Do you know where your shirt came from?

Be responsible with your t-shirts, ethical options are available

Daniel Francavilla

Today, anyone can order custom t-shirts at very affordable prices. But for retailers to offer such low prices, the concern is about who gets cut short.

Although a label stating “Made in China” does not mean that children in sweatshops made the product, it is often difficult to know the truth.

VistaPrint, an online printing company that operates in more than 120 countries, offers custom t-shirt printing at low prices. The brand of t-shirts VistaPrint sells has manufacturing facilities in Honduras and Nicaragua, both developing nations.

Jeff Esposito, VistaPrint public relations manager, says the company chooses ethical suppliers, but said the company isn’t able to provide details on the conditions of the factories.

“We work only with reputable partners who, to the best of our knowledge, operate in an ethical manner. Beyond that, we can’t really comment since we don’t make the actual t-shirts,” said Esposito in a phone interview.

Outsourcing, or shifting responsibility with a “hands-off approach” is a contributing factor in the various unethical manufacturing procedures occurring worldwide.

No Sweat Apparel is an alternative company in the same market. Selling only 100% union-made apparel, this company puts fair-trade and ethics in the forefront, providing the factory location and other details for each product it sells.

One company tagline states, “Fight sweatshops with every thread you buy? No sweat.”

Adam Neiman, the Founder and CEO of No Sweat Apparel, says it’s important to educate people about sweatshops, and show them there is a way to shop responsibly. No Sweat Apparel is based on the ability, as Neiman explained over the phone, “not only to see the ethical choice, but to figure out how to make doing the right thing just as profitable as doing wrong.”

The company’s prices are higher than some other online retailers, but within the current financial crisis, Neiman he says it is especially important to be a conscious shopper.

“If we want to create prosperous economies in North America and Europe, we have to encourage fair trade practices.”

Daniel Francavilla is a university student in Toronto at the Ontario College of Art + Design (OCAD). From Brampton, he founded a non-profit organization, ACCESS: Allowing Children a Chance at Education and Speak Up for Change, a youth blog on poverty and education-related issues.

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