Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts (or Fashionista Do-Gooder)

This dress from Patagonia is something I could truly love.
A little over 15 years ago I was a college freshman--another  AU WONK determined to change the world--to battle economic and environmental injustice wherever I may find it. I had just watched in class a documentary on the evils of sweatshops, so I decided to do a term paper on the subject.  My goal was simple: I would make a naughty and nice list of apparel stores in the USA so that I could make socially responsible choices the next time I needed to shop for new clothes.  The more I read the more my naughty list grew and grew, and, by the end of the semester, I hadn't found any realistic options for my nice list. This was a traumatic realization.

The recent collapse of the factory in Bangladesh has stirred up old emotions for me. As I write this, the death toll is at 761 and rising. Stores I've shopped in subcontracted to this factory. When I start to get dressed each morning I pause for a moment. Did the person who made this dress die in that collapse? 

Has there been any progress since I last seriously studied the issue of how our clothing is made?

I've spent several hours regoogling the subject, and most of what I find makes me feel like vomiting from upset-- so many stories about the human rights violations that continue to be committed in the factories that source so much of what is sold in the USA. The naughty list goes on and on. The nice list?  Well, it depends on who you ask, but at least there are now some mainstream companies making a real effort to respect all the humans in their supply chain.

I don't want to fill this post with rehashing of what you can learn from anti-sweatshop advocacy pages, so visit these pages if you want to read more about the enormity and politics of the sweatshop issue:

I wanted to give you the reader (well, honestly, myself), some easy actions to take to move us in the direction of justice. I wanted to say something other than "Write your representatives and the CEOs of companies!" or "Stop buying clothes!"

I was determined to find a way to do-good with my debit card, so here's what I've found so far for clothing companies making a praiseworthy effort. Granted, there aren't many office-appropriate options (unless you wear t-shirts and yoga pants to work), but consider purchasing something from one of these places as your way of participating in the solution. One of the painful parts of doing this research was how many dead links (as in, ethical stores that didn't make it) I found, so Please, please, please tell me about stores that deserve to be added to this list. 

Clothing Shopping options:

Company Report Cards:

Clothing Store Ethical Report Card created by

I was not aware until reading my alumni mailing that I am a WONK. Silly me just thought I was a bleeding-heart nerd.


  1. I just finished the blog. Really very helpful. Thanks for sharing such an amazing blog.
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  2. Hi,

    I read your blog, and I get so many interesting stuff in it. The way you explained its each bit of the line is fabulous. Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts is a Planet Green reality television series that follows a group of British fashion victims. If you want some Custom Design T-shirts then, our website is best for it. Thanks.