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US UNIONMADE clothes not made by unionized workers

21 November, 2012Now and then an example pops up that typifies the shameless hype of the fashion industry. The case of the San Francisco retailer UNIONMADE is one such example.

It turns out that most of the high-end clothes sold at UNIONMADE are not actually made by unionized workers, gawker.com has revealed. “The name UNIONMADE is an overarching concept and narrative for the store, signifying that we strive to carry well-made and aesthetically timeless goods”, explains the company in a breath-taking example of twisted meaning. 

In the face of cynical retailers so ready to spin a yarn, what are socially-aware consumers to do?

True, the widespread use of subcontracting in the fashion industry makes it impossible to provide any credible guarantee that clothes and shoes are made in decent conditions. But that doesn’t mean that shoppers are powerless. On the contrary.

One option is to look for a ‘union-made’ label. While this label makes no claims as to the working conditions, it indicates garments made in an organized factory where workers are covered by a collective agreement.

We as consumers also have to find other ways to make our voices heard. In reality, we should be screaming about the shameful conditions in which our clothes are produced. But even the more reticent among us can make a big difference.  After all, if you have no qualms about asking whether a garment will shrink in the wash, why should you shy away from asking whether the worker who made it had the right to form a union or was paid a living wage?

It might seem simplistic, but imagine if every single shopper started asking hard questions: How long would it be before retailers themselves started seeking meaningful answers?

So next time you shop for clothes or shoes, make sure to tell the salesperson you want to buy items that are clean in every sense of the word!