Making Government Work

Do You Really Know Where Your Clothes Come From?

November 24, 2014
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Do You Really Know Where Your Clothes Come From?
Companies can claim a product was made domestically even if only the final touches were done on U.S. soil. Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The tag may say 'Made in America,' but that's not necessarily where it was fully produced. This organization is looking to change that.

Check the tag on the back of your shirt. More likely than not, it will say Made in China, or if you are the kind of consumer who cares about supporting local business, maybe you will see Made in America. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet, because those words may not carry that much weight.

Zady, an online retailer that targets conscious consumers, is launching a movement to establish a “Sourced In” tag for clothing brands sold in U.S.

“Transparency is the first step to taking responsibility,” Maxine Bedat, the cofounder of Zady, says in an email interview about her “We the People” petition to the White House. “What we can achieve if we band together is higher quality product, the lowest environmental impact, and clothing that we actually want to wear not just today but for years to come.”

Currently, companies can get away with claiming a product was made domestically even if only the final touches were done on U.S. soil. Zady and its partners — which include everyone from environmentalists and industry insiders to everyday people who support the revival of domestic manufacturing — believe the government must set a new standard. They are calling for new standards for clothing tags that would disclose which countries were involved in every step of the supply chain, from the farm to the factory.

Globalization blurs the lines of the already confusing Federal Trade Commission rules that govern what can be considered “Made in America.” The Zady petition plainly states that since the supply chain of supposedly American apparel happens in a range of countries not spelled out on our clothing tags, “the current mandate from the Federal Trade Commission to label products with ‘the country of origin’ simply will not do.”

In the 1960s, 95 percent of clothing worn in the U.S. was, in fact, made in America, but that number now stands at less than 5 percent. Bedat explains that those statistics, combined with eye-opening figures about industrial water pollution from the textile industry to chemicals in our clothing, make now the time to provide consumers with greater trust and confidence.

“As representatives of the U.S. consumer, the government needs to play its part and step in and regulate,” Bedat says, adding that the private sector (in particular, the fashion industry) must take responsibility for the consequences of their dirty supply chains. “Nonprofits can serve as watchdog groups shining light on the abuses in the industry. And finally all of us, as consumers can vote with our dollars for the values we believe in.”

Editors’ note: Maxine Bedat is a NationSwell Council member.

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