Despite the glamour of high fashion, most of the apparel industry is a world of misery and exploitation, of child labour, cramped factories and starvation wages. The very structure of the clothing industry makes it difficult to police. Manufacturers farm out work to hundreds of competing sub-contractors who hunt around the globe for ever cheaper labour, often finding it in countries with dubious humanitarian records, such as China, Burma and Indonesia.
The highly competitive nature of the apparel industry favours illicit copying of styles, counterfeiting of trade marks and labels, and exceptionally high mark-ups. The industry is strongly dependent on encouraging the consumer to adopt particular new styles and to reject old ones as unfashionable, thus leading to excessive allocation of resources to apparel which is only worn for a limited period before being discarded. Style changes are determined by a small elite whose motivation is to undermine the appropriateness of old styles, whether or not the new styles are appropriate, and to encourage conspicuous consumption on apparel.
Examples are legion. In the area of worker exploitation an excessive profits: many big-name trainers selling in the UK for around £80 are assembled for about 50 pence in Indonesia; jeans that sell for £50 may be sewn for about 25 pence.