The Etsy Blog

High Stakes Sewing: Fair Wages, Real Risks

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

ElizabethGoodCloset

Elizabeth Cline is a Brooklyn-based writer whose new book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, takes a hard look at the consequences of out-of-control clothing consumption and low cost production practices. We’ve been lucky to have several pieces of Elizabeth’s work appear on the Etsy Blog, and we’re pleased to share a section of her new book, which is being released today by Penguin Portfolio. This excerpt details a visit to a Domincan Republic factory committed to humane labor practices. 

The workday begins early at Alta Gracia, a garment factory lo­cated in the rolling hills north of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The factory trainer, Julio Cesar Sanchez, asked me, “Have you ever sewn before?” Un poquito, I told him in my high school remnants of Spanish. I realized he wanted to know if I’ve ever sewn an entire garment together. The answer, as for most Americans of my generation, is no.

Julio was training me with the intensity he would use on a new hire. “Look, you’re getting better,” Julio said, proudly. By the time people were popping out of their chairs for lunch, the rest of the sewing machine operators were halfway through producing their flabbergasting 1,300-shirt quota for the day.

Alta Gracia is not a typical garment factory. It is owned and operated by an American company — South Carolina-based Knights Apparel, the leading producer of college-logo clothing sold at American universities. Knights supports the labor union, and The Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor group that works with the factory on an almost daily basis to verify that the company’s standards are met. It is one of the only factories in the developing world where its employees aren’t just paid the legal minimum. Its workers earn three-and-a-half times the Dominican minimum wage, roughly $2.83 an hour or $500 a month. This type of pay structure is known as a “living wage.” Instead of trapping garment workers in a hand- to-mouth existence, a living wage allows factory workers to achieve longer-term goals and invest in their children’s futures.

At five on the nose, everyone at Alta Gracia filed out of the factory in a flurry of chatter. A lanky young woman named Patricia invited me over to her house after work. Patricia used to work at BJ&B, the factory that formerly occupied the building where Alta Gracia now operates. When the factory closed, the village of Alta Gracia became a ghost town. There was 95 percent unemployment, according to Knights Ap­parel President Donnie Hodge.

“I saved the envelope from the first time I got paid,” Patricia told me. I was invited over to Kuki’s house next. I asked Kuki, carefully, about the elephant in the room. Her livelihood de­pended on American consumers buying the clothes that Alta Gracia makes. Does this cross her mind? “Yeah, it worries me,” she said. She crossed her hands and told me soberly, “But I have faith that it will work.”

From a business standpoint, it’s an enormous risk. Because of the Dominican Republic’s higher energy and labor costs, Hodge says that making a T-shirt there costs the company an estimated ten percent more than it might in Asia. Hodge says that consistent pressure from the American college community is what motivated the com­pany to open the factory, in addition to a personal commitment from himself and Knights CEO Joseph Bozich. “It sounds corny, but we have a different viewpoint from some people when it comes to corpo­rate responsibility and what you should and shouldn’t do,” says Hodge.

Knights Apparel is trying to acclimate consumers to a living wage product by offering it at a similar price as their competitors. “We could have said let’s retail our shirts at $28 and recovered all of our costs and made the same margin that we make on other stuff, but we do not do that,” Hodge told me. In­stead, their T-shirts retail for $18, a price similar to Nike and Reebok’s collegiate lines. Alta Gracia products have the WRC’s certification sewn in, as well as a hangtag explaining the Alta Gracia story.

“Our success will be completely determined by whether people are willing to buy the product,” admits Hodge, who says he often loses sleep picturing the day when he might have to stand in front of the Alta Gracia staff and tell them their project had failed.

Garment workers overseas are still only earning about 1 percent of the retail price of the clothing they pro­duce. The Worker Rights Consortium has found that garment worker wages could be doubled or even tripled with little or no increase for Ameri­can consumers. Clothing companies have enjoyed decades of cheap foreign labor and the resulting profits, but what exactly are the tangible benefits to us, the American consumer? We own more clothes than we can wear, the quality and craftsmanship of our wardrobes is at an all-time low, and the U.S. manufacturing base can’t compete on wages with the developing world, costing our country countless jobs. One of the tools we have to change these dynamics is to not just demand that clothing companies stop using sweatshops, but to demand they pay those who make our clothes a living wage. It’s achievable, and the benefits would be far-reaching.

 

 

Excerpted from Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Published by Portfolio/Penguin. Copyright (c) Elizabeth L. Cline, 2012. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion is available at Amazon or an independent bookstore near you.

3 Featured Comments

Sign in to add your own
  • fieldtrip

    Amy from fieldtrip says: Featured

    Now this is a good news story, I'm so happy you brought it to us Elizabeth. I hope other garment manufacturers follow their lead - I would like us all to be able to be proud of the way our clothing is made. It sounds like in many cases the price of an item needs to only go up by a dollar or two for a worker to be paid a proper wage?

