courtesy, UNESCO

goal: exploring students’ understanding of fashion phenomena (what’s behind a product? What am I paying for?); raising awareness about the importance of eco and ethical labels; developing critical thinking on garment industry policies (focus on working conditions in developing countries); encouraging responsible shopping.

risk: you should avoid mixing up products’ quality and brand reputation -- a common mistake among consumers of all ages: make always the difference between advertising and consumers information. Moreover, you should strongly challenge stereotypes: for example, remember your students that not all ‘made in China’ (or somewhere else) is made by children’s blood or women exploitation.

YXC level: 3rd level (community at large)

YXC materials: packaging yourself [The Sneackers’ Revolt | Anti-Sweatshop Catwalk | Back To School Project | Eco & Ethical Fashion | Made In Favela] – pay the right price [Oxfam Campaign] - facts & figures/GENERAL DATA [Clothes/Consumers Trends | Shopping: Clothes | Fakes Market | Fair Trade] - facts & figures/BASIC NEEDS [Behind Textiles | Children At Work] - dep’t store [Made In Dignity | Sweatshops-Free T-Shirts| Rugmark Label | How To Change The World] – job opportunities [Global March | Fair Labor | Chris Martin | Teruo Masaki On Csr | Eblood Clothing] – links [Eco & Ethical Labels | FAIR TRADE]

subject areas: Economics & biz | Social studies

work planning: Phase 1, testing students knowledge of the issue; Phase 2, intro to the issue; Phase 3 creation of 2-3 teams working on the suggested keywords; Phase 4, reporting & comparing teams’ results.

testing student knowledge (with key questions):


bullet What does ‘price make-up’ mean? bullet Do you know what are you paying for when you buy, for instance, a T-shirt, or a pair of sneakers? bullet Do you ask yourself where the product you’re buying is coming from? And who made it? bullet Do you know what is a sweatshop? bullet Have you ever heard about ‘fair trade’? If so, explain what it is. bullet Do you carefully read the label before buying a product? bullet Why do you think some clothes have no labels, or unclear/incomplete labels? bullet If you buy a cloth and you find out that it has no label, what will you do?


bullet Are you sure that your favourite T-shirt (or whatever fashion good) has been made without exploiting workers, in particular children or women? bullet If you discover that your favourite brand is involved in unfair practices (sweatshops, child labour, unsafe/unhealthy processes, etc.), would you give up buying their products? bullet If not, what do you think you should do? a) join a consumers association protesting against that situation; b) address the company your personal complaint (e.g. writing a letter to the CEO); c) involve the media to put the company’s unfair practices under the spotlight; d) all the previous; e) nothing at all.

intro to the topic (background): whatever you wear - brand new, revamped or second hand, mainstream or design label - your clothes link you to the people who made them (wherever they live: close to you or - as often it’s the case - far away).

Have you ever asked yourself what’s behind the clothes you wear? There are hidden costs there. Tricks, secrets and terrible exploitations are far than uncommon…

90% of garment workers are women, working in factories, ‘sweatshops’ or as home-workers. Many are teenagers, some are even younger; their wages are very low – often below minimum survival levels. Their working hours are very often long and forced overtime; health and safety standards are low and workers are often refused the right to organise or join unions.

‘Critical consumption’: what does it mean? Being aware, smart, and conscious of our responsibilities and choices as consumers. What we buy everyday has a huge influence on the world economy. We all have a purchasing power. Being it high or low, our choices count and can make the difference. Consider for example young people living in industrialised countries: an average 16 year old in Britain is likely to spend £1,000,000 (about US$1,745,300 or €1,487,400) during her/his lifetime!

There are new ways we can follow, as active citizens and consumers, to put pressure on companies to make them changing. We can - for instance - privilege fair trade products… Fair Trade is a growing, international movement, which ensures that producers in poor countries get a fair deal. This means a fair price for their goods, long-term contracts, which provide real security, and for many, support to gain the knowledge and skills they need to develop their businesses and increase sales.

did you know?
What’s the real price of a £60* pair of sneakers made in Indonesia?
transport & tax5
shoe company33
retail store50

note: *£60 = about US$105 or €90. - source: Clean Clothes Campaign, - []

methodological suggestions: to develop this activity students could work in small teams.

  • gathering information: the teacher - in collaboration (or not) with the students - prepares a short list of books related to the garment industry (or similar industry), describing local working conditions worldwide. Each group choose a novel or an essay: one focused on a Northern country and the other on a Southern one;
  • discussing and debating: students analyse the cultural differences between the two chosen countries in terms of labour conditions;
  • taking action: having explored two different cultural environments, students write down a list of ‘ethical tips’ to be addressed to their favourite (Northern?) brand company and another list addressed to one of the suppliers, working in a developing country.
results assessment: the success of this pedagogical module on ‘Price make-up’ can be measured by the following results:
  • informative goals: Students learn what’s behind a product. They discover how companies can increase their profits by exploiting workers in Southern countries; they understand the importance of reading labels before buying a new item.
  • action goals: Students develop a new critical thinking and change their purchasing patterns. To do so, they formulate a short list of basic questions (see above) they will ask themselves before buying a new item; they also start asking retailers and producers for more information about the products they’re buying; moreover, they will actively react to unfair practices, for instance, writing a letter (post-card, blog, etc.) addressed to their favourite fashion company, encouraging the company to improve the conditions of its employees and those of people working for its suppliers in developing countries.