22 May 2013

Garment Factory Safety

I just unsubscribed from Banana Republic's email list.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this was hard to do.  A significant percentage of the clothing I wear comes from them, because their tall sizes fit me really well.  But I won't be shopping there again until they commit to improving conditions in the factories that supply them.

Most of the huge US retailers have refused to sign the agreement, though it has been signed by a number of European retailers.  In the US, Walmart is a predictable hold-out, along with JC Penney and Gap, Sears and LL Bean.

The exceptions are Abercrombie and Fitch, of "we don't want your business if you're fat" fame, along with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

So where will I be shopping, in the future?  H&M, based in Sweden, has signed.  Patagonia and REI are committed to social justice and have created their own procedures to make sure factories are safe and don't employ children, but without oversight, you have to trust their internal mechanisms.  American Apparel manufactures all of their clothing in the USA.

Thrift shopping takes you a step away from the conditions in which the clothing was made.  Do people justify shopping for more clothing because they assuage their guilt by giving castoffs to Goodwill? I have no idea, but the "one in, one out" school of clutter control points in that direction.

I'm also always trying to commit to not shopping at all.  Do I really need another new item of clothing?  Probably not for a long time. Shoes, however, are another matter: with all the walking I do in NYC, I do go through them.

Next up: figuring out where to find responsibly manufactured running shoes.