    3 years ago

  • AbundantHaven

    Susan Reinhold from AbundantHaven says: Featured

    Wow...great article!! It is such a complex issue. I majored in apparel manufacturing and design in college and worked in the fashion industry for 20 years. I've been on both sides...a factory Patternmaker in the 80's before everything went overseas and then a Technical Designer, setting up tech packages for millions of units to be produced in China and India. We want to strive for a global economy and yet the affluence of Americans and the poverty of third world countries causes an unimaginable gap. BOTTOM LINE...we need to consume less in the US...smaller cars,,,fewer possessions, less aluminum and plastic soda bottles in our land fills...less plastic bag consumption. STASH that $$$ for a major rainy day, which could be right around the corner. There is peace and abundance in having less.

    3 years ago

  • sleepswithpitbulls

    Hillary Russell from sleepswithpitbulls says: Featured

    As a person who has made most of her own clothing for many decades, I applaud a company which, by paying a decent wage, validates the skill and dignity of workers. Every time I labor over the details of making a suit or dress, I think of the plight of people more skilled and far more productive than I am, yet grossly underpaid. When I first learned, sewing was generally less expensive than buying ready-made, but that was not my primary motivation. I wanted high quality, original garments with enduring appeal. I often wear things I made 20 years ago, and still get compliments. More than anything, there is pride in a job well done. I wish I could make a living sewing clothing, but there is always the competition of the $15.00 dress made by exploited workers for greedy companies.

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose says:

    Wow! How wonderful that some companies are still doing the decent thing.

    3 years ago

  • HoneyThistle

    Wei from HoneyThistle says:

    That's an interesting take on the whole overconsumption issue - I never thought about using living wage as a way of changing the current dynamics. The book sounds very interesting, and I may give it a read :)

    3 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat says:

    Bravo Knights Apparel! Why would anyone (except the greedy business bosses) want a garment manufacturer to be run any other way? Just like always, it's up to us to vote with our wallets.

    3 years ago

  • ZoeFiore

    ZoeFiore from ZoeFiore says:

    I will definitely be getting this book! Thank you for covering this topic. I have recently been shopping my collection to local boutiques and find my competition is other local designers who are manufacturing their products from Asia only. You would think boutiques would welcome designers who were working with ethical, and local manufacturers in the U.S...hopefully boutiques will start being more aware to the "cost of cheap fashion." Also, thank you for acknowledging the companies who are doing the right thing!

    3 years ago

  • vinproelegance

    Vinpro Elegance from vinproelegance says:

    very interesting.Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie says:

    Interesting!

    3 years ago

  • fieldtrip

    Amy from fieldtrip says: Featured

    Now this is a good news story, I'm so happy you brought it to us Elizabeth. I hope other garment manufacturers follow their lead - I would like us all to be able to be proud of the way our clothing is made. It sounds like in many cases the price of an item needs to only go up by a dollar or two for a worker to be paid a proper wage?

    3 years ago

  • yourauntiespanties

    Genevieve F from YourAuntiesPanties says:

    I will definitely be looking for "Overdressed" sounds like a great read, thanks for making me think this morning! :)

    3 years ago

  • 9design

    Paul Coyne from 9design says:

    All i am thinking about is the quota of 1300.... skilled workforce

    3 years ago

  • kh1467

    Kelly from KikuPaper says:

    Finally a multi-national company that treats its workers more fairly & is willing to make less money - unlike Apple who turns a blind eye to its contractors.

    3 years ago

  • jlrdesigns

    Jenni Wingenroth from jlrdesigns says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • farandtwee

    Vintage Minnow from VintageMinnow says:

    Wow. the things we learn each day. I applaud this factory and yet coming in to work each day to make 1300 pieces of clothing? It does sound like a great book.

    3 years ago

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty says:

    Thanks for the info!

    3 years ago

  • funkomavintage

    Tressie from funkomavintage says:

    Since Ronald Reagan became president, most Americans have become so greedy and uneducated, most but not all.....and they shut down their own jobs by shopping by price, instead of demanding quality goods and fair wages for all. I watched this all happen over a 30 year period so this is certainly not new news! ....as a new Target or Walmart sprung up on every other corner in America. Worker exploitation ends when we stop buying crap and read the name and country of origin on the label. This issue, is one of the top 3 reasons I sell vintage clothes.

    3 years ago

  • AlternativeBlooms

    Alternative Blooms from AlternativeBlooms says:

    What a wonderful company to put such forethought into the whole life system of their product. Thanks be to God ;)

    3 years ago

  • customheirloomart1

    Custom HeirloomArt from customheirloomart1 says:

    Good Info. Thank you.

    3 years ago

  • ArigigiArt

    Gina from ArigigiArt says:

    It would be nice that there are more such companies!

    3 years ago

  • paperfromheaven

    Katie from paperfromheaven says:

    Thank you for sharing that. I am going to look for this book!

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery says:

    I've often felt for those people who work in garment factories actually doing the hard work while the people at the top get all the profit, I dont think thats a great way to work!

    3 years ago

  • jadedgoats

    Judy Wright from JudithGayleDesigns says:

    This is an amazing article on an important new book. The problem is a piece of the bigger puzzle of how we (all of us) will live our lives in this century. Thank you for the article...nicely done and relevant!

