A big "thanks!" to Tastymoog (check out her great blog, "Common Wealth Girl") who shared with us an interesting article over at USA Today (to read the article in its entirety, click here):
A 'thimble-ready' cause: If Michelle Obama really wants to influence the world of fashion, she should tackle sweatshop conditions abroad while steering the industry back to our shores.
By Mary Zeiss Stange
April 28, 2009
It may or may not be true, as the old saying goes, that clothes make the man. But judging by the international fascination with every outfit that Michelle Obama has donned since her husband's election, they definitely make the first lady.
Michelle Obama has a great sense of style. Her support of younger American designers, and her mixture of couture with off-the-rack items that are at least in theory available to the average woman, is timely and refreshing. She and her daughters are the best thing to happen to J.Crew in years. But therein lies an issue that has received surprisingly little attention — and one that Obama might fruitfully address.
Most of J.Crew's apparel is made in China and its Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong. When questioned about this fact shortly after the inauguration, company creative director Jenna Lyons explained to the Chicago Tribune: "If we could make more things in the U.S., we would. We are a large company, and one of the problems is that there is no place to go in the U.S. We make all of our denim and belts and (swimwear) in California. But nobody in the U.S. makes shoes; no one makes sweaters. There are a few (manufacturers) in Brooklyn, but they couldn't handle our volume."
Of course, the U.S. once was a major producer of shoes, and had its fair share of knitting mills as well. All that changed in the latter half of the 20th century, with the outsourcing of production to cheaper facilities abroad. China is today the world's largest manufacturer of apparel. ...
The real slaves to fashion
Workers, most of them women, are prone to repetitive stress disorders, back injuries, headache, respiratory disease and eye strain. The product description of Obama's Hong Kong-made "crystal constellation" cardigan, which sold out within hours of her wearing it in London, speaks volumes: "Each and every cluster of sequins, glass beads and rhinestones on this shimmering sweater is hand-done, a process that can take days."
To the company's credit, J.Crew has implemented a Code of Vendor Conduct that, spokesman Walt Winfrey assured me, is "a stringent policy that incorporates International Labor Organization core labor standards and that emphasizes ethical and responsible conduct in all operations and respect for the rights of all individuals." ...Yet they are just as surely largely unenforceable. Good intentions are not enough. Experts consistently point out that government support and regulation have been conspicuously lacking in China and Hong Kong. ...
What are your thoughts on the article? Disagree or agree with Jenna Lyons? Does the location of production (e.g. made in China or the U.S.A) factor into your purchasing decisions?
UPDATE: This post turned quite ugly towards the end so I disabled any future comments. :(