Save. Spend. Splurge.

Companies are really full of crap these days

I’ve been looking into footwear lately.

Namely, replacing what I own in terms of shoes, with things that are not made in cheap, Third World countries.

My basic footwear groups:

  • Rainboots: DONE! Covered by Aigle, as they are made in France.
  • Leather Boots: Pending. It’s too hot now, I’ll have them custom made in August for Autumn.
  • Ballet Flats: The Fryes I have are made in Mexico but I can replace them with Repettos made in Paris, France, or those luscious Chloe ballet flats I found that are made in Italy.
  • Regular shoes: Sneakers or basic, fabric-covered shoes.
  • Heels: Already have one pair of thrifted Manolo Blahniks made in Italy in Size 7s (the golden unicorn of shoes especially as they were thrifted); not sure I really need another pair of heels.

So I was looking at Toms to be my “regular shoes”. Something covered, not in a leather, fabric, and comfortable.


I was also interested because it’s a “Buy one pair, provide another for a child” program, and I was willing to pay that (kind of ridiculous) $60 pricetag on what is essentially a pair of recycled shoes, that I am sure, only costs $5 in materials to produce.

Not even.

Anyway all that aside, I was prepared to pay $60 for overpriced canvas shoes, until I discovered they’re made in China.



China. You can’t see the nasty fog of pollution, but it exists, choking the oxygen out of their country, surrounding land and the rest of the world.



Then I read this on their Corporate Responsibility website:

As we’ve disclosed previously in our Giving Report, our shoes are made in China, Ethiopia and Argentina.

We are aware of the challenges associated with overseeing a global supply chain and our global staff actively manages and oversees our suppliers and vendors to ensure that our corporate responsibility standards are upheld.

On an annual basis, we require our direct suppliers to certify that the materials incorporated into our products are procured in accordance with all applicable laws in the countries they do business in, including laws regarding slavery and human trafficking.

We also clearly define appropriate business practices for our employees and hold them accountable for complying with our policies, including the prevention of slavery and human trafficking within our supply chain.

Love it. /sarcasm

Let me break it down for you what this corporate speak means:

Aware of the challenges Associated” = Dealing with consumers who want to know why the heck they’re making shoes in China, Ethiopia and Argentina, and not in the U.S.

“Global Supply Chain” = Cheap Labour, as in ~$1.61/hour* versus the wages of $7.25/hour for an American. * Source

No where in that carefully crafted corporate blurb up there, does it mention fair wages for those workers.

“On an annual basis, we require our direct suppliers to certify” = Only once a year, and probably just a week before, these suppliers “certify” that the LATEST batch of materials pass certification.

Oh and where are these certifications?

Consumers don’t want to read that crap, or do we?

Fossil also has a nice trick with these “certifications” as well.

They told me via Twitter that they certify with their suppliers, but… no evidence to prove that they do so, or that they do so thoroughly:

Here’s my conversation:



People are buying Toms shoes and are basically being hoodwinked into feeling like good consumers because they’re providing a child with a pair of shoes in Africa (presumably) who walks around barefooted.

In the backend of this brilliant, greenwashing, hippie-sounding, do-gooding marketing machine, they’re screwing all the factory workers in the U.S. by not manufacturing their shoes there, because the labour in China, Ethiopia and Argentina is just so frickin’ cheap!

So we rob from Peter (China, Ethiopia, Argentina) to give a pair of recycled shoes to Paul (A Third World child in need).

It’s a bit disgusting if you think about it.

This kind of practice, just keeps people in those countries in the cycle of poverty, while going around crowing about how great it is that you buy a pair of shoes to provide a pair for another child somewhere.

I mean, Toms, they are a FOR PROFIT company after all, aren’t they?

Look at all the stupid competitors who have popped up — Bobs, Saludos and all those dumb companies selling to dumb consumers (like us).


Yeah, okay.

So Toms — they’re not the worst of the bunch if you can believe that.

At least they tackled the issue of the Third World factory thing head on.

I’ve seen companies act a lot worse.

The worst for shoes, would be shoe brands like Vans, that evade your questions about WHERE EXACTLY the shoes are made.

Asia“, was the one-word answer I got via an e-chat.

We have outsourced our shoes since ___insert years____”, was another glib answer when I was told to email them for details.

I got tired of pushing them to try and reveal where their stupid factories are, so I just crossed them off the list as evasive and probably a scumbag company if they can’t be honest with a consumer.