    3 years ago

  • hmmills

    Helen Mills from 1820BagCo says:

    Amazing, thanks for posting

    3 years ago

  • silke5763

    Silke Jordan from howcroftjordanwork says:

    Very important article - we all should have much more awareness where the money goes we spend for an item. I try to read every label before I buy and always consider what I feel about the country and conditions it is made - the ONLY chance we have is to vote with our wallet/money ALL the time!!

    3 years ago

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl says:

    Making T-shirts in basic shapes as well as other basic clothing. It is not hard to make, and you can make things really fast. It is not surprizing that companies are having factories to produce large numbers at quick rates. It is good that they are respectfully being paid.

    3 years ago

  • studiorandom

    Dana Seilhan from studiorandom says:

    It does trouble me that we make a great fuss about living wages and worker rights and fair trade but we only seem to care about those when they happen in poor countries. There are so many Americans out of work, many of them unsuited to the type of professional or service jobs that are the only jobs available to most of us anymore--yet when an American goes into manufacture their work is rejected, even when of better quality and with (thanks to having to travel a shorter distance) a much smaller footprint. It's not any other country's job to make our clothes for us, and we need to be taking care of our own *first*. People in other countries are not children, and were better off before we meddled with them. And they'd be well off again if we pulled our corporations out of those countries and left them to figure things out for themselves.

    3 years ago

  • PennyCandyPress

    Universi from UniVersi says:

    I find it somewhat disturbing to find this, and similar, articles on etsy. It's "do-gooder" fluff that flies in the face of how things actually work on etsy itself. By example, here's what i mean; Right now, my items sell pretty good BUT, only if I pay a small fortune to etsy for advertising. For every $100 worth of goods that i sell, it takes $90 worth of "keyword ads" and $7 per day "showcase spots" to get enough exposure to make what turns out to be $10. I cannot help but consider that, if the executives at etsy spent as much time weeding out what are very clearly mass produced goods, of "low wage nation origins" being touted as hand made, as they spend finding feel-good articles to publish, those of us that actually do produce our own goods would be far better off. Without the millions of imported sweatshop goods in our way, we the actual artists and artisans would be able to get far better exposure for our goods and have at least a shot at making a living wage. The way it is, one artist, working alone, doesn't really have a chance on etsy against the flood of manufactured goods being listed. "Anti-sweatshop"? Try working, essentially for etsy, for $10 A WEEK.

    3 years ago

  • TeepetalsDesigns

    Tee from TeepetalsDesigns says:

    This is very inspiring and motivating

    3 years ago

  • AbundantHaven

    Susan Reinhold from AbundantHaven says: Featured

    Wow...great article!! It is such a complex issue. I majored in apparel manufacturing and design in college and worked in the fashion industry for 20 years. I've been on both sides...a factory Patternmaker in the 80's before everything went overseas and then a Technical Designer, setting up tech packages for millions of units to be produced in China and India. We want to strive for a global economy and yet the affluence of Americans and the poverty of third world countries causes an unimaginable gap. BOTTOM LINE...we need to consume less in the US...smaller cars,,,fewer possessions, less aluminum and plastic soda bottles in our land fills...less plastic bag consumption. STASH that $$$ for a major rainy day, which could be right around the corner. There is peace and abundance in having less.

    3 years ago

  • ArtsyFlair

    Michaela Bowles from ArtsyFlair says:

    Interesting! I was hooked the whole article! The book has to be amazing! Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • apresti

    apresti from apresti says:

    Wow...it really makes you think about where your stuff is coming from!

    3 years ago

  • 2girlsfabric

    2girlsfabric from 2girlsfabric says:

    It's math. At $2.83 per hour- for an 8 hour day $22.64. 1300 shirts a day is .017 cents per shirt. They sell for $18.00 per shirt. And we think any of that is a good thing or fair??

    3 years ago

  • PaleMoonDarkNight

    Rachel Bradley from PaleMoonDarkNight says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing! I'm going to buy products from this company.

    3 years ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage says:

    Great piece!

    3 years ago

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits says:

    Honestly, is any hand labor ever paid what it's worth. Cheaper costs and higher profits are what drive most multinational corporations.

    3 years ago

  • ecsquared

    Kimberly Chaney from ecsquared says:

    An interesting piece, especially since I sew myself.

    3 years ago

  • OliveSpoonStudio

    Michael and Erin Waite from OliveSpoonStudio says:

    Great article! I'm going to read the book.

    3 years ago

  • jessicathejeweller

    jessicathejeweller says:

    I'm glad that this company is trying, however, a lot more could be done. It's a minimal gesture on their part. The workers are still not really making a lot of money.

    3 years ago

  • IkvothaMashiach70

    Gabrielle Knight from RuffleNBustle says:

    Yes! I am so excited that this company is doing what is right and not just thinking about the bottom line!! What a refreshing concept in such a greedy money hungry big corporation world! I'm definitely going to check out your book!

