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Primark’s Mark on UK Youth


Broadly speaking, fashion can be divided into two separate industries. Firstly there is High Fashion: the big name designers, haute couture clothing, and celebrities that epitomise the fashion looks. High Fashion is only a small part of the fashion world, the majority is the Grass Roots of fashion. This is reality, the normal, and the every day fashion of consumers.

High fashion is trying to sell an ideal of what we should look like, and what we should buy. In order to make more money this ideal changes rapidly and often. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as this is part of the fashion industry: it’s meant to make money.

One of the problems that grass roots fashion faces is that because this ideal changes so frequently, it becomes more expensive to mass produce garments and get them to the consumers before they go out of style and the ideal changes again.

This is where the bargain store super giants come in. In the UK you have Primark as the market leader for the latest fashion trends at an almost irresistible price (very rarely does an item of clothing breach the £15 mark). According to their own website it can take as little as 6 weeks for the trend to be recognised and then be available in their stores. Primark state that they keep the costs low with bulk buying stock and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.


Primark, or Primarni as it is sometimes referred to, is the go to shop for many young adults in the UK, as the price point is low and young adults have the one of the highest rates of fashion consumption.

Young adults in general, but specifically teenagers and pre teens, are one of the main targets for Primark as a business. Most are at the age of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world, they have a disposable but quite limited income – pocket money or part time jobs, and no major expenditure as often living with parents while they are at school. Another major attraction of Primark is that because of the low prices, it’s possible to create whole looks and wardrobes for a fraction of the price of their style competitors in the UK (H&M, Topshop, River Island, to name a few). This ability to purchase a large quantity of clothes serves to make these young shoppers feel more independent, which in turn makes them feel even more connected to the experience as learning independence and doing things without parental controls is a big part of growing up.

Primark Oxford Street

Due to the mass production of styles and garments, at a price a lot of teenagers can afford, means that whole groups of friends wear similar clothes from the same shop, creating their own high street trends. This means that Primark is effectively creating their own trend, which attracts more consumers due to the availability and the low cost of the products.

Of course this isn’t to say that the youth of the UK is blindly purchasing whatever is put in front of them, driven only by consumer need. The way clothing shops are accessed in the UK market has part to play in how teenagers shop.

Almost all clothing shops in the UK will be found on the high street of the town or city, much like Oxford Street in London. This high street may have stemmed from the original town centre, sometimes dating back hundreds of years. These high streets are often pedestrian only areas with good public transport links. Put this together, and you can see that teenagers often go for shopping trips with friends, but without adults as they can make their own way there. Once at the high street, it is much like visiting a mall: all the shops are close together, with food and restrooms nearby.

These unsupervised trips with friends are pivotal moments for the individuals involved. It helps them to build their look and identity based on the opinions of the people they are with. These opinions are the most important to them, as they affect their ability to belong and connect with the people they want to. One of the most fundamental parts of growing up is learning how to be part of society and to feel connected. What Primark is enabling is a way for these teenagers to feel like they belong, whilst also securing a large number of repeat customers.


Two Months Later: A Look at the Bangladesh Catastrophe

126692804_01_407688bSince 24th April this year Bangladesh has been at the forefront of fashion and business news. The tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, which killed over 1,000 people and injured more than 2,000, has meant that garment factories have been a big issue for retailers and fashion businesses.

The Rana Plaza disaster happened at a pivotal time in social history. Many people around the world have been hit by a tough economy, and they’re thinking more carefully before buying anything, both of their own need, and the value of their products. Longevity of items, and where they have come from, are very important factors to a lot of consumers.

Additionally, social media is at its peak, and instant news has had a profound affect on the way information is digested. Just looking at the global response to the tragic events at the Boston Marathon this year, makes you realise that everybody feels connected, and reacts together.

When you combine these two things, consumer awareness and instant news, it shows that when something goes wrong in the production chain, it has huge consequences. Consumers are asking more questions, and making big businesses feel uneasy. With personal budgets tighter than they’ve been for years, it’s easier for people to change their shopping habits, to turn away from companies and brands because of how they operate.

If something like the Rana Plaza catastrophe had happened 15 or 20 years ago, would we even have heard about it? More than likely, the major corporations would have hidden it away, subduing any reports. Now that we have the ability to be connected with the other side of the world in moments, these companies have nowhere to hide.

This isn’t to say that all big businesses are corrupt, and forcing people to work at a rate barely above slave labour. With the cost of living being more tightly monitored by individuals, there have been more ethical and responsible companies emerging. They understand that the attitudes towards instant and throwaway fashion are changing, albeit slowly and in very small increments. These companies might be charging more for their wares, but that’s because the materials were bought for a fair price, and the people who made them were paid more than $60 a month. We now have the opportunity to learn what fashion is worth to each of us.

Sadly, for a lot of people, the cost of these ethical products is prohibitive. One of the positive things to come from the Rana Plaza collapse is that politicians and governments are now seeing the responses from social medias, and understand that these are things their people feel strongly about. It would be nice if we lived in a world where governments were governed by their own morals, but unfortunately, they rely on the morals of their voters. Right now, their voters want change and help for the garment workers, so they are acting.

In the months since the collapse, the government in Bangladesh has voted to increase the minimum wage for factory workers, and to allow them to form unions without the prior consent of the factory owners. BEGMA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) have announced that the factories within it’s association must sign up to a worker database, to give security to casual workers and keep a real time track of the employment levels.

As recently as within the last week, the US President announced that they will be ending duty-free trade privileges over their concerns into dangerous working conditions and worker rights. This is a bold move for the US, and one that has caused anger in Bangladesh, which feels that America is ignoring the recent changes instigated by the Bangladesh government, which is working hard to protect its citizens.

Feelings are that the EU will soon follow suit with this change in commerce, as they often do after the US makes a change of this magnitude. It often takes one definitive stand before change can start, but we can only hope that the garment industry in Bangladesh can survive long enough to repair itself.

With all of these changes and work from a high level, its clear to see that everybody felt the pain and loss from April, and want to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s only been two months since the Rana Plaza disaster so it’s too soon to tell if any of these changes are working. We might not know for some time if they will work, but it cannot continue as it is, and at least in the mean time every one who can do, is doing something.

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