IMPORT” = This almost always means China.

But doesn’t it sound sexier? “Import”.

It’s just so… FOREIGN, and EXOTIC, no?

Gosh I feel like I’m about to don a beautiful silk cheongsam with that kind of sexy corporate speak, and go paint the town red!


At least, in the J. Crew website, in their catalog and online, “imported” always means China.

If not China, then it’s India for the scarves (and I only found 2 scarves that were from India, the rest were from China).


Otherwise, if it’s “imported” from ITALY or FRANCE or some other wonderful First World country, they are not shy in screaming that their shoes are from Italy.



They built the factories there, didn’t they?

Those sly SOBs knew what they were doing.

Most of these companies, are always so evasive and slippery when it comes to questioning them about where their shoes are made, or their things are manufactured.

Clearly, if you can’t proudly post online like Aigle, that your boots are manufactured in France by people who take 2 years to learn the craft, it means that you’re hiding something.


As a consumer, I’m not a fan of companies hiding stuff because it’s usually the bad stuff being hidden, not the good.

For good or for bad, if your consumer is asking you to list all the factories and the countries you make your overpriced things in, then you should tell them.

Otherwise, if you are feeling ashamed of your practices and want to try and be slick or slippery with the info, some consumers might still buy from you any way…. or just think you’re scumbags.

Unless it becomes part of their marketing campaign (you have to watch out for Greenwashing in this case), you can’t really be sure about what they’re saying.


Those who have worked in retail, know that we’re paying through the nose.

Of course, they can’t say too much because it’s not something they’re allowed to disclose, but if we can imagine this:

$1690 RMB a month as average wage

$1690 RMB = $272.58 USD a month (exchange rate is 1 USD to 6.2 RMB)

$272.58 USD x 12 months = $3270.97 a year

I don’t really know how much it costs to live in China, but let’s say it’s a big chunk of their money, around 1000 RMB a month.

* Source

Now in a year, the equivalent time of a worker after 8 hours could make let’s say 2 full pair of shoes a day – this is just a rough guesstimate to see what the numbers end up being.

Assuming they work “normal” Western hours (a long shot), at 40 hours a week, 2 weeks of vacation and on a 5 day workweek it looks like this:

2 full pairs of shoes a day x 50 weeks x 5 days = 500 pairs of shoes

For $3270.97 earned per year, a worker could produce 500 pairs of shoes to be sold.



RETAIL PRICE: $60 a pair x 500 pairs = $30,000 a year


GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $26,729.03 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.


If we think about shoes that are being made in China, and sold for a HECK of a lot more than $60, let’s say those Hunter Boots I had previously wanted (and am disgusted with now), at $160 for a single pair, the profit margins look like this:



$160 a pair x 500 pairs = $80,000 a year


GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $76,729.03 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.

You don’t say.

Even with the raw materials taken into account (which are EVEN CHEAPER as they haven’t been processed through a plant in any way), overhead, and the big fat marketing machine that they need to throw bundles of money into to keep it going, it simply does not equal the price of what we’re paying.

I’d say at a best guess, we’re overpaying by 300% – 400% when all the costs are said and done.


Image 138

Just for kicks, let’s see what the French brand would end up with, as they make rain boots just like Hunter (of a much better fit and quality, I might add).

1425.67 EUR a month is minimum wage and converted to USD, it’s $1831.27 a month.

(Exchange rate is 1 EUR: $1.28 USD)

$1831.27 x 12 months = $21,975.24 USD (one worker’s wages for a year, making 2 pairs of shoes a day)


$160 a pair x 500 pairs = $80,000 a year

BASE LABOUR COST: $21,975.24

GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $58,024.76 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.

Their profit drops by a whopping $18,704.27 per worker.

That is no small chunk of change.

Assuming 400 workers in a factory, that’s $7,481,708 a year, saved on labour costs by outsourcing to China.

That’s right. Almost $7.5 MILLION SAVED a year.

Sure, those poor workers get to keep practically nothing after the government gets their paws on their money (tax rates in France are horrific), but did I also mention just how amazing France’s healthcare system and general way of life is?

It is better than what I can get in Canada, and it is SURE AS HECK better than in China.

If that doesn’t get your blood pumping and your neurons firing in all directions as a CEO or CFO, I don’t know what will.