    3 years ago

  • ditzyprints

    Karen from ditzyprints says:

    To all who think that these workers are stitching an entire t-shirt for 1300 t-shirts per day - think again. This is garment production in a factory. Each sewer has a job. One stitches the shoulder seams, the next one stitches the sleeves onto armscyes, the next one stitches the underarm/side seams, and so on. Each 'line' in the factory produces 1300 shirts per day, but it probably takes somewhere around 10 to 12 workers on that line to make those shirts. So rethink the math...the shirts cost more labor-wise and the workers are not each making 1300 entire shirts each day - they are stitching 1300 sleeves or hems or what-have-you each day. It's still a lot of sewing and hard work hunched over a sewing machine all day.

    3 years ago

  • cristinapires

    cristinapires from cristinapires says:

    Universi: 'I find it somewhat disturbing to find this, and similar, articles on etsy. It's "do-gooder" fluff that flies in the face of how things actually work on etsy itself. By example, here's what i mean; Right now, my items sell pretty good BUT, only if I pay a small fortune to etsy for advertising. For every $100 worth of goods that i sell, it takes $90 worth of "keyword ads" and $7 per day "showcase spots" to get enough exposure to make what turns out to be $10. I cannot help but consider that, if the executives at etsy spent as much time weeding out what are very clearly mass produced goods, of "low wage nation origins" being touted as hand made, as they spend finding feel-good articles to publish, those of us that actually do produce our own goods would be far better off. Without the millions of imported sweatshop goods in our way, we the actual artists and artisans would be able to get far better exposure for our goods and have at least a shot at making a living wage. The way it is, one artist, working alone, doesn't really have a chance on etsy against the flood of manufactured goods being listed. "Anti-sweatshop"? Try working, essentially for etsy, for $10 A WEEK.' Too true Universi!!! If I only had a buck for everytime I saw a manufactured item on the front page, I'd have some bucks!!! Etsy changed their policies now to include designers manufacturing their goods overseas - HOW IS THAT PROMOTING HANDMADE? How am I supposed to compete in price with other sellers mass-producing overseas?

    3 years ago

  • customizeBaby

    Custom Baby from customizeBaby says:

    AWESOMEEEEEEEEEE ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOOOOo INTERESTING! :-) I LOVEEEEEEEEE IT!!!!!!!!!!

    3 years ago

  • annyschoo

    anny schoo from annyschooecoclothing says:

    A important article to again brings out the labor value and I think cristinapries has a very good point as well. It will be interesting to see what etsy can do and will do to preserve indie artists that make handmade pieces one by one to survive in the massive production competition.

    3 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections from KettleConfections says:

    Most people don't fit the size mass produced clothing are made to, and so it's very time consuming, and expensive to find clothes that even fit well. Might be a good idea given this condition for us to go back to making our own clothes, or upcycling old clothing and making something new out of them, that'll cut down clothing consumption a bit. Has anyone tried making their own clothes - how hard is it really? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwKQM0BvdGw&list=UUd_sOP8f9M5266FD7ih4i0w&index=8&feature=plcp

    3 years ago

  • BizzieLizzie

    Bizzie from BizzieLizzieHandmade says:

    Interesting.

    3 years ago

  • VogueVixens

    VogueVixens from VogueVixens says:

    This reminds me of Mary Portas's show "Mary's Bottom Line", which is about her project to start a British made underwear line. Unemployed youth were trained to sew, a closed sewing factory was reopened, and even a very small factory in Britan that made lace was source. For a 10pound price, Kinky Knickers seemed to be a hit in the UK market so far. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2117642/Mary-Portas-Great-British-Knicker-Experiment-underwear-goes-sale-Boots.html If more consumers demanded it, perhaps other companies would consider taking a fair approach when it comes to living wages, a slimmer profit margin. Wouldn't it be great if sewing factories that had closed in Canada, USA, UK....etc. could be reopened?

    3 years ago

  • BoudoirPlus

    Jan from BoudoirPlus says:

    Making one's own clothing is not all that hard, Kettle Confections! The major problem is that we have been convinced by the media that we need the most current thing and must stay 'up to the minute' fashion-wise. Clothing has become disposable rather than an investment. I have made most of my clothing for years because I'm 6 ft tall and find it hard to buy things that fit. My clothes last for years!! A change of accessories, shoes, etc keeps them current and not boring. I spend FAR LESS on all of my wearables because I really wear them.

    3 years ago

  • AbleAprons

    Erika Kelly from PortlandApronCompany says:

    It's so refreshing to read about a company that is taking responsibility for the way it's employees are treated. Thanks to the author for writing a book on such an important topic.

    3 years ago

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns says:

    This is such an important point to bring up. It's curious because there's still an issue in the "Conscious Culture Community" about outsourcing labor. Several companies whose work is popular within the electronic music and summer festival scene (internationally) have their clothing made in asia, where it is less expensive. I won't say much about it because I honestly don't know it in depth, but I find myself curious about how it is that they are made overseas to reduce production cost, but the price of a pair of pants is at least $150. I understand there's a lot of costs to consider with small, independent designers, but the cost still seems rather prohibitive. Perhaps even though the garments are made overseas, they cost more because they aren't in production runs of thousands. I would hope the high price tag reflects the ethics of the places in which they are made.

