Managing Your Wardrobe To Combat Child Labor

Childhood should be a time for school and play - not manning a sewing machine.
From: Alex Summers
June 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment

When we think of childhood, we think of going to school, playing games with friends, and getting to do the fun, frivolous things that we’ve all grown up doing. But in many countries, children are seen as a source of cheap labor and spend their days–long days–earning a pittance of wages while operating sewing machines to create garments sold in the capitalist nations of the world.

And even among the working adults in those facilities there are cruel conditions, including those low wages and long hours. Workers of every age are in very dangerous conditions in poorly-inspected structures.

Shop Smart & Dress Smart

Many consumers struggle to strike an effective balance between shopping frugally and shopping ethically. Most domestically-made garments cost more, so it can be difficult to get the items you need for the price you can afford while still avoiding goods produced with sweatshop and child labor.

Shopping smarter is the key, and many discount retailers are catching on to the demand in this type of market. When firms are tuned in to customer service, they read these trends among consumers and their firms thrive. That customer-oriented approach made key personel like Stormy Simon stand out in her early positions with online retailer overstock.com. Her effectiveness in managing customer satisfaction has now taken her to the top of the company as its president. This is a notable instance of the retail fashion industry working to help ethically-minded garment shoppers.

But dressing smart comes into the conversation here too. Go back to your math lessons on combinations and permutations and consider how you can utilize a few basic pieces in concert with each other, allowing you to use a smaller number of items to create a larger number of outfits. And when price is the deciding factor for ethical vs. nonethical items, a reduction in the total items you need allows you to pay more for the ethical goods.

Shop Ethically

The next step is very simple: Read the labels on the clothing you purchase. Just as you will undoubtedly check to see if the item is machine washable, verify that it’s manufactured by an ethical company in a country that is strict and effective in combatting child labor.

That’s not always easy, of course. It takes some research prior to your trip to the store. Once you arrive at the retailer, you should already have a NO-BUY list in hand. This should be based on the reputation of the manufacturer or on the known conditions of workers in the country of origin. You can also make a DO-BUY list as well, which would include the names of the companies who are taking a stand against sweatshop and child labor, as well as of nations known to hold and effectively enforce legislation in that area.

Source Locally

Of course, such lists are unnecessary when you’re buying a garment you’ve seen assembled right up the street. Local boutiques, craftspersons, and even family or friends who make clothing themselves should be one of your first stops as you shop. Certainly they can be more expensive, but perhaps more limiting is knowing that they even exist. Much like any hard-to-find good, locally produced clothing is widely represented on social media and can be found via networking strategies once you start with a single provider.

You don’t have to contribute to the issue of child labor and sweatshops. You can take a little time to learn a little about them and develop effective strategies for eliminating those goods from your wardrobe. Take those steps and share your successes with friends, and in time these subhuman workplaces might eventually disappear from the earth.

  • Nicole

    Any suggestions for a good list of brands to avoid? Also, I think it’s important to note that there are plenty of sweatshops in the US… just because its made locally doesn’t mean its sweatshop free.