But have you ever wondered how supermarkets such as ASDA and Tesco can sell their school uniform items for as low as £2 a pop?
When I went to stock up on items last August for Gammon before he started school, I was staggered at just how cheap I could kit him out for – probably under £15 I would think – which included four school shirts, two pairs of trousers, a multi-pack of socks and a pair of school shoes.
I wondered how they managed to do it so economically. I thought that there must be an element of the school uniform collection being a ‘loss leader’ – where supermarkets don’t mind that they’re making a loss on the items because they’re bringing new customers into their store, and hopefully they’ll pick up some more (profitable) things while they’re there. There is no doubt that UK supermarkets engage in a fierce price war to dominate the £450 million school uniform market around ‘back to school’ time.
I looked into it, but could only find assurances from the major supermarkets that their school uniforms were produced ethically. However, I’ve since come across this ActionAid document which uncovers the hidden cost that cheap schoolwear – made in Bangladesh for ASDA and Tesco, and in Sri Lanka for Marks & Spencer – is having on the lives of thousands of women workers.
This quote brought tears to my eyes:
“All day I sit and make school uniforms for foreign children. It makes me feel so sad that I can’t afford to send my own children to school, because I want a better life for them than the one I have.”
So, what’s the solution for environmentally conscious Mums and Dads?
Well, one solution is Ecooutfitters – they’re a new ethical and sustainable school uniform label with the aim of giving parents an option to choose an earth-friendly and people-friendly school uniform for their children. All of their uniforms are made from 100% pure organic cotton and are certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) meaning they’re guaranteed against a strict set of environmental and social criteria.
The brand has been set up by two mothers, Irina and Marina, who were one day discussing how strange it was that you could buy nice kids’ clothes for the weekends made of natural fabrics, but that the clothes they have to wear most of their lives (i.e. at school) were all made of cheap polyester, acrylic or polycotton mix.
So they did something about it.
Ecooutfitters now offer primary school children a range of healthy, durable, sustainable, and practical everyday school uniform items – such as polo shirts, sweatshirts, cardigans, fleeces, boys and girls trousers, skirts and pinafores – to individuals, schools and organisations. And all can be purchased online here.
I can definitely vouch for the quality – we were sent a pair of organic cotton school trousers for Gammon and they are a smart design, well made, beautifully cut and the organic cotton is obviously very hard-wearing, yet still breathable. They might require a tiny bit more ironing than the ‘Teflon’ types that you can buy from ASDA, and they are more expensive, but it’s worth it just knowing that those who made them aren’t working 70 hours weeks and in the process have been paid considerably more than 5p an hour to do so. And I can tell that their higher price tag will mean good value in the long run – their top quality cotton means they’re going to last well beyond the point when the ASDA ones have been relegated to their non-stick Teflon graves.
If you’re a concerned parent, why not SIGN UP YOUR SCHOOL to switch to sustainably produced, healthy, ethical school uniforms, made from 100% pure organic cotton. Just fill in your details on the form provided and Irina and Marina will send you more information.
So how about it parents? Willing to give it a try?
Why not change your way of thinking this ‘back to school’ season and really make a difference that won’t cost the earth.
*Disclaimer: we were sent a pair of ethically produced grey boys trousers for Gammon in return for this blog post. All my views are honest and this is a topic I’m particularly passionate about.