    3 years ago

  • Gosyma

    Lisa Harling from Gosyma says:

    Great article. This is a subject that has been close to my heart for many, many years. Even in developed countries, like here in Australia, clothing manufacturers are at the bottom of the wage chain. I worked in a clothing factory in the nineties and many of my fellow workers struggled to make a decent living, while my bosses strived to compete with companies selling cheap, imported garments. Later, at another company, a co-worker complained about her wage, then mentioned she shopped at a cheap fashion chain for a new $10 top - every week! Talk about feeding the beast! But she was young, and we're educated to think that we NEED these things. People are naive, or perhaps, it's easier not to think about it. I've heard and read terrible stories of child labour, mothers forced to move and leave their babies behind to work in the cities, people living and working in squalid conditions, and sadly, other stories. I guess, it's hard to believe that it happens. If more people tried to make a garment surely they would realise the value of the work? As well as exploitation, there is so much waste! It's encouraging to see more people become aware of these issues, and more businesses respond. Programs like World Vision's Don'tTradeLives campaign have helped. It's not only clothing production, either - we can try to play fair with all our purchases, and hopefully change the bigger things. (Gosh, sorry about the sermon! :p)

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush says:

    The constant debate... thought provoking post.

    3 years ago

  • BizzieLizzie

    Bizzie from BizzieLizzieHandmade says:

    @VogueVixens - "Wouldn't it be great if sewing factories that had closed in Canada, USA, UK....etc. could be reopened?" ________________________________ Yes, that was my thought, as well!

    3 years ago

  • minouette

    Ele from minouette says:

    An interesting article...

    3 years ago

  • blupony808

    Katie Oswalt from blupony808 says:

    WOW that was really cool I wish there were more ppl like that...do they have an online store? Cause I would rock the f' out of their gear!

    3 years ago

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom says:

    I agree with Universi. Very interesting post. I am not always able to tell if items are manufactured goods from other countries or if they are handmade. I generally buy vintage. I do agree with others though, that we need to consume less in general. We need to really start thinking about everything we use. Before I go to the store or farmer's market, I try to get my reusable bag. I keep a few in my car. It helps to have them in the front or back seat so I can see them. This seems like a little thing but it could help. Same with getting water bottles. I think it would be great if I had kept buying bottled water from Sam's Club. It's very cheap, and it lasts for awhile. But the fact is, I have a perfectly good water pitcher in my fridge that I can use to fill up my perfectly good reusable water bottle. These are all little things, but if everyone regularly though about them more change would be possible. I used to be a big shopper as well, very into fashion as a teen. After many trips to Goodwill a year ago, I have significantly reduced the amount of clothing I own, and do not buy new clothing more than once every few months. We are taught to consume, but perhaps we need to start teaching people that more is not always better. I think this will be tough, it was something I had to learn on my own. It can be done, though.

    3 years ago

  • StrapTeeze

    StrapTeeze from StrapTeezeStudio says:

    I agree with Universi also, very good points to consider. And thank you - 2girlsfabric - for doing all the math: At $2.83 per hour- for an 8 hour day $22.64. 1300 shirts a day is .017 cents per shirt. They sell for $18.00 per shirt. And we think any of that is a good thing or fair?? --- I absolutely agree and could not have said it better myself!

    3 years ago

  • YellowViolet

    YellowViolet from YellowViolet says:

    I'm glad to hear the workers are treated somewhat fairly however I wish these jobs were in the US and given to US citizens who need jobs. I also agree with Universi. It's discouraging to see the amount of overseas shops blatantly selling mass produced goods on Etsy.

    3 years ago

  • manikgrl

    elisa from manikgrl says:

    thanks for sharing! great article!

    3 years ago

  • PinkPlastic666

    Laura Castillo from LuxetteByLaura says:

    Great piece! I just ordered this book on amazon after reading :D Thanks for posting!

    3 years ago

  • MyWisteriaCottage

    MyWisteriaCottage from MyWisteriaCottage says:

    I think we should check and make sure that the products we buy are giving the worker a fair wage or that it is made in the USA.

    3 years ago

  • UpsideDownFrowns

    UpsideDownFrowns from UpsideDownFrowns says:

    great article. great company.

    3 years ago

  • Musclesandcrafts

    Melanie from merVazi says:

    There are so many things to consider in this debate, we could go on all day and night, but the fact remains that we need to be the change we wish to see. If we don't change our lifestyles, how do we expect anyone else to change?

    3 years ago

  • ScarletAndMiniver

    Cheryl from ScarletAndMiniver says:

    This is an interesting piece - but it seems to be looking on the positive side of something it is in reality quite depressing. $2.83/hr is a sadly low wage compared with the company's profits. AND, it makes me think about how I as a seamstress sewing at home and selling on Etsy can compete... I simply can't make a profit on an $18 shirt made on my sewing machine (without paying myself $2.83/hr)! I do take pride in the attention to detail that I put into a garment, and I think my customers do as well, but I'm still wary of charging what I really should for fear of driving customers away. It makes it hard to offer sales and impossible to sell wholesale because I simply would not make any profit. Although I know it's unrealistic, a part of me would love to see the day when everyone everywhere made a living wage and no one anywhere made disproportionate profits...

