If you've bought African fabric online before you no doubt know it's available in abundance. Many truly stunning ones are very cheap. But others aren't. And of course the former are sold in large volumes. Can’t help wondering how some are priced so low? Imported tariff-free? Cheap, unfair labour practices? Economies of scale?
But I wonder if you know the story behind a cheaply priced piece of cloth, if it matters to you, that is. After I purchased my largest Ghanaian batik order, the maker rang up the following day to say thank you, because the purchase had enabled her clear her debts. It touched me deeply.
My batik-maker's story was certainly different about 6 or 7 years ago (before market conditions changed) and is an indication of the difficulties faced by local artisans because the market is flooded with inferior but cheaper, imported machine prints. She's one of many gifted craftspeople who have little prospect of employment; theirs is to make a living out of their artistic talent working for themselves. They make them in their backyards and usually have a little shop in the front of their home and/or sell them in the local market.
Real Value for Money
Of course, we all want to keep more of the money we earn which makes cheaper prices very attractive. But, should price be everything when I shop? Isn't there real value in purchasing an excellent product which is ethically made and does not deprive gifted craftspeople of their livelihood?
In the years I have sold authentic hand-printed batiks, there has been no single negative comment from any customer and following are reviews from one who discovered them buying mass-produced prints for a while:
- “Letting you know my fabrics were delivered today and I absolutely love all of them. They are so unique, beautiful, and classy.”
- “I love everything about these fabric. The quality of the cloth is excellent with stunning, classy, vivid colors. They are by far the best I've ever purchased. Looking forward to ordering more.”
Who says all handmade is equal to cheap quality?! Worth buying fabric like that isn't it?
Machine Print Fabrics
You'll be forgiven for thinking I am dead set against machine printed fabrics! I do stock and own some too. How do I justify that? Do come back and find out next time. Until then, please leave a comment. Thank you.