Socially responsible places to buy clothes?
February 5, 2005 2:15 AM   Subscribe

So I maybe could have posted this here or here, but this seemed like a sufficiently different question. Where is a good place to buy clothes that's both sweatshop-free and doesn't support horrible causes?

I'd basically given up on all major clothing chains, and had been buying most of my clothes at thrift stores. But in reading the above threads, I realized that Salvation Army had some pretty bad politics. Problem is, I can find plenty of lists around the web of stores/chains that use sweatshop labor, but no good, comprehensive list of places that DON'T. Is there any resource I'm missing, or do any of you have some good recomendations?

Cheap is also a plus.
posted by TheRoach to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
American Apparel is the first to mind.
posted by rfordh at 4:47 AM on February 5, 2005

In my experience with American Apparel, their clothes aren't of particularly good or long-lasting quality. Also, I remember there was some debate awhile ago over how they were portraying women in their underwear ads (though they still make t-shirts and stuff for the Feminist Majority/Ms. Magazine stores) which may or may not be something you'd want to take into consideration.

What about ebay? You'd probably still be buying stuff from big brand companies, but only in the same way you would from thrift stores and you'd get some great bargains, I'm sure (although also potentially some rip-offs, of course).
posted by eatcherry at 5:06 AM on February 5, 2005

posted by mlis at 6:20 AM on February 5, 2005

A bunch of disparate thoughts ...

Justice Clothing might be along the lines of what you're looking for, but I'm not sure about the "horrible causes" part of your question. Also, their clothing doesn't look overwhelmingly stylish to me. Personally, I love American Apparel, eatcherry. I've been really happy with the clothes I've gotten from them. One of the things that they do well is that they're not saying "buy our clothes because they're sweatshop-free." They're saying "you can have stylish, attractive, cool clothing that wasn't built in a sweatshop." If you read the founder's comments, they're very capitalistic ... but what he says is that treating your workers well is, ultimately, the best thing you can do for your company.

Carhartt's work pants are union-made in the US. I'm almost positive their "European" streetwear is not. I called them about their work sweatshirts (that is, not the "stylish" ones, just the regular hoodies) and found out they were made in Mexico.

As far as shoes go, check out Birkenstock and ... I think ... Redwing shoes.

With eBay, my concern would be that the seller, upon making a sale of some sweatshop-produced item, would say, "that's a good brand to keep acquiring and selling." I'm not phrasing this well, but any increase in demand (whether in your purchasing or wearing a piece of clothing) drives up the brand equity of that company. So your wearing J.Crew jeans adds value to J.Crew's brand, regardless of where you got them. And the people who made the jeans weren't paid any more for the jeans because you got them off eBay. Not that that's a real reason to not use eBay. Just something to think about.

Almost every city I've been to has had multiple thrift stores. Often, they operate out of church basements. Look in your yellow pages for thrift stores if you want to do the "secondary economy" thing without patronizing Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:58 AM on February 5, 2005

American Apparel is what most people go with, they are the the most well known sweat-shop free brand, but you will be paying for the name because of this. If you are looking for wholesale sellers, I reccomend the Cozy Creek label. I'm part of the student governemtn for my faculty and it was a difference of nine dollars PER shirt to go with them rather than American Apparel to print for our students. Cozy Creek is an all-Canadian company, which doesn't flaunt its labour use as significantly as AA does, but they are still clean.

I would say don't give up yet on thrift shops yet, many are run privately and are not associated with any religious organizations. For instance, in Boston there is The Garment District which sells clothing byt the pound, along with a full "alternative" deparment store. I agree with Alt 4 on this one!
posted by nelleish at 7:08 AM on February 5, 2005

I second Patagonia, they're great--the clothes last forever (often with a lifetime warranty) and are all synthetics, some of them recycled, or organic cotton. I've slowly taken to buying clothes from them despite the high prices; all in all they're the clothes I'm most satisfied with of any I own.
posted by josh at 7:20 AM on February 5, 2005

I get all my shoes from No Sweat Apparel, everything else I buy at thrift stores. Thus, I avoid supporting abhorrent practices.
posted by cloeburner at 7:24 AM on February 5, 2005

Whoops. the link was supposed to go to No Sweat Apparel
posted by cloeburner at 7:27 AM on February 5, 2005

working person (as mentioned, carhartt's heavy duty pants are just about the only thing they still make in us -- good thing 'cos that's what I like to wear), rei. actually, those are just about the only places I shop anymore.

rei's own-branded stuff is generally equivalent to patagonia except costs much less; also, it doesn't usually have obvious tags/logos/branding/etc. like patagonia.

I've heard good things about mec but never tried them.
posted by dorian at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2005

American Apparel is sweatshop free, but the founder/owner guy is a serious weirdo (masturbates in public, etc). I won't support him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:16 PM on February 5, 2005 [2 favorites]

dorian makes a good point about the cost of Patagonia - I should have included the Outlet information earlier:

US - 5 Outlets (The Dillon, Montana Outlet is the only one which you can order from - the rest of the Outlets are walk-in only)

Ireland - 1 Outlet

Japan - 3 Outlets
posted by mlis at 1:04 PM on February 5, 2005

TPS - have any links to back that up?
posted by Alt F4 at 7:04 PM on February 5, 2005

Seems to me the Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift stores satisfy theRoach's requirements, at least to some degree.
posted by Rash at 7:49 PM on February 5, 2005

Alt F4: That was in a Jane magazine profile about Dov Charney and American Apparel. Not only did he masturbate in front of the reporter multiple times, but he admitted to sleeping with his employees. (and in fact, one of his employees gives him a blow job in front of the reporter) The article is not online anywhere that I can find it (I have the copy of the magazine, so I know it exists!) but this references the relevant passages of the article.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:57 PM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not all church thrift stores have abhorrent politics. We have a lot of local churches that run stores in their churches. I found out from a welfare worker which ones actually use the money for helping people, and I buy my clothes (and lamps, dishes, etc.) from those.

Don't know where you live, Roach, but if there is a local group that co-ordinates charity in the area (kind of a council of local charities, where representatives meet and exchange information on who is doing what), your local library should know. And they should be able to tell you which charities that run thrift shops offer which services, which should give you a pretty good idea of who is out to convert people and who is out to help people.
posted by QIbHom at 11:13 AM on February 6, 2005

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