    3 years ago

  • StarTribe

    Penelope Neil from StarTribe says:

    I agree with UnivVersi as well- at least in part. I agree that it's a bit rich of Etsy to promote these sorts of articles while at the same time not policing resellers or even applying this code of conduct to people who are permitted to sell here. On the other hand, what you make on Etsy is down to you- I've sold here for 4 years and while I've not made a lot of profit, I've done very well. I've spent zero on advertising, working instead to have an interesting blog and to make my (old) shop the best it can be. I could've easily sought out other venues online and in the high street, but I chose to be exclusive here ,and I know that narrowed my profit margine potential. But it's up to me how much etsy 'pays out'. While anyone would consider what I do working for pennies, at the end of the day I'm in the position to be able to do so and I love it. Our society is at a point of evolution where sweatshops need to exist. Shut them all down tomorrow and you have countless people out of a job and cheap consumer goods out of the market. The economy would collapse and we'd revert to a global riot. While projects like the one above are fantastic first rung situations, we will never truly have fair wage society until we all learn to spend as much as we can whenever possible on quality fair-trade goods. How many of us cheer at this article while shopping around for our newest consumer need for the cheapest price? Question everything or question nothing.

    3 years ago

  • StudioCherie

    Cherie Killilea from StudioCherie says:

    Does anyone want to help me with some sewing? I can pay you $2.83 an hour, plus lunch.

    3 years ago

  • spiderbunny

    Jessa Cady from Spiderbunny says:

    Thanks for sharing! I agree with this piece, every worker should be paid a living wage!

    3 years ago

  • TropicArts

    Patricia from TropicArts says:

    Check out Nike's miserable track record of oppressing workers in Asia. They house their factories in towns where unemployment is high and the people are desperate. Nike's not alone; many American companies do business this way, including Apple. Companies get away with it because Americans for the most part don't pay attention.

    3 years ago

  • carinenadia

    Carine says:

    Thanks for sharing! Retailers and producers make staggering margins on clothing, so good on Knights Apparel for squeezing their bottom line and lead the way in paying workers a living wage. Here in the UK, there's a social enterprise that trains (mainly refugee) women to make lovely undies, and pays them a fair wage while also providing a support network as they adjust to their new country. Yay for ethical fashion that adequately pays the people who make the clothes on our backs!

    3 years ago

  • BaxCatandCo

    Kelly from BaxCatandCo says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing this!

    3 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    Marcia Lacher from TheMillineryShop says:

    Couple this article with the undisputed fact that luxury goods are now simply Big Business, including (or especially) everyone's beloved Prada, and you can see that something is wrong in both ends of the industry. Most of us are "done with" and thus dispose of our clothes with remarkably fast speed. Few people even own clothes today that are worth keeping longer than a season or two. So while this program seems great on the surface, I would be really impressed if this American company would actually have products that are MADE IN AMERICA. That is North America. Pay American workers a decent wage and then when you sing me this "aren't - we - wonderful" song, I will sing along. Right now they are just getting away with paying a slightly higher wage. Business as usual it seems to me.

    3 years ago

  • GrowingUpWild

    Kelly Engel from GrowingUpWild says:

    I found this to be an interesting article and a start. I just wish I had found it on someplace other than Etsy. It still seems to be saying that $2.83 is a good wage. As someone who sells clothing that I make myself I find fault with finding that information on a handmade site. I certainly can't do what I do for that wage and expect to be able to live in the US. I spend a great deal of time every day convincing customers, shop owners that carry my line and viewers on-line that handmade is worth the extra cost. While I believe there is a real mind-shift happening amongst many Americans, it is in no way the majority. An article like this serves to convince people on a handmade site that large scale manufacturers are actually not that bad. Hard to imagine someone reading this article and then continuing on to buy from my shop.

    3 years ago

  • DomesticIcing

    Charlie Corrigan from BarnumsWinter says:

    * Are the shirts made from sustainably produced materials (i.e. organic cotton)? Probably not or the article would have mentioned it. Environmental damage also causes human suffering. * If Americans buy less stuff, factories go out of business. But, we're supposed to buy less stuff, right? * Paying employees a living wage is awesome, but aren't we supposed to support domestic companies so that *our* population can be employed and earning a living wage? And, it gets even more complicated. This book is published by Penguin, which is one of the publishers that is currently refusing to sell e-books to libraries. It may not seem like a big deal to a lot of Etsians, but for many people in America and certainly, I'm sure, throughout the world, libraries are still the only free access the public has to information once they graduate high school. For a publisher to refuse to let *libraries* purchase their material is horrifying in so many ways. We can deny people access to health care, good clothing, nutritional food, and safe shelter based on their income, and now, Penguin is at the front of the movement to hobble American's access to *information* based on income as well. This is why people don't care as much as they should. There is too much to care about and consider between waking up and eating breakfast. (was your alarm clock made in a sweat factory in china, shampoo that doesn't kill fish and wasn't tested on animals, water usage, where did the plastic in your razor come from, does your tooth paste and/or deodorant contain heavy metals, was the oil in your lotion produced sustainably, clothing that is organic and assembled with fair wage employees, free range, organic, locally produced eggs, sustainably farmed local oatmeal prepared with locally produced free range, grass fed, non-hormone cows, the health effects of a non-stick pan to cook them in, etc etc). Fair wages are a good idea for a company but it's hardly the only or the biggest social woe we participate in.

