Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Would you sell your ethics for a $1.50 bra?

While I was browsing my lingerie news last week I came across an article in a British newspaper that made me mad on many levels! The headline proudly announced that a bra to fit any budget was now available in the UK and used the painful play on words 'Bra-gain'. The bra in question is being sold in a UK Dollar Store equivalent for 99p, that's about $1.50

I continued reading expecting the punchline to kick-in; surely it was going to be made of chocolate or rice paper. But no, this is an actual bra asking to be taken seriously for under $2. My rush of emotions and opinions came so quickly I had to pour myself a cup of tea (it was too early for gin) re-read the article and calm down.

If it looks too good to be true it probably is!
My biggest outrage is that nowhere in the article did it question the morality of a 99 pence bra. While the journalist was picking over the cheap bra press release he never thought to ask himself "does this add up, does the world really need a 99p bra, what are the consequences of such a cheap bra?" OK, so it was written by a bloke who may have not have a lot of lingerie knowledge, but basic economics tell you something doesn't add up.

The article then went on to give the model's reaction to the bra. She unwittingly hit the nail on the head. When asked if she would wear this bra in the bedroom she replied that she would because "I doubt my boyfriend would care about how much it cost!" Well that makes you, your boyfriend and the journalist at least who don't care about the ethical cost of this bra.

The difference between value and cost
Cheap bras won't last as long as quality ones and the construction may not be as beneficial to your health. I'm used to explaining to women why spending your money on a good quality bra is in your emotional and physical best interests. Budgets are tight and when a pair of jeans costs $40 it makes you balk at paying $70 and up for a bra. But bras is a case of you get what you pay for. When I spoke to the CBC's Shiral Tobin I explained to her that the popular "3 bras for $30" offers at places like La Senza and Victoria's Secret are not designed for women with big boobs. It's like comparing beach hammocks to suspension bridges - would you drive over a string bridge just to save a few bucks!?

You have to ask yourself the ethical question
The engineering in a bra is really very complex because you are working with multiple different materials that have to be constructed perfectly, the margin for error is tiny. This work and mix of materials has to be shipped and marketed so going on the idea that at least 20% goes on labour, who is making this bra for 30 cents? The most likely scenario is that a woman in Bangladesh is making this bra and being paid about $30 per month with no medical, no vacation and no health and safety at her workplace. The amazing bra comes at a very human cost.

I know that budgets are tight for lots of us but if you stop and think about it does saving money on a bra really make you feel good when you know you're compromising your ethics? There are so many amazing lingerie companies out there doing the right thing. One that has blown me away is Chicago based Naughty for Nice whose business constantly gives back to charities and manufactures ethically. There are good ones out there if you shop with your ethics as well as your budget! xx


  1. Loved your analogy - would you rather drive over the hammock or the suspension bridge!! I love that! I'm stealing that line from ya!

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