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Question: Where Can I Buy Clothing NOT Produced with Sweatshops?

I am trying to figure out how I can buy clothing/shoes, etc., that were NOT produced by companies violating human rights in third world countries. Please advise me. Thanks!
The other day I found myself wishing I could figure this out easily. What is needed is a screening and labelling system like with "organic" foods. My idea is that products produced under human labor conditions could be labelled "humanic". What do you guys think?
Where? 16.Feb.2004 07:06


You'd better start making your own.

Blue Butterfly 16.Feb.2004 07:53


The Blue Butterfly at about SE 37 and Hawthorne sells wonderful fair traded handmade clothing for good prices. Even the fabric and buttons are handmade.

stuff 16.Feb.2004 08:03


I go to Goodwill for a lot of my clothing. At least I am recycling and not buying from the corporation which first made the stuff. If you like ethnic clothing, go to marketplaceindia.com and ask for a catalog or shop online. The women making that clothing are part of a program to improve their conditions.

radios not from maquiladoras 16.Feb.2004 08:04

music listener

also radios not manufactured in maquiladoras along the US/Mexico border. Some of the worst human rights abuses occur within a stone's throw of the US border, especially the electronic maquiladora sweatshops of Juarez..

WTO/NAFTA began the trend of corporations moving into border maquiladoras because of less restrictive worker health/safety issues and environmental standards. Conditions of poverty coerce women (los mujeres) to working long hours in electronic sweatshops where they are exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals (quimica) without the needed safety precautions..

Music is great and at some point i would like to purchase a radio, but we will NOT support any corporation that operates any maquiladora sweatshop..

Fair trade coffee/chocolate labeling indicates organic pesticide/chemical free shade grown product that is grown by co-op farmers who share profits equally instead of intensive pesticide/chemical sprayed plantation style coffee/chocolate like Nestle/Folgers/etc..

Maybe we need 2 get a fair trade label 4 clothes and electronic equipment also, we refuse to support maquiladora oppression of los mujeres de Juarez..

look for union label 16.Feb.2004 08:37


look for union tag or go thrift shop.

Second hand or Union made 16.Feb.2004 09:10


Our family almost exclusively shops second hand- it's good re-use/recycling. If you do Web searches with the keyword searches "Union made clothing" or "No sweatshop clothing", you'll find some sources. One is a company called No Sweat and there was another one called Union Mall. In the Labor Press I saw a store somewhere out by Clackamas Town Center that carried clothing, mainly work clothing, that was Union label made in the USA- can't recall the exact name of the place.

No Incentives For Big Stores To Stock American-Made Clothing 16.Feb.2004 09:27

Sew and Sew

I don't know if folks still participate in Scavenger Hunts. But you could make it real tough by stipulating that one item has to be a piece of clothing "Made in America" and sold by WalMart.

Does such clothing exist?

Make Your Own! 16.Feb.2004 09:36

Sew and Sew

Learn to sew or encourage a family member to learn. It seems to have fallen out of vogue (no pun intended) to make one's own clothing but when I was a kid my mother used to sew for all of us and cut our hair as well.

Today's patterns, which are available at any fabric store, are easier to follow then ever and the stores offer classes in all sorts of fabric arts.

True, creating your family's clothes might be more expensive and time consuming than buying a cheap Chinese-, Mexican-, or Thai-made shirt at WalMart, but you would have a garment that was better made and crafted with love. If you have kids with imagination, you will have the ability to create fun things that stores don't usually sell (and if they do, never inexpensively) . . . like pants with a tail, hats with animal ears, or a shirt with a built-in cape. In today's economy, a renaissance in sewing circles could be of benefit to many lower income parents.

Don't buy into the "name brands at all costs" and "cheaper is better" philosophies.

By the way, although 4-H has taken some heavy financial hits, it is an empowering place for kids to get into sewing, photography, animal care, and other skills that they will use and enjoy throughout their lives. AND 4-Hers aren't pressured to sell candy every year.

Make your own - Mother likes this! 16.Feb.2004 10:13


My mother and my sisters have always made much of their clothing for their families. I never learned how to do more than run a sewing maching for repairs. It is an excellent skill that makes sense in many ways. I don't know why it has such a tarnished reputation. Was it the girl only home ec classes? Why are tailors men? and seamstresses women? It is time to dust off this very old traditional, and sensible craft. Do you know that old time hand made clothing (cloth and assembly) could last its owner's a lifetime?

fabric 16.Feb.2004 10:44


Does anyone know anything about where and how the fabric itself is made???

