The high street trend for crochet has descended and have seen lots of debates regarding the price they can make the designs, compared with Individual creators/Independents and how that it phasing them out of the market.
It is true that crochet is a completely handmade product, no machines can replicate the effect as yet, though i'm sure the developers out there are on the case. I also don't disagree with all the discussions and points being made regarding supporting small business, paying the valid price points for time to make, materials etc... as an Independent maker i completely get this. Also mentioned, the wage the workers must be getting paid. However, i'm not only a small business but I also have and still do work for high street retailers who mass produce, my role over the last 18 years requires me to visit these factories where the product is being made. So I wanted to also provide a different perspective to the debate.
Firstly, it's hard to compare the living wage of those working in the factories in what are mostly third world countries to those in developed countries such as the UK. The poverty I have witnessed on my factory visits has often had me in tears. However, the workers are so grateful for that job and the wage is mostly credible against the living costs in these countries. Take that job away and they become unable to support their families and often extended families.
I wouldn't like to assume what processes or lack of the likes of Boohoo or Shein have in place but high profile retailers such as Zara etc... will have a Code of Practice or Ethical team which have a criteria to check the factories prior to stock being made which make sure the workers are being paid, working conditions are good, they have their rights protected, hours etc... And this is something we as representatives from the retailer in buying, design or technology roles also look at on our factory visits and any concerns highlighted. Each factory usually has a rating and if they are falling below standards they will be supported.
Most of the issues with poor standards and modern slavery in factories believe it or not are on our doorstep, in the UK!!
Crochet is likely to be outsourced as it is a special skill or the workers asked to come into a designated part of the factory (much like the Adda technique, hand beading/embellishment) and is done mostly by women due to smaller delicate hands. The factories in the majority of countries are male orientated except for these tasks, these women get to earn a living and we should be there to support this female role and skill. Empowering the women in these third world countries.
Secondly, the garment cost! Supply and demand is the economic term i believe. The factory will have been given an order/contract to produce thousands of pieces potentially. The cost of items is often cheaper at source and even more so when bought in bulk quantity with more man or woman-power, so this brings the cost of materials down on a mass produced garment compared to one person making a few garments in a few weeks, buying yarn which has had the same mark up that the retailer will then put on any garment to make a profit. Take these orders away from factories and it's not just 1 person out of work, it's hundreds in these factories all with families to support in areas of extreme poverty.
Do we question the cost of the mass produced yarn we are buying to make our goods? we need to trace it all back to origin from the factories making the acrylic or the cotton pickers, to the factories then spinning and balling it up to ship to the stores where we purchase it from which then becomes part of our higher material costs.
I understand that it can also be our bread and butter producing crochet goods for sale as well and for many, the only income. However, most people may not be creative and/or able to take up the skill but may also not have the income to pay for high priced items, so there hopefully is a place for both in the market, to champion our art and those who make it worldwide, whether at home or in a factory. The high street is very trend driven so once the fad has gone, the small businesses will always be there.
I will always champion small business and Independents and personally choose to live more sustainably, buying more secondhand and making my own, even though I work for the high street but not everyone has this luxury or ability to choose. The fashion industry is one of the highest polluters and there are better practices that need to be put in place but the economy is now what it is thanks to the industrial revolution but it is ever evolving, hopefully for the better, however, there will always a place for both affordable and bespoke as it has been through the centuries and as long as the class system exists.