Oh and Chinese people need that job and want to work hard to keep that job, so it’s all right to force them to make 20 pairs of shoes a day rather than 2 because .. well, they’re hardworking right?

They’re doing such a GREAT THING, by providing jobs to Chinese workers who otherwise would be without a job.

Anyway, isn’t that the stereotype?

Chinese people are human machines who can work 10X as fast for a fraction of the price?

So what if quality suffers?

Consumers should have stuff that breaks apart easily so that they keep coming back to buy more cheap crap.



One of the most notorious Chinese suppliers out there that make Macbooks and iPads and all the iThings that I own.


Had I known that before I probably would have purchased less.

Or not.

I don’t know because that said, what other choice do I have for electronics?

Every laptop I have touched is MADE IN CHINA.


(Although I will say that Apple’s crap has lasted much longer than HP, Dell, Toshiba and Sony crap).

I can’t go without a laptop. It’s literally a requirement of my job and my working life.

This is where I become the most frustrated, because I am trying and there are no other options available for me as a modern consumer.

Anyway, rant over.

What I can control, is what I buy in the future, and that’s what I’m doing.

Update: Then I see this video and it gives me hope.


  • Ruth C

    Thank you for such an informative article. I’m always looking for good leather high quality shoes at a decent price NOT made in China. The Italian shoes cost a small fortune which I’m sometimes willing to pay. However I will not pay an exorbitant amount for those made in China. Such a scam.

  • Michelle

    So I found some Frye shoes that have “leather made in Italy but assembled in Asia” (I guess it’s China)… Is that the same as made in China?

  • Ms. S

    Very enlightening and has me really thinking. Thank you!

  • MauiShopGirl

    I generally try not to buy any shoes made in China but I’m not 100% but working more toward that now and adding clothes too, except for maybe athletic shoes depending on availability. Eliminating items made in China (or other countries) cuts down on the shopping a lot!
    I’m a fan of Eileen Fisher’s system of dressing (good for budding minimalist). Her stuff is pricey but it lasts forever with no pilling, supersoft fabrics and most of it is wash and hang dry (I don’t even iron). What bugs me though is the static price points. She has a certain collection that is made in the US (I think all the pieces I have are from that group) but I have ordered (I buy it online from Neimans or Nordstrom) some pieces that are made in China and the price point is just as high as made in the US (separates range from $100 to $200, some sweaters can be closer to $300). The thought of paying $150 for a linen T made in China is astonishing to me. As a company they are one of the more responsible but not 100% there yet. They do think quite a bit about dyes and yarn used in their clothes (great youtube channel and website if you want to hear more). Also their whole model is very sustainable in the thinking of the amount of use you would get from each piece and that you can a very small but versatile capsule wardrobe.
    Toms is also controversial for their give shoes away policy being not that helpful and even detrimental to the communities it proposes to help. There are a few videos on youtube you can watch on that.

    • Priya

      I don’t know about Eileen Fisher’s manufacturing standards but if they do ensure ethical working conditions and pay at all the factories they purchase from, shouldn’t the products made in China be comparable in price to those made in the US. If they are taking an ethical stand then they should be ensuring wages are reasonable and that would be reflected in the price of the product

      • save. spend. splurge.

        Well that’s a good point but how do we enforce that as citizens and make sure they don’t just spiff up the place and pretend it is great when they visit to check??? The workers would be too scared to say anything!

  • Cassie

    As a result of some of your “Made in China” posts, I actually did a little wander through my usual stores in the mall this week checking tags. I was stunned. I knew that a lot of things were manufactured in China, but some of the places I went were almost entirely filled with clothes from China! I was shocked! I did find some places that sold Canadian and American made clothing (TNA, Le Chateau, American Apparel, 7 for all Mankind), but I don’t know about the fabric sources yet.

    In terms of shoes, do you know of any companies that produce running shoes outside of China/India/Vietnam etc….? Also, where are you having your boots made? I’m in a toss up between having a custom pair made by a local company called Poppy Barley who opened recently, or getting a pair from Frye. I can’t find the original page on the the Poppy Barley website anymore, but I believe they said they were made in Mexico and the artisans were being compensated fairly. Frye apparently makes their boots all over the place, so I’ll have to look into it more.

  • MelD

    (OK, so I checked out Alkena –
    and the organic silk is Chinese.)