    3 years ago

  • dyegurl

    Virginia Lee from DecadesofCharm says:

    I've always believed our economy took a nosedive when our manufacturing base moved offshore. Let's outsource everything, lessen the quality and squeeze more profit. The people that lost their jobs were also consumers, look at Detroit bulldozing acres of housing. Or the yarn and fabric mills in the Carolina's. I remember when Made in America stood for something, meant something, and there was pride in that label. Offshore clothing is like fast food. It is cheaper... and is disappointing compared to my home made burger. I saw a show where people go for money from some rich investors, the guy had a brilliant idea but they didn't help him because he flatly refused to have his item manufactured offshore. He wanted to keep jobs here. An interesting thing happened. People took great offense to this offshore mentality and there was some public backlash. A guy saw him and said there was no reason he couldn't manufacture his item here for the same price as China, he is up and running and doing just fine, now in several major chains. Even made the news. I loved that guy, he knew what he stood for, held his ground and walked - and his integrity was intact. I think this shirt company is an example of how to do it on the cheapie cheap with some good marketing PR that spins the fact it is still offshore. They are still sending money out of the country. Makes me wonder what kind of breaks they are getting tax wise, or what the Dominican gov't helped out with. Shipping costs are lower than from China so what are they really giving up? The public opinion tide is turning regarding WHERE items are made plus quality. Am I better off buying 3 disposable shirts or 1 that lasts just as long if not longer made in the USA? Keep sewing my friends :)

    3 years ago

  • bluskys06

    Pam from BluSkysGlass says:

    Great article!

    3 years ago

  • HouseZiccardi

    House of Ziccardi from HouseofZiccardi says:

    This article confirmed the concept of my real life consignment shop as well as my desire to sell vintage clothing. Very interesting comments from universi and others.

    3 years ago

  • gonzalezclara

    Clara Gonzalez says:

    I live in the DR, and recently met a young British woman doing her Master thesis on this factory. The article leaves out a few details, but is pretty much accurate. Unfortunately she was not really clear on what 1300 shirts meant, a poster above explained it. The whole work force produces that in a day, not just a single seamstress. It is a chain after all, each shirt passes everybody's hand at the end of the day. And yes, I agree that it is just better to cut on the brainless consumption of clothing just because the fashion industry has convinced us that we need new everything three times a year. Wear it, wear it out. And if you haven't worn it in a long time just pass it on.

    3 years ago

  • jmayoriginals

    jean from jmayoriginals says:

    interesting...both the article and the comments.

    3 years ago

  • CCAdamec

    Carol Adamec from VintageGoodFinds says:

    Although I applaud Knights Apparel for some sense of social responsibility, I agree with Marcia Larcher's comment: "MADE IN USA" sounds much better. I mostly use vintage kitchenware in my home: Fire King, Federal, restaurant ware items that were made in America...but 50 or 60 years ago! (which I also sell in my ETSY shop "VintageGoodFinds"). Back then prices were affordable for everyone; and obviously the quality was excellent. The American consumer has been trained through advertising and discount retailers to look for the cheapest price rather than the greatest value—a costly trend for American workers and the US economy. I consider ETSY a return to value and respect for American made items.

    3 years ago

  • stellaranae

    Stella Ranae Von Schmid from stellaranae says:

    Universi and others are right on the money, made in the USA products are virtually non existent at this time. I buy, sell, and wear alot of vintage, basically until it falls off of me. I don't mind not having all the latest and greatest. Consumerism to the point of gluttony and overseas manufacturing is just bad form, how can it even be called competitive? It sparks much debate and thought. Pass it on and be mindful, some things will never change, you cannot go backwards, just try and move forward. I try to remember when I make something, whether it is a meal for my family, a dress, or whatever, it may sound corny but, I put love into it, a positive spark, that is what makes it different and special, at least to me...

    3 years ago

  • Overdue

    Kiova Staley from joyridevintage says:

    Thank you for your attention to this matter! I heard an interview on your new book and have been looking forward to devouring it on my upcoming vacation--this is why I feel so passionate about shopping second hand!

    3 years ago

  • sleepswithpitbulls

    Hillary Russell from sleepswithpitbulls says: Featured

    As a person who has made most of her own clothing for many decades, I applaud a company which, by paying a decent wage, validates the skill and dignity of workers. Every time I labor over the details of making a suit or dress, I think of the plight of people more skilled and far more productive than I am, yet grossly underpaid. When I first learned, sewing was generally less expensive than buying ready-made, but that was not my primary motivation. I wanted high quality, original garments with enduring appeal. I often wear things I made 20 years ago, and still get compliments. More than anything, there is pride in a job well done. I wish I could make a living sewing clothing, but there is always the competition of the $15.00 dress made by exploited workers for greedy companies.

