China has quickly gone from poor and communist, to one of the top economic powers in the world. Now it looks like the country's set to take over the world of fashion as well.
What does the tag “Made in China” mean to you? The word quality is probably not the first that springs to mind. But that might soon change.
Earlier this year China started quality testing foreign luxury brands coming into their market. Brands like Hermes, Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger were all subjected to checks and guess what, the items were found to be “substandard”. Among the problems were counterfeit materials.
Now, I have a couple of friends with “Chloe” bags from China, straight from the factory, for a bargain. One of them actually took her bag to a Chloe shop in the States and asked if the staff thought it was real or not. They couldn't spot any fakery.
Does this mean that Chinese knock-off products are actually better than the real thing? Is the quality testing of Western goods just a clever marketing strategy from the Chinese fashion industry?
According to the Clothes Whisperer, Anna Wintour herself has been shipped off to China for a secret fashion summit. The Chinese market is, after all, huge. Forget Europe and The States (our economies are going down the drain anyway), if a fashion brands want to make it, they might have to look towards the East.
And maybe so should we.
In a recent episode UK investigative program Dispatches uncovered sweatshops in the north of England, producing cheap fashion for high street retailers. The program tracked tops from a dingy industrial estate in Leicester, sewn by illegal immigrants working in awful conditions, to shops like New Look and Bhs. Maybe there will be a time when the tag made in Europe suddenly starts meaning something very different.
Although there aren't any investigative Chinese TV programs looking into the state of their clothing factories and the country is still able to send activists to jail for saying the wrong things on twitter. The power of the Yuan might be strong enough to make the world turn a blind eye to these things. Just as the power of a shiny new top from New Look make us forget about those illegal workers in Leicester.
Charlotta Hedman is a journalist writing about tech, music and the news. You can follow her on twitter as @fjoms or read her ramblings on posterous.
Image via Maithri