    Sigh. 🙁

  • MelD

    I get exasperated sometimes at the assumption that our needs are what the third world needs – somehow, shoes doesn’t come very high up on my list: they neither have the climate to need shoes nor have they suffered from going barefoot for the last x-thousand years. Probably in the same category as why there are now shoes for babies everywhere – babies can’t walk and don’t need shoes. Unless you need them for climate protection, shoes aren’t necessarily the healthy option (and how hilarious the price that folk pay for those weird Vibram shoes that are supposed to feel like barefoot!!).

    Have you looked into Chie Mihara (Spain)? I haven’t but as far as I know they are ok ethically, well, at least as far as Spain, Portugal and southeastern Europe generally (I wouldn’t necessarily shine too bright a light on some of them, esp. Turkey!). German Peter Kaiser (smart) is still made in Italy, sadly used to be made in my home town in Germany but hardly any are any more. Gabor shoes are also supposed to be made in Germany, again, I have no guarantee. Boots I bought at Duo were made in Portugal.

    This week I discovered two stores in Lucerne that sell ethical clothing I liked, i.e. not the usual drab hippie stuff but nice colours, some nice cuts incl. feminine styles and lots and lots of basics in hemp, linen, cotton, silk and silk jersey, all organic and no chemical prep, it says. One of those stores also had very reasonable prices, to my mind, not cheap, but reasonable (Alkena, Swiss distributor), the other is expensive in my view (Unica) but also had some marvellous silk scarves and quilts that are obviously hand-embroidered and therefore that much more intricate and costly to produce, which is fair.

    The extremely light silk jersey basics would be great for travelling, by the way, since they are super-light, need to be washed by hand (and can be aired a couple times before you need to wash) and take up no space at all, providing both warmth and a cool layer, depending on need… sounds like a deal to me.

  • Alea

    This post inspired me to dig a little into where the clothing I purchase is manufactured. Most, unfortunately are imported (China), and it is incredibly hard to find anything flattering and still made Stateside. Happily though, I was able to find that Modcloth does have a large number of dresses made domestically, though most other things are imported. Maybe it’s not high end, but generally the items I’ve purchased are high quality-and in the end, that’s what counts. Quality over quantity.

  • AC

    Have you ever heard of tieks ( I recently asked where their shoes are made and the representative, “We have factories in Brazil, Italy and Asia and final assembly is in the US.” I’m not sure if this makes it China free… flats are seriously cute though.

    • Anastasia Prevette

      I had asked Tieks about where they source their leather from and the representative and this is what I got.

      “We work with factories in Italy, Brazil, and Asia. I believe assembly takes place in China, and design and final packaging are done in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, that’s all the information I have. I’m so sorry about that.


      Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
      T: 310.601.7322”

  • lauren

    are you buying new things to replace usable ones that are made in less desirable circumstances or have you officially used them up/worn them out before purchasing new ones? I would say not getting full use out of something that you already bought – something that someone is probably less likely to get full use out of if donated is not doing a service either and in some ways discredits the sacrifice/suffering already endured by the employees of the company

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I’m replacing what I have been selling to others which is in excellent condition because I take care of my things, and I dare say you’re wrong about the secondhand situation seeing as I know people don’t have $1000 to drop on new boots. I’m giving them what I paid money for and took care of but can’t keep for my own personal values.
      Rainboots died 2 months ago, had been looking anyway.

      Leather boots were just sold.

      Kept my ballerinas for the most part as I didn’t buy crap anyway.

      As for the shoes, I was looking for plain fabric ones with laces because all I own is leather or ballet flats which is where I am stuck.

  • Tracy

    Very great post, gives me more incentive to keep buying designer handbags from Europe. You should do a post about luxury brands and how they handle outsourcing, I would really like to see if we are paying for quality goods or just the brand name. For instance, you bought a Burberry trench-coat a while back, where was that made?

    I know that Louis Vuitton only manufactures in USA, France, and Spain. However, their dustbags come from India, and I’m not sure about their cardboard boxes but probably also from a 3rd world country.

  • Janine

    *sigh* ….. thank you for always having such eye opening posts it’s really sad though that these companies aren’t more socially responsible. What is funny tho is that Apple was included in one of the “green” funds I was looking at.

  • Leslie Beslie

    I love your rants!

    I’m sad that this stuff is happening and even sadder that people don’t realize/think about it. I see Tom’s everywhere here and it’s always bothered me. Not that I don’t own shoes also made in China but the Tom’s “good-deed” mark-up is ridiculous and it’s pretty much for nothing.

