The crochet problem

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Crochet is in. Whether it’s Gucci’s halter dress, Urban Outfitter’s mini skirt or ASOS’ patterned top, this trend is everywhere – from high fashion to the high street. And for good reason, the cute, lightweight style is perfect for summer. It is a perfect example of the comfortable yet stylish kind of clothing coming into style, just as we transition out of lockdown.

There’s just one problem: crochet can’t be done by machine. Unlike knitting or sewing, the stitches needed to achieve crochet are just too complicated for a machine to replicate. So, it makes sense for an ethical crochet brand to price their pieces at £70-£100, knowing that each piece will have had to have been hand stitched.

However, fast fashion brands understand that crochet is in fashion too, and they’re keeping their prices low to get buyers interested. Zara is selling a crocheted top for £17, I Saw It First is selling a cardigan for £15, and a Stradivarius crochet vest will set you back less than £10 – and those are only a few examples. What’s more, these low prices don’t just have to pay the workers hand-stitching the garments. There are also marketing costs, transportation, packaging. Which begs the question: how are they keeping their prices so low?

Many of these fashion companies have been known to greatly under pay their workers. A factory linked to I Saw It First was revealed to only be paying their workers £3.50 an hour, over five pounds below the UK minimum wage. Both Zara and Stradivarius are owned by Inditex, who are not transparent about the wages that they pay their factory workers, and there is no evidence that they ensure that they are paid a living wage.

Not only do the low prices of these crochet items raise questions about their production, but it’s also important to consider what happens after the clothes have been bought. Cheap, fast fashion clothes aren’t made to last, and the low-quality means the clothes will likely start to fall apart after a few years. Even if the clothes last, it’s likely that thousands of these pieces will be thrown away after the trend passes and consumers grow bored of their crochet clothes, to join the 85% of textile waste that ends up in landfill.

If you want to participate in the crochet trend, it’s important to consider to whom you’re giving your money, and whether you’re making an investment or will just discard your new clothes at the end of the season. Thinking mindfully about your clothing purchases will mean that you’ll be more comfortable spending money investing in ethical pieces, knowing that you’ll be wearing them for a long time. If you still think you’ll be rocking crochet in the years to come, some great small ethical brands can be found on Instagram, Depop or Etsy.

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