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Life Arts    H1'ed 2/17/17

Fashionable Corruption: Sweats Made with Slave Labor?

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Third, we can follow a basic rule of thumb: If a deal looks too good to be true, it's probably not fair. T-shirts should not be $3. Dresses should not be $12. Soft-shell winter jackets should not be $19.99. There's no way to be certain, but those kind of prices scream exploitation.

JB: I don't mean to be difficult but let's take a company that slaps its name and logo on many products. Like LL Bean, for instance, which attracts customers at least partly because of their fabulous forever guarantee. Is one polo shirt made in Vietnam the same as another shirt, polo or otherwise, also made in Vietnam from that same company? How can we know? It seems like an endless, impossible puzzle to decipher.

CA: There is a mystery to it, no doubt. As consumers, we buy on the basis of trust. That's why the brands so jealously guard their reputations. There is simply no way to tell, at the present moment, whether a particular garment from any retailer was made ethically or not. Even Patagonia, the gold standard for ethical clothing, has found evidence of forced labor in its supply chain. The difference is they're willing to admit it and work toward a solution. Many brands would just as soon turn a blind eye and keep churning out profits as long as they can get away with it. The best we can do is ask questions of the brands we buy from, do as much due diligence as we can before we buy, and avoid the "too good to be true" deals.

cover art for 'A Harvest of Thorns' Thomas Nelson, 2016
cover art for 'A Harvest of Thorns' Thomas Nelson, 2016
(Image by courtesy of Corban Addison)
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JB: Makes sense to me. Your book just launched. How's that going? What kind of reception has it gotten so far?

CA: The reception has been really lovely. The relevance of the topic has generated a lot of interest in the media, and readers have been extremely kind with their reviews. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and Library Journal spotlighted it. But my favorite compliments have come from people who know and work in the fashion industry. A friend who worked at the World Bank and the International Labor Organization and who knows the abuse in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Jordan from her own personal experience has become one of my biggest champions. Also, after a dramatic reading of the prologue at a meeting of apparel industry experts in Sri Lanka, a female garment worker and labor organizer from Bangladesh told me I had truly captured her experience. At the same time, she told me, "Please tell your American friends not to stop buying from Bangladesh. Not everything is bad. We need the work." As we've been discussing, the truth about clothing is very complex. There are no easy answers, but the book is helping to generate conversation in all the right places, including in the living rooms and book clubs and social circles of people like you and me.

JB: Once again, you've tackled a difficult and complex issue and breathed life into it. Thank you so much for talking with me, Corban. I urge our readers to grab a copy of A Harvest of Thorns. You won't be sorry!

CA: Thanks so much for a thoughtful interview. I really enjoyed it!


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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