Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tailor Made Green Jeans

Tailor made jeans: half the price, twice the green
If you are in the market for a new pair of jeans, you have many choices. You can spend a few thousand rupees on a pair of branded jeans from a high end show room; you can troll the export surplus in Sarojini Nagar market. Or you can have a pair stitched for you by a tailor.

If you don't care about politics or price, then buy the Levis from the Levi store. Or choose another brand--it really doesn't matter too much. They are all made in similar places, by factories with workers who are paid similar amounts. I couldn't find numbers on India, but by the time jeans get from the factory where they are made to the US, their total cost is about $7.50 (Rs. 340 ). Of that, just under $2.00 (Rs. 90) goes to labour; about $3.00 (Rs. 135) goes to cloth.  The rest goes to shipping, taxes, etc.  I'm guessing the numbers in India are similar.  You can read all about it in an article called "Global Poverty and the Cost of  a Pair of Jeans." (Of course if we figured in the true cost of the environmental destruction that comes from shipping jeans all over the world, the price would be significantly higher.)  

That pair of basic jeans that cost $7.50 to make and ship goes on to sell in the market for $20-$40 (Rs. 900-1800). Where does that extra money go? A lot of places: the jean company makes lots of profits; the retailer takes a large share, there is transportation within the country once the jeans arrive on the dock.

If you only want to save money, and you wear a common size, the cheapest bet is to hit a market like Sarojini Nagar. But if you are looking to make a green choice, then have your jeans tailor made. In Mohan Singh Place, a shopping complex next to PVR Rivoli and around the corner from the Regal Cinema in Connaught Place, you can get jeans made from a wide variety of shops for about Rs. 750 ($16.50) or less. I've gone to Satkar Jeans (shop number 42) a few times and have had pretty good luck. They'll even give you fake Levis labels and buttons if you care about fashion or have a sense of humour. (And while you are shopping, why not go upstairs and have a snack at the Indian Coffee House?)

Why are tailor made jeans greener? In part because they require much less shipping--the cloth, must be shipped, but the stitched jeans are sold on site--which also means there is no need for a large factory--and no need to ship the final product anywhere. The wages may not be great, but I'd bet the skilled tailor that takes your measurements is doing better than an assembly line worker in Nicaragua or China. And best of all, you don't have to support the overpaid bosses or shareholders of the large jean companies either--all the money stays local! (And if you like to think literally, you probably really could get yourself a pair of green jeans--though I've never tried that myself.)


What do you think?