Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Ally and Sherry's 10-week plan

Sherry's picture



Clothing, food, housing and transportation are four basic necessities of people’s life that they spend most in their consumptions. As students in Bryn Mawr College, since we live in resident halls and eat in dining halls, the only concern for us is how to fill our wardrobe with ‘enough’ dresses. Therefore, scanning through our various online shopping records, we discovered that clothing has occupied the most parts of our daily consumption. Agreeing that the cost of usual clothes in US seemed to be very low, we can even recall the exiting moments of seeing those 90% off sales and promotions. However, not until we came to the passage, Take Back the Economy, did we start to reflect on what is hidden behind those unbelievable cheap clothing.

 Looking around on our campus, we found out that nearly everyone has at least one pair of Nike sport shoes, not mentioning Nike t-shirts and slacks. Nike has been recognized as one of the clothing representatives of American style back in China. As time goes on, with the economic developing and the consumption level rising, Nike has become more and more popular among Chinese consumers of all ages. Nowadays, because of its reasonable price and mass production, as a well-known American brand, Nike has permeated into most people’s daily life.According to a shopping website, “6pm”, a Nike Gym Vintage Short is priced at $11.99, even less than the cost of a lunch in our dining hall. How can it be so inexpensive? How is the $11.99 allocated by Nike producers? How much can the retailer get? How much can the wholesaler get? How much can the factory get? And, finally, how much can the workers get? Furthermore, the $11.99 can’t all contribute to the profits. What is the cost of the materials? What is the cost of factory operation? Being curious of these questions, we decided to look into the whole process of production of the popular low-cost Nike clothing.


In order to investigate the topic and go further, we decide to carry out the following plans by four steps:

  1. Understanding background

Through the on-line research, we will gather the information of:

1) the number of factories and retail stores in different countries and the distribution of Nike factories and stores around the world

2)Nike’s history record of problems such as the environmental destruction and labor abuse

3) Consumers’ preference toward specific products as the best-sell products

4) The price of different typical products and the price range of different categories

5) The location of Nike stores and factories nearby us and the transportations to those stores and factories

2.Stores & factory investigation

First, go to the Nike stores to observe and record the information on the labels of different clothes. Find out the places of origin and the different material compositions. Then sort the places of origin and materials according to the categories of the clothes and try to figure out the inner relationship between materials and those places of origins.

 After summarizing the results gained from the store observation, we plan to continue our investigation by visiting Nike’s Manufactories. The specific plan includes 1) understanding the procedure of the manufactures and inquiring the source of the basic materials 2) evaluating the working environment of the factories

3. Further research

1)The environment condition with the pollution index of the chosen places of origins of the materials, the reputation of all the factories in those areas and the environmental renovation in the local areas

2)The production process of the materials: Are the fertilizer and the pesticides used legally and environmental friendly or are causing different level of damage to the environment?

3)The working conditions of workers and the political situation in the major distributed locations of Nike’s factories: Are all workers well-paid? How about the welfares? Is there any inhumane armed force suppressing the people there?

4.Conclusion and Analysis

Classify and process the results gained from the previous researches and use diagrams and tables to present the outcomes. Based on the conclusions get from the data, we will find the causes of the low cost products and figure out where the revenue goes. Then, summarize all the investigation results. Trace the source of the different parts of the clothes, the amazing indirect encounter with many people around the world because of a piece of cloth, and whether the clothes is related with any unethical actions, like environment pollution. Finally we can find out whether the Nike factory is really an ethical market.