Check of N. Portland's Fabric World 16.Feb.2004 10:53

Sew and Sew

If you are looking for older fabrics or American-made fabric, check out the independently-owned FABRIC WORLD on Lombard and Portsmouth in North Portland. This old place is truly "time-warped" with almost all of its fabrics and mens, womens and kids clothing from the 1960s and 1970s. They are not used - they're "new". There is even an old bolt of NAUGAHYDE there in dayglo green! All the usual buttons, thread, zippers, etc. too. Student at the U of Portland have long known about it. Not everything is a bargain, but there are some good treasures waiting for hunters.

Thanks Very Much Everybody 16.Feb.2004 11:02


Thanks everybody for your excellent advice! I'll check out the various stores folks have mentioned here and will also consider the craft of sewing. Personally, I feel secure in my own sense of masculinity and have no fear of "manning" a sewing machine :-)

Don't forget the animals in your quest to be kind... 16.Feb.2004 11:18

it hurts them

don't buy wool:

Inside the Wool Industry
(here's some video on this site too:  http://www.woolisbaad.com/f-hynde.asp)


It may come from a sheep, goat, or Tibetan antelope. It may be called wool, mohair, pashmina, shahtoosh, or cashmere. But no matter what it's called, any kind of wool causes harm to the animals from whom it is taken.

Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool. But without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. Wool was once obtained by plucking it from the sheep during molting seasons. Breeding for continuous fleece growth began after the invention of shears.1

Death "Down Under"
With more than 100 million sheep, Australia produces 30 percent of all wool used worldwide.2 Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, making individual attention to their needs impossible.

In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are Merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin, which means more wool per animal. This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. To prevent "flystrike," Australian ranchers perform a barbaric operation—mulesing—or carving huge strips of flesh off the backs of unanesthetized lambs' legs and around their tails. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won't harbor fly eggs, yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal.3

Within weeks of birth, lambs' ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated without anesthetics. Male lambs are castrated when between 2 and 8 weeks old, with a rubber ring used to cut off blood supply—one of the most painful methods of castration possible.4 Every year, hundreds of lambs die before the age of 8 weeks from exposure or starvation, and mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect.5 Faced with so much death and disease, the rational solution would be to reduce the number of sheep so as to maintain them decently. Instead, sheep are bred to bear more lambs to offset the deaths.

Shear Torture
Sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Timing is considered critical: Shearing too late means loss of wool. In the rush, many sheep die from exposure after premature shearing.
Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. Says one eyewitness: "[T]he shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals ... I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep's nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off ... "6

Live Export
When sheep age and their wool production declines, they are sold for slaughter. This results in the cruel live export of 6.5 million sheep every year from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa, and nearly 800,000 sheep are exported from the U.K. for slaughter abroad.7,8

In Europe, tightly packed animals are subjected to long-distance trips, sometimes 50 hours long, without food or water. Their final destination is frequently a country with minimal slaughter regulations, where the animals often regain consciousness while being dismembered.9 In 2001, activists persuaded the European Parliament to adopt a report calling for journeys of a maximum of eight hours in livestock export, the first step toward creating a law.10

In Australia, sheep travel vast distances over land until they reach the feedlots where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep, stressed, ill, or wounded from the journey and faced with intensive crowding, disease, and strange food, die in the holding pens.

The surviving sheep are packed tightly into ships. Younger animals or babies born en route are often trampled to death. Shipboard mortality ranges up to 10 percent, and for every sheep who dies, many others become ill or are injured. For example, 14,500 sheep reportedly died from heat stress while in transit to the Middle East in 2002. Their carcasses were thrown overboard.11

In the Muslim nations of North Africa and the Middle East, ritual slaughter is exempt from humane slaughter regulations. Some sheep are slaughtered en masse in lots, others are taken home, often in the trunks of cars, and slaughtered by the purchasers.

Shahtoosh and Other Kinds of Wool
Shahtoosh, used to make "fashionable" shawls, is made from the endangered Tibetan antelope, or chiru. Chiru cannot be domesticated and must be killed in order to obtain their wool. Illegal to sell or possess since 1975, shahtoosh shawls did a brisk business on the black market throughout the 1990s, selling for as much as $15,000 apiece as the Tibetan antelope's population plummeted to less than 75,000.12,13

A raid of a 1994 charity event in New York by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resulted in subpoenas issued to supermodels and socialites who purchased the shawls and the first criminal prosecutions for the sale of the "fabric."14 In April 2000, British authorities prosecuted a London trading company for illegal possession of 138 shawls—representing 1,000 antelope pelts.15 Despite the ban on shahtoosh in India, a thriving black market still caters to customers in London, New York, and Los Angeles, who will pay as much as $17,000 for a shawl.16 As many as 20,000 chiru are killed every year for their wool, a rate that will wipe out the species by 2011 if left unchecked.17

Cashmere is made from cashmere goats. Those with "defects" in their coats are typically killed before 2 years of age.18 Industry experts advise farmers to expect to kill 50 to 80 percent of young goats whose coats do not meet standards.19
Contrary to what many consumers think, "shearling" is not sheared wool; the term refers to the sheep. A shearling is a yearling sheep who has been shorn once. A shearling garment is made from a sheep or lamb shorn shortly before slaughter; the skin is tanned with the wool still on it.

