Saturday, August 22, 2009
Damon Young alerted me to this article by Helen Razer suggesting that "comfortable parents" can all tut-tut about Cotton On because as a brand it's a bit cheap and nasty, but that a "crass t-shirt is no less offensive than a tot in head-to-toe Prada".
(Although, funnily enough, I think Cotton On had earned itself a bit of cred lately -- at least, before this saga shot it down in flames. It's a weirdly nuanced thing the way these kinds of "High Street" brands (as the Brits call 'em) can redeem themselves from time to time.)
Anyway, as I said in my comment, I agree with Razer that parading babies around as billboards or status symbols of any kind is pretty off -- and that, yes, we're all prone to this kind of consumer hypocrisy to lesser or greater degrees. Though a pretty minuscule percentage of parents (even those in the comfortable category) could afford to dress their kids in Prada, even if they wanted to.
But this brought us to the issue of op-shops, Damon linking us to this story by sociologist and blogger Ruth Quibell, who reminds us to look beyond our bargain-hunting instincts and remember why and how op shops exist.
When it comes to the very fraught ethical questions of how, where and why to shop nowadays, op-shops have long been my get out of jail free card, or so I thought. (Though I've never bought fur, even second-hand, and never bartered either, I promise.)
I was just talking to someone last night about how you now have to expect to pay pretty much the same amount at oppies as you would for new gear -- but that you're hopefully paying for better quality stuff, especially when it come to kids (well, mine anyway) who seem to trash their clothes faster than I can stuff the little would-be nudists into them, as well as buying a bit more ethically, just by the nature of the wares being second-hand, and hopefully putting your money somewhere useful.
That said -- though (as Ruth points out) I know people who shop at op shops aren't just the very poor (there are even those running op shop tours now!) -- I would struggle to dress my kids in similar quality clothes bought new. The choice would be op-shop or the likes of Target, where I do admittedly shop from time to time, but always means wrestling with that ethical problem of whether to buy cheap imports made in China that fall apart in the wash and were probably made by a kid about the same age as your own.
The other issue is the way op-shops now get trawled through by some funky vintage outfit across the road who then on-sells for three times as much -- for profit, not charity. Where does everyone sit on that one? All part of keeping the whole thing ticking along, or just ripping off the everyone involved -- the charities, the poor, and the bargain-hunters alike?
... Oh dear...
Sorry, this post was started half an hour ago but was interrupted by my daughter stepping into the study looking like she'd spent too long on a horse. Yep, pooed her pants. Sorry, I know, that's a bit gross, but in the interests of truth and honesty about this parenting caper... Phew -- lucky the pants weren't Prada!