Why I choose organic and sustainable shirts instead of American Apparel

You guys already know that I make jewelry, but I also have grandiose plans of creating a t-shirt line based on some cartoon drawings I’ve done. And you guys probably know that I’m pretty conscious about the sustainability and workers’/civil rights, so I had to find the right wholesale t-shirts to print on. The obvious choice, initially, was American Apparel. Hell, I think most of my wardrobe is American Apparel, but looking into them, I’ve discovered they had business practices that didn’t sit right with me. Because of this, I looked into some other alternatives, and I wanted to share them with you.

Before I get into the wholesalers I ultimately decided on, let’s talk about American Apparel, and why I decided not to choose them for my clothing line. On the positive side, they are well-known, have a huge stock and can almost always guarantee availability. The shirts are made in a Los Angeles factory, right on American soil. So what’s not to love? I would be supporting an American business (in an industry that so often outsources to shitty sweatshops) that pay their employees fairly. But their negatives outweigh the positives for me.

  • Throughout the years, CEO Dov Charney has faced multiple lawsuits for sexual harassment and creating an unsafe work environment for women.
  • He masturbated in front of a reporter… multiple times.
  • They regularly use ads objectifying women, often using waif-like models. They have been accused of portraying “kiddie porn”-like ads. (Though in recent ads, they have used a 60-something model and other “non-traditional” models.)
  • Hiring practices require full-length photos and are based on non-transparent, seemingly arbitrary criteria.
  • There are reports of segregation of race and gender in retail stores.
  • New hires are required to sign a contract agreeing to a million dollar penalty for whistleblowing.

Phew.

These next few companies are the ones I’ve ultimately decided to go with, either for their fair trade practices or organic & sustainability principles: HAE Now, Econscious, and ONNO Textiles. These companies aren’t as big or as old as American Apparel, which means that not all stock may be readily available, and there isn’t as diverse of a selection as you would find at AA. But since I’m looking for simple t-shirts, these companies are great for me.

HAE Now is the best of both worlds, both organic and fair trade. Their name stands for “Humans, Animals, and Environment Now” and they use that motto to guide their business practices. The cotton they use is grown on farms that use crop rotation and botanical pest control. They use low-impact processes and dyes that help reduce water and electric use and toxic run off. HAE Now is Fair Trade Certified through Fair Trade USA. The program certifies companies that offer higher wages, safe and hygienic work conditions, the right to unionize, and additional funds to supplement wages or invest in community programs. HAE Now’s t-shirts range from baby onesies all the way up to adult women and men’s shirts. They also produce aprons and grocery tote bags.

Econscious takes pride in their code of conduct for a fair and equitable work environment. Their principles of sustainability extends to human and worker rights and the environment. Econscious offers a few different styles of tees and polos, along with sweatshirts, headwear (do I sense a future embroidery project for shop.JLOWATARI? maybe), and tote bags. Most of their products are made with 100% organic cotton, the few exceptions made with a blend of organic cotton and recycled polyester.

ONNO Textiles produces hemp, bamboo, and cotton shirts. The hemp and bamboo shirts are both combined with organic cotton. The materials and shirts are produced overseas, and factories are overseen by the Business Social Compliance Initiative monitoring system, which bases its labor standards on the International Labor Organization. The company only offers adult-sized shirts (sorry kids) and organic tote bags (I guess those are in right now, eh?). Unlike HAE Now, which provides long-sleeves and other styles, ONNO shirts are one style only. Out of the three companies, they seem to have the smallest stock.

HAE Now, Econscious, and ONNO are smaller companies than American Apparel. None of them come with the baggage that American Apparel carries. Despite their smaller size, combined they offer a great selection of styles to choose from. I think they are great alternatives that offer a clear conscious and well-made product.

Keep an eye out for my new shirts, coming soon to shop.JLOWATARI!

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