Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A word on ethics

You may have been following news coverage of a terrible building collapse in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza building housed five clothing factories as well as a bank and shops. The day before the collapse, inspectors had requested immediate evacuation after discovering large cracks in supporting columns. The bank and shops evacuated, but the garment factories continued production as usual.

More than 380 people have been confirmed dead, more than a thousand seriously injured and 900 more unaccounted for as rescue attempts have ceased. More than half the 3,122 people in the building were women, and some were children in a workers' creche in the building.

Australian clothing brands known to manufacture in Bangladesh include Target, Big W, Kmart, G-Star, Adidas, Duchamp and Cotton On. (My Big W 'work pants', aka pyjama pants, are made in Bangladesh.) Two brands known to be manufactured in the Rana Plaza are Mango and Benetton.

As a shopper and blogger of 'bargains' I feel dirty and complicit in the terrible working conditions that lead to such disasters. I've even commented uneasily about the conditions that enable super-cheap clothing. It's easy to take the moral high ground and say, "Well, I won't be shopping there any more!" or "I won't buy cheap clothes!" or "I'll only buy locally made clothes", but the situation is not that simple.

Some clothing companies deliberately obscure their supply chain so consumers won't know where the garments are made. Sometimes, they're not actively deceptive but simply don't know where the clothes are made because they rely on a network of contractors and subcontractors and don't always have a representative on the ground. Supply chains are really, really long – just see how many people it takes to produce a can of Coke.

Consumer pressure is mainly about making you feel good. It's unions, NGOs and governments who can more effectively agitate to prevent more such tragedies. For instance, the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which remained the deadliest event in New York City until September 11, led to extensive labour law reform. Workers in Bangladesh have already been striking and picketing the Garment Makers' Association, with a list of five key demands for change. You can also sign a petition to help pressure the Bangladeshi government.

I will certainly be much more circumspect from now on about sharing bargain clothes with you. As I wrote, "Don't treat them disposably; wear them often and in the long term, as the building blocks of your wardrobe."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spy equipment at Aldi

Want to make a clandestine video recording of a meeting or interview? Work for a TV current affairs program? Into the idea of violating privacy laws?

Well at Aldi you're in luck! This HD camera pen has 4GB of memory and can be operated at the touch of a button. The lens is just above the clip, so you can clip it in your pocket or bag for the best angle. I'm not sure if or how well it works as a pen.

Honestly I am surprised to see this advertised. It's on sale from Saturday 27 April.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Free IKEA hot dog on Friday!

If you're in Melbourne, IKEA Richmond is giving out free hot dogs this Friday, 21 March.

It's ten years since the store opened.

One hot dog per person, while stocks last. I don't exactly think there'll be a run on the hot dogs on a Friday, and in the aftermath of the horse meatball scandal, but anyway, store hours are 10am-9pm. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

All for onesies, and onesies for all!

I'm pleased to see that freelance work pants, aka 'sleep pants', are currently $4 at Big Dubs, unlike the extravagant $5 I paid last year. I have three pairs of these pants and they do hard duty as sleepwear and workwear. I might invest in some more.

However! I was super-excited to learn that Big Dubs is now selling 'sleep suits' – aka, ONESIES! I'm not sure if there's a men's version, but the women's size 8-16 version is $19, as is the girls' size 8-16 version, and the girls' size 1-7 version is $17.88.

As far as onesies go they aren't the most practical. They only button down to the waist, so you'd have to undress completely to use the toilet. They also seem quite tight, which makes me wonder if they would pull awkwardly in the crotch if you're tall.

If you'd prefer regular flannel PJ pants, there are some jaunty polka-dot ones for $9.94, or various prints for $7.96.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Seriously jaunty Big Dubs fashions

Big Dubs' latest catalogue seems calculated to appeal to my tastes for bright colours, crisp silhouettes and bold stripes and spots. Check out the front cover:

You can get a pair of skinny dark-denim jeans for $9, or coloured jeans for $14.98 – but only if you wear size 8-16. If you wear size 18-26 the jeans are $20.

I have tried these jeans on in the past and am sad to report that while the colour range is terrific, none of the sizes look good on me. The straight-sized jeans cut cruelly into my waist, while the plus-sizes are saggy and shapeless, especially in the crotch. Perhaps you'll have more luck.

This is a seriously cute jumper. It's $19. I'm suspicious of the way they've styled it in the pic – I'm not sure if it will be fitted or loose, and how long it will be.

Boat-neck, 3/4 sleeve T-shirts in stripes and plains are $12.92, and short-sleeved T-shirts are $7. There's also a 'boyfriend-fit', round-necked, 3/4-sleeved top with very thick black and white stripes for $14.98, which Big Dubs is calling a rugby top"; but fear not, it has no polo-style collar. I have so many striped T-shirts I will try to resist, but sometimes I think I am beyond help; I recently bought myself a men's striped T-shirt.

Speaking of menswear – and sportswear – my eye was drawn to this 'leather look baseball jacket' for $40. It's probably super trashy, but I kind of like the preppiness of it, and it looks quite plain so you could jazz it up with badges, or if you are a crafty type you could get some of those iron-on or sew-on letters to rep your own imaginary varsity team.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

BB creams at BBig W

Yes, I'm fascinated by BB creams. Of the Western brands I've tried, Rimmel is my favourite: I like that it's SPF25, and it has decent coverage that makes my skin look more even. It's way less greasy on me than the Garnier, although if you have very dry skin you may appreciate the Garnier grease.

Anyway, for a while now I've been looking for an excuse to try Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream.

It trumps Rimmel with SPF30, but all the online reviews I've read suggest the coverage is very sheer – it's more like a tinted moisturiser than a true BB cream. But until 27 February, it's $11.48 (save $4) at Big Dubs, so that's a good excuse to try it.

But since I have become a fan of the Rimmel BB cream, that's on special at Big Dubs as well – $9.74 (save $3). And if you like the Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector, that's $10.42 (save $3).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Introductory offer on fancy London shirts

Recently I was surprised to find a Charles Tyrwhitt catalogue tucked in among the usual supermarket and discount department store junk mail. It's a very high-end purveyor of men's business shirts, ties, suits, etc.

The copy in the brochure ("I believe you cannot buy a better shirt anywhere at any price") was quite charmingly persuasive, because mail-order people just don't pimp their stuff in that formal yet personal voice any more.

The company, I learn, was founded by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler in 1986, while he was a student at Bristol University. Wheeler came from good establishment stock, having previously been educated at The Dragon School and Eton College. His first job was as a management consultant but the mail-order shirt business proved so successful that he set up a shopfront in Jermyn Street, which is to fancy shirtmakers what Savile Row is to tailors.

Charles Tyrwhitt now has separate websites in the United States and, as of last October, Australia. The offer in the catalogue I received was that for the "next 10 days only", their shirts are only $39.50 (normally $140 or $160).

The shirts come in an appealing range of textures and patterns, and seem to have either regular or cutaway collars. There are classic fit, slim fit or extra slim fit, in either regular or non-iron versions. There is also quite a nice range of 'business casual', casual and polo shirts. All come with a six-month guarantee.

The 'next 10 days bizzo' seems really odd, as how would they possibly know when you received the catalogue? However a search for the fine print reveals that this offer ends at midnight on Saturday 8 June 2013. So no need to rush. Check out the website.