Clean Clothes

Since I’ve been thinking a lot about resource use and where my stuff comes from, I’ve been trying to figure out where to buy clothes that I feel good about (especially since I really need to buy some new clothes). The trouble with this is that, ever since the sweatshop protests of the 90s, businesses are conscious of the need to appear fair-minded and to make it look as though their clothes are made by people working for reasonable wages and under reasonable conditions. As a result, a lot of the big “fair labor” organizations for the apparel industry are funded by apparel companies and exist mainly to serve their interests (see for example, the International Labor Organization and the Fair Labor Association — I’m not linking to them, you can find them if you want), so a lot of supposedly “clean” clothes are actually “cleanwashed,” i.e. made to look as though their made under fair conditions, but actually not, and it’s hard to know who I can trust.

I don’t have the resources to go check out apparel factories all over the world for myself, so instead, I’m trying to figure out which resources and organizations I can trust, and which companies really do pay fair wages, provide safe, reasonable working conditions, and produce products using environmentally friendly materials. I don’t have answers yet, but this appears to be a good start.

If you know anything about any of these companies, or know of any other resources, please share. (By the way, there is a great article in the most recent Harper’s magazine on working conditions for apparel workers in Cambodia. I recommend it.)


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