    Some personal experience I have with this import thing is working for a children’s clothing manufacturer. About 3 years ago they moved all their factories to China even though they had been boasting about the American-Made product for a while. When it came down to it, money talked. “Imported” goods were much cheaper, even paying for the mistakes was still cheaper than American production. Sad.

    There are some websites you can google that provide brands/products that are only american-made.

    Last thing, after reading this post I now want to go watch Drop Dead Gorgeous again 🙂

  • Me.iz

    what do you think about handmade shoes like those from etsy seller? I think that maybe it’s handmade by the owner itself so they care more about quality?

  • Michelle

    It is really hard to find shoes not made in China. I’m still trying to find some… :/ I bought Toms a few years ago and they started to smell when I wore them a lot. When I tried washing them, they fell apart. I was soooo pissed because I spent a lot of money and used it for only one year! Never happened to me before because I always take care of my belongings.

    When I tell my friends about this, they say if they don’t buy things from China, then Chinese people won’t have jobs and would be even poorer… at least they get some money from working. I don’t even know how to argue that. -.-

    I’m going to check out that sweater now. I’m glad you post things like this. Keep them coming! 🙂

  • The Frugal Path

    Thanks for bringing up this point. It’s a lot like green washing, although I suppose social washing? And you’re spot on about them shouting from the rooftops that it was made in Italy or France, but if it says Import then obviously they’re just trying to gloss over it.

    The sad thing is that Walmart has shown that price tends to win out over these issues. I try to buy local and fair-trade products when possible, but it can be trying.

  • StackingCash

    Uh oh, I think I just put up too similar posts because I thought first one didn’t make it through. Just delete one because they are so similar 🙂

  • StackingCash

    I like this post. Unfortunately, you are just scratching the surface. Greed and corruption are rampant in this world. Most corporations are squeezing the workers from the middle class into lower class. Get rid of the senior employees with too much accrued vacation time and higher salaries for a new group so desperate for a job they take whatever is offered to them. Now that most of the unions are decimated, themselves corrupt as well, the corporations will have free reign to do what they have always wanted to do, hire slaves.
    Sorry, I’m quite a bitter person at times 😛 On a more positive note, it seems like no matter how bad things get, there does not seem to be any real consequences like a revolution or something, except the Arab spring…

  • StackingCash

    Wonderful post. Gets me thinking a bit more. However, you are just scratching the surface, unfortunately. The corruption and greed in this world is unchecked and rampant. You are fortunate that you freelance. Working for most companies do seem very slave like. I loved how my company cut labor to the bone and squeezed production from the few remaining and they still cry poverty. Makes me wonder what really is going on behind the scenes. Oh yeah, just look at the stock market now, that’s what “efficient production (slavery)” produces…

    Don’t mind me too much, just a bitter GenX who might be a tad too spoiled. Kind of like Marius in Les Miserables 😛

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I love love LOVED Les Miserables. It makes me want to read the book now (I couldn’t get into it before), which is a rare.. rare thing for a film to accomplish.

      I am definitely just scratching the surface. When I go out to shop, I now check the label for the country of origin and the fabric. Sometimes I walk into stores I’d never shop in, just to check their labels.

      It’s about 90% made in China, but for the super high end labels like Hugo Boss, their items are made in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Romania I think?)… and not so often in China.

      That’s not even a rule though. Hugo Boss is the only one that does that. Ted Baker London for instance, is all made in China and costs an arm and a leg.

      Not sure it’s any better in Eastern Europe, but it really makes you re-consider items you buy.

      I am beyond the moon thrilled when I find items made in Canada.

      Who’s to say the fabric is not made in China, though? That’s the other side of the story I wish I knew.

      • Stacking Cash

        A tad late response, but there is a small Hugo Boss factory in Cleveland, OH that is still in operation after some high profile people rescued it from closing not too long ago. I think they only make men’s suits, however.

        • Mochi & Macarons

          Hugo Boss is one of the better brands to shop at. I found a lot of stuff not made in China there. Eastern Europe was the area they seem to work with, although I’m wondering if it’s any better.

  • Debt Perception

    Wow, thanks for exposing all that…crap! Really puts things into perspective!

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I’m sure my numbers are all off. I don’t think Aigle has 400 workers, but that just popped into my head as a “factory” size for Hunter, and I went with that.

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