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Sweatshop Labor Used to Produce Common Brands

sweatshop labor - women working in a garment factory

A recent UK report shows that many name brands still use sweatshop labor to produce their clothing and accessories.

We talk a lot about the benefits of buying handmade and why eco-friendly fabrics are better for the environment, but a fashion issue that I think deserves some extra attention is not the why or what, but the who. Who is making all of those clothes that we buy, and under what conditions?

According to a recent report from the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), many common brands still use sweatshop labor to produce their clothes. Brands like GAP, DKNY, Converse, and Abercrombie & Fitch are among the brands that use sweatshops to save on clothing production costs.

What is a Sweatshop?

Sweatshop has become a blanket term for clothing factories, usually in third world countries, were workers have few rights and work under unsafe conditions. Garment workers make far less than a living wage with no holiday or sick time. They work unpaid overtime and often suffer mental and even physical abuse if they don’t meet strict quotas. A Guardian report on this issue explains:

…in one factory, 40 workers were locked in an unventilated room without access to toilet facilities, water and food for over three hours as a punishment.

In Sri Lanka, workers were forced to work up to 130 hours per month in overtime, and anyone asking to leave would be verbally harassed. In the Philippines, 24% of workers said that they did not receive additional pay for their overtime. Typical hours can be 6am to 8pm.

While some of these conditions are illegal in the countries where they’re occurring, the problem isn’t alsways with the laws but with enforcement and with companies and consumers who turn a blind eye toward inhumane production practices.

How to Avoid Sweatshop Clothing

sweatshop brands
List of sweatshop brands. Click to view full-sized.
The best way to tell companies that you won’t buy sweatshop-produced clothing is to vote with your wallet. Look for fair labor or sweat free clothing or companies that are transparent about where and how they produce their clothing. Buying handmade is another way to ensure that your clothing wasn’t made in sweatshop conditions. When you purchase from a crafter who made the product herself, you know that you’re getting an ethically-produced garment.

Want to make an even bigger impact? Take a look at the screenshot to the left from page 15 of the ITGLWF report (pdf alert!) to see if your favorite brands are included. If they are, find the company’s contact page on their website and send them an email letting them know that you’re a loyal customer who unfortunately won’t be able to shop at their store or purchase their products until they stop supporting sweatshop labor.

For more information on sweatshops, check out War on Want’s anti-sweatshop campaign.

[via : The Guardian]

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by marissaorton

Written by Becky Striepe

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .


  1. Thanks for keeping people aware of this. My name is Walt Goodridge, co-author of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan by Chun Yu Wang. I’m proud to have been able to bring Ms Wang’s story to light to make people aware of what happens in garment (and other similar) factories around the world. For more insight as well as an interview by Mary Kay Magistad of Public Radio International, check out Thanks again.

    • Amen to that. Voting with our wallets is one of the most powerful ways to speak up against unfair labor practices! We need companies to see that sweatshop labor hurts their bottom line.

  2. We also need to be aware of why we are paying so little for clothing. Think Wal-Mart or Target, etc. It’s not because they can afford to give money away. Although the labor these companies use may not fit the typical description of “sweatshop”, they still use cheap labor in countries like Bangladesh and India to make textiles, paper products, jewelry, and the list goes on. Young women (typically) are paid less than a dollar an hour for the work they do while their employers benefit. Is it the consumers fault for buying the products? Is it the companies/manufacturers fault for allowing these practices continue for profit? Is it the foreign managers fault for exploiting their workers? Perhaps everyone should be held responsible. Check out the film “Mardi Gras: Made in China”.

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