    3 years ago

  • anotherghostquilts

    Nancy from anotherghostquilts says:

    A good read.

    3 years ago

  • AustinModern

    Elle from AustinModern says:

    Interesting article. Maybe it's really just a matter of us as consumers making the pledge to buy one item of quality or good intent over 6 items for the same price made with what amounts to slave labor. It's a conscious decision and a tough one for many people in America today.

    3 years ago

  • chinmayo

    chinmayo from chinmayo says:

    Esty sellers Thanks for the insight .... why on the handmade sight is this promoted???

    3 years ago

  • kustomkitsch

    Erin Elowe Proctor from saturn5studio says:

    I thinks it's interesting that a company could increase the workers pay to what would be considered a living wage by that regions standards and it would still have "little to no effect" on the final price of the item when sold here in the US...on one hand that's a good thing...for the country and workers making the items...but it's still taking advantage of cheap labor overseas and taking away jobs that could be here in the US...I'm torn over that. I'd rathar pay a little more to employ a fellow American, but then again, I do love my iPhone...I'm such a hypocrite.

    3 years ago

  • PatternsAndPlans

    PatternsAndPlans from PatternsAndPlans says:

    Thanks for this enlightening article! Lots of food for thought.

    3 years ago

  • thevillagecrafter

    tammi from thevillagecrafter says:

    I am going to read this book on a great topic! to be honest i quit garment sewing when the cost of fabric got to be so much more than buying a ready made item. but you are so right about the quality being different. thank you for bringing this to our attention

    3 years ago

  • rushgirl2112

    rushgirl2112 says:

    2girlsfabric from 2girlsfabric says: "It's math. At $2.83 per hour- for an 8 hour day $22.64. 1300 shirts a day is .017 cents per shirt. They sell for $18.00 per shirt. And we think any of that is a good thing or fair??" I agree it's not much of an hourly wage, but your math is leaving out all the overhead costs. Expenses are FAR more than just the labor cost. You have materials, facilities (factories, warehouses, etc.) equipment, insurance, shipping, advertising, and then retail markup because both the manufacturer and the retail store (which also has overhead) have to make money to make it worth doing. Their actual profit is probably much, much lower than you might imagine.

    3 years ago

  • JonathonWayneDesign

    Jonathon Wayne from JonathonWayneDesign says:

    Great story. An even better clothing organization is the Single Mothers Cooperative in El Salvador. Its a workers cooperative (where the workers are the owners) and makes really high quality garments. Check them out: http://www.ldscooperative.com/node/25.

    3 years ago

  • janeeroberti

    Jane E Roberti from janeeroberti says:

    This is a great article and book I want to read. I went to college almost 30 years ago. The college shirts I bought then cost MORE THAN $18 in 1980 dollars. It is insane they should be so much cheaper now.

    3 years ago

  • LeafLee

    Leaf Lee from LeafLee says:

    Love this article!

    3 years ago

  • windycitynovelties

    Windy City Novelties says:

    I hope more companies become like this and offer more to those who make the products that everyone pays so much for!

    3 years ago

  • lilywhitepad

    Lily Whitepad from LilyWhitepad says:

    I finally caught up with e-mail today at work, and one was Salon.com's article about the book. I was happy to know that I'm right on target doing my sustainable design, for all the reasons cited in "Overdressed." Nice coincidence that I also click on Etsy's blog tonight and see this article. I would love to attend FIT's next conference on sustainable design.

    3 years ago

  • balmyatticarts

    Anne-Marie from balmyatticarts says:

    BizzieLizzie says: @VogueVixens - "Wouldn't it be great if sewing factories that had closed in Canada, USA, UK....etc. could be reopened?" ________________________________ Yes, that was my thought, as well! I agree with the point here. Unfortunate but a living wage differs from country to country. Manufacturers will always choose to produce at the lowest labour wage, even if it is touted as "a living wage". Hence some countries will always have shut down industries.

    3 years ago

  • millionairesquare

    Lori Lynne from PillowsforPuppies says:

    Interesting article.I have worked in three clothing manufacturing plants in the USA. Two were for the same owner. He treated you as people with good pay. The other was as I would put it ..A slave labor business per se.If I didn't have to take the job, because I had to take any job that was offered to me,becaue of receiving Unemployment benefits,I would not have! It was horrible!Since I could tell you about it in lenghth I won't .lol So here we have the good and the very bad. Right under our own noses!

    3 years ago

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty says:

    Wow this is so interesting...

    3 years ago

  • isoscele

    isoscele from isoscele says:

    Great Article

    3 years ago

  • hollyghoover

    Holly Hoover says:

    Great article! Cline will be in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, September 4th to discuss the book. For more information please refer to the website: http://eyesandedge.com/portland-undressed/

    2 years ago

  • ewebb131

    Elizabeth D from ewebb131 says:

    It's discouraging to see what a boutique article of clothing, made overseas, costs in the stores, and know that if I make that garment myself, I will not be able to sell it for the same price. I do wish Americans would buy more "handmade in the USA items."

    2 years ago