Angora rabbits are strapped to a board for shearing, kicking powerfully in protest. The clippers inevitably bite into their flesh, with bloody results. Angoras have very delicate foot pads, making life on a wire cage floor excruciating and ulcerated feet a common condition. Because male angoras have only 75 to 80 percent of the wool yield of females, on many farms they are killed at birth.20

The market for alpaca exploded in the 1980s, when South American alpacas and llamas were marketed worldwide to entrepreneurs who bought into the vision of ground-floor investment in a luxury fiber market. The craze subsided but breeding continues, and unwanted animals are now routinely put up for auction. Llama sanctuaries and rescue operations have sprung up in the wake of the breeding craze to handle the growing number of abused, neglected animals.

Wildlife "Scapegoats"
The wool industry also inflicts "collateral damage" on wildlife. The Australian government permits the slaughter of more than 6 million kangaroos a year.21 While there are laws governing the killing of kangaroos, there are still serious problems with "weekend hunters," unlicensed shooters who often view kangaroos as "pests" and have no regard for their suffering. On their own property, landowners can do whatever they want to kangaroos without fear of repercussions. The preferred method of killing joeys whose mothers have been slaughtered is, according to government code, decapitation or a "blow to destroy the brain."22

In the U.S., coyotes are vilified for eating sheep and other livestock, and as a result, millions are slaughtered every year by ranchers and the federal government.

There Are Alternatives
Sheep's wool has been in steady decline since 1990, both in price and demand, with Australia's former near-total dominance of the world market falling by about 35 percent in a decade.23 The U.S. government continues to try to shore up the American wool industry with millions of dollars in federal subsidies and loans.24

Many people who are allergic to wool already use alternatives to wool clothes and blankets, including cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, and other cruelty-free fibers. Tencel—breathable, durable, and biodegradable—is one of the newest cruelty-free wool substitutes. Polartec Wind Pro—made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles—is a high-density fleece with four times the wind resistance of wool that also wicks away moisture.25


1 Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts, "Scandinavian Sheep," Knitters Magazine, 2000.
2 "Agriculture: The Wool Industry," Australian Bureau of Statistics, 22 Jan. 2002.
3 The Vegan Society, Ltd., "Wool," Oxford, England, 1999.
4 Christine Townend, Pulling the Wool: A New Look at the Australian Wool Industry (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger Pty. Limited, 1985) 23.
5 Justin Read, "The Effect of Ewe Iodine Supplementation on Perinatal Lamb Mortality," Meat New Zealand, 18 Dec. 1998.
6 The Vegan Society.
7 "Australia Investigates Live Sheep Export Deaths," Reuters, 3 Sep. 2002.
8 "Long Distance Transport of Live Farm Animals," Compassion in World Farming, Jul. 2002.
9 Ibid.
10 Albert Jan Maat, Commission Report, Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, 3 Sep. 2001.
11 Reuters, op. cit.
12 Susan Saulny, "Shawls Sold at Charity Event: So Soft and So Illegal," The New York Times, 3 Jan. 2001.
13 Lucy Chubb, "Shahtoosh Seizures Shed Light on Plight of Tibet Antelope," Environmental News Network, 17 Apr. 2000.
14 Saulny.
15 Chubb.
16 "Fabled Kashmiri 'Shatoosh' Shawls Survive Ban," Kashmir Media Service, 13 Jan. 2003.
17 Ehtashamuddin Khan, "230 Kgs. Of Shahtoosh Seized in Delhi," Indo-Asian News Service, 23 Oct. 2001.
18 Breezy Meadow Cashmere Farm.
19 "Cashmere Charateristics," Cashmere Producers of America, 2002.
20 "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit," Turning Point, Jan.-Mar. 1991.
21 "Commercial Kangaroo Harvest Quotas—2003," Environment Australia, 2003.
22 Department for Environment and Heritage, "The Macropod Conservation and Management Plan for South Australia," Conservation and Management of Common Kangaroos, Nov. 2002: 49.
23 Australian Bureau of Statistics.
24 Philip Brasher, "President Signs, Praises Farm Bill," Associated Press, 13 May 2002.
25 Sal Ruibal, "Edge of Winter: Beauty, Danger; Layering Clothes Essential for Sudden Temperature Shifts," USA Today, 23 Nov. 2001, p. 8C.

