Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on October 22, 2008
The idea that everyone should be treated fairly maybe catching on.
“Four former Land’s End execs have launched Fair Indigo, a fair-trade apparel company with the marketing tagline style with a conscience According to the company, it sources from worker-owned cooperatives and family-owned factories, which share [its] values in countries such as China, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia, and Nepal; the company declines to reveal the names of the factories, however. (The mega names in apparel, such as Levi Strauss, Gap, and Nike, made the identities of their suppliers public, after facing flak from human-rights groups such as the National Labor Committee.) As far as I can tell, its only U.S.-made merchandise is its rather delectable-sounding Queen B bath products, which are handmade by women in New Orleans, many of whom are single mothers.
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Fair Indigo also claims it uses a third-party independent auditor who conducts scheduled and surprise visits, reviewing payroll records, interviewing employees, and examining health and safety conditions. Also, Fair Indigo says it is working with TransFair USA , which is the only fair-trade certifier in the U.S.
Although Fair Indigo says it is currently developing a line of organic and eco-friendly apparel, its main focus is on the wages of the workers; it is also working to incorporate fair-trade cotton (dropping the caveat that it is only certified in Europe).”
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Firm hangs hat on fair trade.
The catalog has 800 styles for men and women, including apparel, shoes, handbags and jewelry, plus fair trade coffee1, tea and beauty products. Prices range from $13 for a pack of socks to $425 for a leather handbag, but most of the apparel is priced in a similar range as Lands End.
The catalog itself has echoes of Lands End, with substantial product description and extensive narrative and photo coverage of the factories and workers who make the clothing. Styles are aimed at people between ages 30 and 55, and what they might wear to work, Bass said.
The founders spent 18 months preparing for the launch, which started with an idea from Behnke for a fair trade store in Madison. Behnke thought it would be a winner, based on the growing sales of fair trade coffee.
Don and I said, This is a much better idea than just a store in Madison, Bass said, noting the interest in buying fair trade items among socially conscious consumers.
One of the biggest challenges in making a fair trade claim for apparel, however, is the fact that unlike coffee and some other food products, there is no certification standard for clothing.2 The Web site for the certification agency for food fair trade products is www.transfairusa .org.
The standard that large manufacturers and retailers use to avoid charges of sweatshop labor is to ensure that factories where their clothes are made obey local minimum wage and other labor laws, and do not use child labor. But the problem with minimum wage laws in Third World countries is that minimums are very low, said Charles Kernaghan, head of the National Labor Committee, the anti-sweatshop group that initiated protests against Kohl’s department stores in the late 1990s and against Kathie Lee Gifford and Wal-Mart before that.