If you’ve browsed the MY SISTER website, our social media channels, or visited us in our retail store, you may have heard us use the term “ethically made” when referring to the products that we carry.
What does that mean, and why does it matter?
The current state of clothing manufacturing:
Have you ever wondered how clothing is so cheap? We’re living in a consumer culture where we can purchase a dress for the same price as a Chipotle burrito... how can that be possible?
When you think about the time and materials that go into making a garment: fabric, buttons, sewing, finishing, shipping, taxes and tariffs, packaging, it becomes clear that someone, somewhere along the supply chain of each big “fast fashion” company is getting short-changed. And it’s not the CEO’s.
The majority of garments available for purchase in the United States are manufactured overseas in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other countries where sweatshop and child labor is rampant. Some workers are paid as little as $3 per day to work overtime in unsafe factories.
A higher price point doesn’t necessarily mean a more ethical product… some major fashion brands pay $2 for jeans (including materials AND labor) that are sold in their stores for over $80.
Sourcing Ethically Made:
Faced with the reality of the garment manufacturing industry, what’s a business that cares about human rights and social justice to do?
MY SISTER's answer is sourcing our products as ethically as we can. This means working with suppliers that pay fair wages, guarantee that no child labor is allowed within their factories, and who maintain a safe working environment.
MY SISTER has a deep investment in sourcing our products this responsibly. In addition to the fact that it’s just the right way to conduct business, the garment manufacturing industry has ties to sex trafficking, making the decision even more personal for us. Many women affected by sex trafficking worldwide are actually ex-garment factory workers who were lured into “the life” through desperation and promises of higher wages. The majority of garment workers are female, and between the ages of 18 and 24.
Though our sourcing isn’t perfect, yet, here’s how we are working towards higher standards and better wages:
What We’re Doing Now
We currently source our tees from a variety of 100% sweatshop-free distributors in order to offer a variety of different cuts and sizing options.
All of our suppliers operate in accordance with the Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct, with many of our shirts made in the USA. Many of the factories where the apparel is manufactured are also certified by Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), an independent non-profit team of global social compliance experts.
The Missing Pieces
Though we’ve gotten a good start, we fully recognize that our supply chain isn’t as ethical as it could be, and we are actively working on solutions.
One big issue we have is that the transparent and ethical garment suppliers that we purchase from do not carry larger sizes. This puts us in the difficult spot of having to choose whether we’re going to carry garments from suppliers with known labor rights abuses, or whether we’re going to leave out sizes that are more inclusive of all body types.
Another issue: although we know enough about our suppliers to ensure that there are no blatant red flags, we don’t know everything about them. It’s difficult to be certain of absolute transparency when big manufacturing companies often bend the truth when discussing their practices. We want the garments we sell to not just be “okay” in terms of the treatment of the workers who sew them, we want the story of each garment to be one of empowerment and love.
Looking Toward The Future
You know the saying, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself”? That’s how we’re starting to feel. Frustrated by a lack of options for sourcing garments that live up to our ethical standards, we’re ready to take matters into our own hands.
Though it’s a huge step, we’re currently working toward becoming our own manufacturer, and controlling every step of the process of creating each garment that we sell.
Though we’re still working out the logistics, we’re hoping that this new model will allow us to employ a greater number of women at risk for trafficking, while bringing you, our customers, new products.
One thing is for sure. The status quo sucks and we want to change it.
True Cost- a Fast Fashion Documentary Film