As a graphic designer I have done quite abit of screen printing and have designed clothing and merch for organizations. As well as being in fulltime ministry I have done most of this work for churches, camps, and other ministry organizations. Over the past few years, social justice, , Fair Trade, economic accountability, etc, etc, have led churches to being more ‘picky’ about the clothes they print onto, particularly, T-Shirts. For those of you in the “know” about blank t-shirt companies, such as Gildan, Alstyle, Fruit of the Loom, and others, they are not known as “sweatshop free” and “Fair trade” companies.(I’ll get back to them in a minute) Therefore, the much advertised, and now quite popular with young people, American Apparel, has risen as the company of choice for those looking for “made in USA”, Fair Trade, “Sweatshop Free” clothing. They have already established themselves into pop culture and if you don’t believe it, just visit an American Apparel store, one is found in downtown Saskatoon. Yes, American Apparel t-shirts in particular are nice, soft, and generally very well liked as a blank shirt to print onto for merch than say a heavy boxy Gildan shirt. BUT…these churches, ministries, youth groups that are ordering merch on American Apparel thinking that they are supporting a company with good values and fair trade and all that are being lead astray by its great marketing. Oh, I am not saying the shirts aren’t fair trade, and aren’t made 100% in American, but I am saying that the company has many short falls in its morality that we ought to be aware of before choosing to support them.
I encourage you to read the interview with the founder and CEO Dov Charney here on MSNBC.
Here is just one excerpt to read which will make your mouth drop.
In the videotaped deposition [this deposition was about a sexual harassment lawsuit], over several days, her lawyer grilled Charney about all of it.
Fink (the attonery of the women filing the lawsuit during deposition): Did you ever, at work, refer to women as “sluts”?
CEO Dov Charney: In private conversations, where such language was generally welcome.
Fink: Do you view “slut” to be a derogatory term?
Charney: You know, there are some of us that love sluts. You know, it’s not necessarily—it could be also be an endearing term.
Fink: An endearing term. Is that something you call your mother?
Charney: No. But it’s maybe something that you call your lover.
Fink (This is now back to the orginal dateline interview): I’m very difficult to floor me. That floored me when I heard his explanation that “slut” is an endearing term.
I hope you read the rest of this article, and if you really want to read more, just google, Dov Charney and you will get many more articles. If we truly are going to be more responsible in the Church for where God’s money goes, (yes all our money is His) then we cannot support this company. And that is why I don’t buy American Apparel anymore.
Now, back to the other companies. Just because Gildan, Alstyle and these other apparel companies have been around for so long, and because they don’t “market” themselves as Fair Trade, etc, etc doesn’t mean they aren’t. Here are some facts that you should know about these other companies.
Canadian owned (sounds better than “American” already), Gildan, became the first Activewear Apparel manufacturer to receive Fair Labor Association Accreditiation. When you ask? Back in June 2007. Actually they had the accreditation earlier, but had it revoked due to one factory, which they promptly shutdown and dealt with to receive the accreditation. Read about it in the company press release here
I couldn’t find as much info about Alstyle, but here is a quote from there “About us” page on their website.
Alstyle Apparel recognizes its responsibilities to workers for the conditions under which its products are made and that these responsibilities extend to all workers producing products or services for Alstyle. We believe that good workplace standards, decent health and safety requirements, fair pay and conditions, and care for the environment are important elements in business success.
I did find information about Fruit of the Loom, which also owns Russell Athletics. The information on them isn’t so good. In fact, 13 Universities in the States have ended their agreements to print school clothing on Russell due to Human Rights Violations. I won’t spend long on this company, only to say that I don’t think I would support this one either. Read about it here
I hope this has educated you and given you tools to make the right decisions about apparel. And if you are ever printing shirts and would like more info, design help, etc. Give me a call and I’d love to help.