Consumers won't accept garments made in sweat shops

Clothes will become more expensive after the factory collapse in Bangladesh, the world's leading expert on ethical fashion has predicted, says a report published in online edition of The Daily Telegraph, Thursday.

Speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival, Sandy Black, Professor of Fashion & Textile Design & Technology at the University of the Arts London, said consumers will no longer accept garments made in sweat shops.

She said the recent fire in Bangladesh that killed 1,000 people highlighted the human cost of cheap clothes. "These things have been happening over a period of time but this one has been so big it has finally hit the mainstream," she said. As a result corporations will have to start paying workers a fair wage.

The author of The Sustainable Fashion Handbook predicted an end to the "race for the bottom" as retailers try and sell the cheapest clothes. "I cannot see how things can continue to be as cheap as they are. There has to be a cost somewhere to somebody."

She said consumers are better informed thanks to the internet and will not buy from companies exposed for abusing workers. Industry initiatives, Government pressure and voluntary schemes have also helped. She pointed out that doubling the price of workers' pay will barely add 50p to the price of a t-shirt.

"I think the cost of clothes does need to go up," she said. "We have had this race to the bottom. Nothing can be much worse than what has happened."

Prof Black said people can still save money by buying good quality clothes and make do and mend. She said making your own clothes is also popular following the BBC's Great British Sowing Bee.

Textiles are the fastest growing sector in household waste. Every year consumers in the UK buy two million tonnes of clothes of which 1.2m tonnes ends up in landfill. Just 300,000 is reused or recycled while the rest ends up in the back of the "national wardrobe".

She predicted an end to the "Primark Effect" as people start spending more on clothes once again and making them last rather than buying cheap clothes and throwing them away.