with the main aim to raise awareness amongst clothes hungry consumers in the UK. I want people to think about what they are doing before they waste their money on throwaway fashion.
I decided to organise a campaign event called a ’shop drop’, which involves placing ethical products inside a retail space in the hopes that they will sell. I designed three different t-shirts, each featuring a bold print in red, black and off-white. All of the t-shirts were made out of organic, fair trade cotton and printed with environmentally friendly dyes; costing around £8 to make each t-shirt and which would normally be sold for around £30. One of the designs portrayed child labour with an abstract illustration of a child sewing, another showed a shopper carrying four over-sized shopping bags, and all of them were emblazoned with the word ‘Consumed’ in a strong Soviet inspired font.
The event took place on Saturday 4th of February 2012. It hit three cities: London, Manchester and Sheffield. Campaigners in each of these cities walked into Primark stores, armed with hidden recording devices and the t-shirts that I designed. Prior to this, I tagged each t-shirt with a Primark label, displaying valid bar codes priced at £3. Subsequently, 5 t-shirts were sold to customers who failed to realise the strong messages on the front of the t-shirts, showing that people really will buy anything with a cheap price tag.
The main idea behind the ‘shop drop’ was to prove that people don’t pay much attention to what they are actually spending their money on, and that most customers pay more attention to the cheap price than the actual quality and worth of the garment. Out of the footage gathered from the hidden recording devices, I made a short film which showed myself and the two other campaigners putting the t-shirts inside the stores in each of the three cities. In two of the clips, the Manchester based campaigner, and myself, based in the London store, each bought one of the t-shirts. This shows that employees within these value retail stores do not know what is supposed to be in store or not. This is most likely due to the fact that there is such a huge amount of stock and an incredibly fast turnover that it is impossible for them to keep track.
Urban Times contacted Chris Barrie, who deals with Primark’s PR, and despite relaying the above story to him he did not have any comment. We have also contacted other Primark departments, upwards of 10 times, and they also avoided comment.
What do you think about our ‘Consumed’ society?
Previous in Eco Fashion: Ecoluxe: An Important Platform for Young Sustainable Brands