What is the true cost of the clothes we wear? Does an organic cotton t-shirt really only cost a hundred? And what is the story of the traditional textile cotton fiber?
The true value of things can rarely be explicitly determined. But life is not a scientific experiment, so instead of explicitness, at least an approximate value is sufficient, a value that makes sense. In most cases, the fashion industry is built on a model that has worked since the beginning of mankind. The developing world provides the developed world with an extremely low cost of labor, which is therefore not realistically included in the price of the final product. And so a t-shirt made of organic cotton costs less than a hundred in a popular discount store.
The story of cotton can serve as an illustration. It was originally grown and processed in its place of origin, i.e. mainly in China and India, where all profits ended up. Cotton was one of the world's most important trade items in the 16th century and was also used as a valuable barter currency. African rulers, for example, found the colorful "Made in India" cotton fabrics extremely attractive and did not hesitate to exchange them for their citizens, who they sold to European colonizers as labor for American plantations. The colonizing powers very soon understood the need to gain full control over the know-how of cotton processing by moving it to the European continent and degrading the colonized economies to mere suppliers of raw materials. In just a few decades, they masterfully transformed global trade chains. Colonized Asian countries supplied the material, the European powers created added value, which they then exchanged for labor from Africa, and meanwhile the largest laboratory for growing, processing and distributing cotton in the world was being built on the American continent.
In the 21st century, it's as if the cotton wheel has turned back a little. After "Made in India" became "Made in Great Britain" there was another big leap, and so on all t-shirts not only from the popular discount store, but basically from any large multinational clothing manufacturer, you will find the inscription "Made in India/Bangladesh/China ". Instead of the know-how appreciated by African rulers, the reason is low costs, appreciated by European and American sellers. In short, according to economic principles, production moved to where it is cheapest. And the value of human labor seemed to be lost somewhere in the textile formula, or rather approached zero.
The true value of things can rarely be explicitly determined.
The real value of things, but it has to make sense.