Several TikToker have accused Target of possibly underpaying employees after discovering the department store was selling out a crocheted sweater for $35. crochet that TikToker argued, can only be sewn by hand.
A user walking by @SeaTrick on the platform, previously worked as a costume designer and still shares sewing videos on her account. Thanks to another TikTok user’s math@SeaTrick was able to break down the potential hourly wage that someone who would have made the sweater by hand would have made.
“To get that $35, they would have to pay $1.40 an hour,” @SeaTrick claims. âI will go one step further because this is the final sale price [at $28]. This number is actually much lower because they are not just paying for labor and materials.â
@SeaTricks basis for hourly wages is from Matt Roses (@Mattrose1312) video in which they took their time crocheting a single square and then estimated the material cost.
“It’s hand crocheted â they even say it is â and it’s $35,” Rose said. “It’s suspiciously cheap. So I figured for a fun little experiment, I’d find out what I would charge for it.”
In the caption, Rose said they have been crocheting for almost five years. To crochet a single square in one color took 25 minutes, Rose said, and there are 50 to 60 squares and multiple colors for a small sweater.
âMy guessâ¦ it would take 17.7 hours [to make a sweater]’ Rose claimed. âThat means sewing everything together with one machine and knitting the edges with one machine.
Rose then calculated how much someone would have to pay per hour worked to make the sweater as close to the target price as possible.
“They would pay two dollars an hour,” they said. âNow Target obviously needs to make a profit from it, and they pay for materials, which means they pay employees [$1.40] one hour.”
People in the comments were shocked at the cost breakdown, and some pointed out that the Target site doesn’t actually advertise the sweater as handmade – and that’s where @SeaTrick came in.
“It’s a fairly well-known fact that there aren’t any machines in the yarn world that can replicate crochet â it’s one of the few things machines just can’t do,” they explained in their TikTok. “It’s pretty safe to assume that this was done by hand.”
Unlike knitting or sewing, which machines can replicate, crochet stitches are overly complicated. According to museologist Cary Karp’s blogdedicated to “Information on the history of … loop fabrics” is called “warp knitting.â Chain knitting can replicate chain stitches that look like the chains seen in crochet stitches, but they are not identical.
ONE Research work 2019 published in the trade journal Melliand International also confirmed that “crochet is one of the very few crafting techniques that is not yet possible by machine”.
@SeaTrick also argued that the final hourly wage could be even lower than Rose’s estimate since Target also has to pay for non-labor and material costs like shipping and store staff.
“There is no human wage that can cover the price of this,” concluded @SeaTrick. “I don’t see how this sweater could be made ethically.”
While Target doesn’t list “handmade”. Product description, a commenter identified as âTarget staff supportâ wrote: âThis sweater was hand crocheted. It cannot be machine knitted.â
“[Itâs] very likely these sweaters were made in sweatshops,â claimed @SeaTrick. “We’ve gotten so used to these minimal prices that we hardly think about it anymore, but the reality is that people are being exploited to get clothes that are so affordable.”
“Fast fashion isn’t really fast,” they said. “The chances are good [Target] found a way where it doesn’t take 17 hours to do this [sweater]. But when you look at those numbers, no matter how you sum it up, someone is still being underpaid.â
@SeaTrick added that even if a machine could make this sweater, selling it for $35 is still not enough money for the person who had to operate the machine.
In addition to fast fashion brands that exploit their low-wage workers, the fast fashion industry has a negative impact on the environment â both with its reliance on synthetic fibers made from highly processed fossil fuels and the amount of waste it produces.
Over the past 25 years, the fashion industry has failed to mitigate its negative impact Harvard Business Review (HBR) reported in January 2022.
Target launched in June 2021 aim forward, the brand’s plan to “help shape a just and regenerative future” by “designing and elevating sustainable brands and innovating to eliminate waste.” According to the press release, Target Forward âbuilt [Targetâs] Legacy of supporting people and [the] Planet.”
In The Know, Target has requested comment.
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