Alright, real talk. Why keep brands accountable? This is a...pretty loaded question. Before we nosedive into the answer, let me provide some structural context on how the fashion "food chain" works.
There are two main directions brands can go: wholesale and direct-to-consumer (DTC). If we're going the wholesale route, we have a top to bottom of retail stores, salesperson or some type of middle man, brand, and vendors (including but not limited to textile companies, dye houses, screenprint/embroidery, and manufacturing companies). DTC has a similar structure, minus the retail stores and salespeople.
I won't bore you with the nitty-gritty details, but if you didn't already know, there are a lot of markups that occur between each tier. Let me just say right now: markups are necessary. Sorry, folks, as much as I would love to tell you how big corporations are evil for marking up prices, they're just doing what it takes to maintain payrolls, utilities, rent, and other expenses.
But what I can tell you is that many brands mark up way more than they need so that they can keep a larger share of net profit. Sure, this is the brand's choice, but it becomes an issue when a larger profit is kept at the expense of vendor prices.
Part of a brand's social and economic responsibility is to know who makes its products, in what kind of conditions, and for how much. When brands don't pay vendors enough, textile companies, dye houses, screenprint and embroidery houses, and manufacturing companies, are left unable to uphold sustainable and ethical values.
Yes, the vendors themselves should be held to meet labor law standards, but brands should be held to an even greater standard because they are benefiting from the labor of those at the bottom of the chain. You would be surprised at the number of brands that claim to be ethical and sustainable while heavily discounting production costs, producing in excess quantities, and creating vast amounts of raw material waste. (Just an FYI, this is NOT considered to be ethical OR sustainable.)
Retail stores and brands can afford to keep prices the same while providing the financial means for vendors to pay fair wages. Let me repeat that for the people in the back: THEY CAN AFFORD IT! Some brand owners & employees take home well over twice the amount they payout to vendors. So keep your brands accountable. Ask for that transparency. Know where and to whom your money goes. It's your role & right as socially conscious consumers.