Maggie's Functional Organics 16.Feb.2004 12:34


Just about all the socks I wear are Maggie's. They are organic cotton and very well made in either the US or a Nicaraguan sewing cooperative, as far as I know. The socks have lasted much better than non-organic socks, and they are made from cotton grown in custom colors rather than dyed!

They sell much more than socks:


note on wool, and more on Maggie's Organics 16.Feb.2004 12:56


The post on wool and animal cruelty was really informative, but what's a person gonna do? Non-organic cotton farming causes environmental destruction, since cotton is one of the most heavily-sprayed crops, and most if not all of the synthetic alternatives are made from petroleum. I buy the occasional item in wool (socks, hats, gloves) because they tend to be warmer and last much longer. Buying longer-lasting clothing leads to less consumption.

I noticed that the Maggie's Oxford shirts are "sewn at a Union Shop in Canada", so apparently there are more manufacturing locations. It would appear that all are union or co-ops, though.

What about the synthetics? I don't think 16.Feb.2004 14:15


the only option is cotton and wool. There must be synthetic clothes that are not sweat shop produced. Hey, that reminds me that there are a lot of vegan clothing stores that don't exploit animals or the makers of the clothing... Here are a few after doing a quick search, I know there are many more (please search out and add to the list if people are interested--this is a great idea to support and promote):

"We work hard to bring our customers the very latest and best in vegan products, searching out hard-to-find items and, in some cases, even manufacturing products ourselves when we can't find a suitable option that's already available. We meticulously investigate the derivation of all ingredients and components of the products we sell, and we do not offer goods from companies that test on animals. We are all vegans ourselves, and we can relate to our customers' experiences in meeting the demands of a more compassionate lifestyle. In addition to our commitment to being animal-friendly, we strive to maintain the highest ethical standards in every other aspect of our business. We refuse to carry products manufactured under oppressive labor conditions, and we re-use and recycle boxes and other shipping materials for our mail orders."


"The Herbivore Clothing company makes sweatshop free vegetarian clothing for men, women, and the little baby children..."

Oh, I see now what you said about 16.Feb.2004 14:26


synthetics. Maybe that can be researched further about environmentally friendly synthetics...because I think many synthetics are recycled materials and may not be so unfriendly, relatively speaking.

It talks about environmentally friendly synthetics at the 16.Feb.2004 14:33


end of the sheep article.

Some items made int he Northwest 16.Feb.2004 16:11

Bison Boy

Stuff I wear myself:

Danner boots (danner.com) has a factory in Portland. It's a pretty big facility, so I *think* they make them all locally. I've sent off an e-mail to ask for confirmation, and I'll post again when I get an answer.

Utilikilts (utilikilts.com) are made in Seattle. They make practical kilts for everyday wear. I wear mine to work. :)

thanks for all of the information 16.Feb.2004 17:02


I also sew most of my clothes and shop Blue Butterfly as well but for some needs -- it is great to have such a nice list to go through. Finding underwear that is made anywhere but in third world sweatshops has been like trying to find diamonds in the dump. Children's clothes are also difficult.

synthetics, union duds, etc. 16.Feb.2004 18:00

hard on clothes

It's all fine and dandy that polypro is made out of pop bottles but what do you do with it when it's worn out? Can't unravel it and it makes lousy rags. I suppose it could be used as quilt batting since it's so warm. Ugly though. As for kids' clothes there sure are a hell of a lot of them at garage sales sometimes nothing but.
Jower's out in St. Johns (they sell work clothes) has some US made heavy-duty clothing although some of my favorite jeans, the big-legged logger ones, are now being produced in Mexico and don't fit as well either.
May I recomend sarongs in the summer? They look good on every body and if you get tired of them they can become curtains, couch covers, tablecloths, etc. There are numerous imaginative ways to tie them and around July and August it's the next best thing to being naked.

Great Idea 17.Feb.2004 08:34


Most of Danner's boots are made in Portland and most of Filson's products are made in the USA.

*Some* Danners made in the US 17.Feb.2004 09:59

Bison Boy

A reply from Danner [edited]:

"We do manufacture some of our boots overseas. We started shifting some of our manufacturing overseas about 3 years ago. [...] These days over 98% of all footwear is made overseas. [...] Please take note that we do still manufacture over half of our styles right here in the USA. These items are clearly marked on our website and also in our catalog. Please view an example on our website at  http://www.danner.com/products.asp?catid=10&prodid=1800. [...]"

I know mine are made in the US:  http://www.danner.com/products.asp?catid=15&prodid=1682. My pair of these are nearly six 6 years old, and I wear them nearly every day that I wear shoes at all. It looks like they have several more years left in them, too.