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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State of my life

I didn’t realize that quitting my job last October would require me to learn how to juggle. Yup, I’m a full-time juggler now, and I’m not even that efficient at it yet. I mentioned all my main projects last month, but I think I’ll break it down even further and talk about some things I’ve learned and that I’ve realized I have to learn to be successful.

I’ve found that when I focus on one main projects that the other two have to take a backburner. While it may be better for the one project getting all the attention, it’s not good for the others. But I don’t have the energy to try to devote equal time to three separate goals. Attention seems to sway every month.

Writing
Right now, I’m mainly concerned with my freelance writing since I consider that my main source of income. I’ve been trawling Elance and Odesk — both overcrowded with writers from other countries who work for very low rates — and sending letters of introduction to different publications. Occasionally, I’ve used Craigslist to find projects to pitch to. Fortunately, I have a chance to practice my writing chops and create writing samples through this blog and Villains Records.

Although eat.drink.craft. originally started off as a travelogue of sorts, I now have a chance to write whatever I’d like. Writing for this blog gives me a chance to research different topics that I’m interested in and write about it. Granted, I haven’t done that too much yet, unfortunately, but it’s something I’d like to keep doing.Some topics I eventually want to cover are depression and anxiety and how it affects freelancing and productivity; punk rock/alternative spirituality in terms of meditation, yoga, and religion; and Star Trek. It always comes down to Star Trek for me.

For Villains Records, I get to focus on marketing. I get to write engaging and interesting blog posts for the website and update its social media. And with the help of a friend who has been coaching me, I’ve been working on press releases for various album releases as well. My favorite part of working on the site is all the band biographies. I get to research band members, which includes interviews, and write biographies that show off their personality. Using those skills, I plan to land more gigs that will help companies and websites engage with their audience.

Next on the list of things to work on: face-to-face networking. Ahhhh! I’ve written about my anxiety previously. Most freelance projects are landed from knowing someone or knowing someone who nows someone. The Internet is over-saturated with other freelancers like me, so it’s hard to get gigs that way. I need to learn to network in my local community. You’d think it’d be easy, right? I worked in a high-volume casual restaurant and bar for 5 years, yet I still quake at the boots when I think about meeting with a few strangers at a networking event. I do plan on making business cards soon, so hopefully that will prompt me to get out there.

Music
I’ve been less engaged with music and songwriting than I have been with freelancing, but I do pay some attention to it. Fortunately, I have a friend who comes over once or twice a week to jam and we’ve been attempting to write songs together. I’m supposed to be writing a song a week too, for Raymond the Sparrow, but it’s been hard to focus on that when I’m also trying to make money freelancing.

SHOP.jlowatari
Ugh. I’ve been paying the least attention to this right now. I still have a LOT to do to hit my goal of being carried by at least one consignment shop. I think that’s what’s most daunting. I hit a bit of an obstacle with the broken china jewelry I’d been working on — mostly cost of materials — and have been discouraged. (Damn you, depression and self-esteem!) I’ve spent money on materials and such, yet still need more. Since I’m trying to MAKE money and not SPEND money, it’s been hard to convince myself to invest in more materials to get the job done right. I also need to organize a photo shoot, or at least borrow a DSLR, and start emailing shop owners. Money, time, and anxiety have melded together to create a firestorm of self-doubt. I do want SHOP.jlowatari to succeed, but the fact that it’s taking so long to get my act together is discouraging.

That’s the state of my life right now. Thanks for reading.

A run down of my life and projects 2014

I thought it might be a good idea to mention some of my other projects. I have three main things going on right now: my writing (poetry, prose, and freelance), music, and my shop.

Main Thing #1: Obviously, reading my blog, you’ve read some of my creative nonfiction (Thoughts while sitting in Caffe Calabria and A memory from Valley Center). I also like writing about music, which you can see with these short song and album reviews (listen category). I have a couple of ongoing sites I blog for, including Creative Edge Music and Villains Records. In addition to weekly blog posts, I also write the web content — band biographies, mostly — for Villains.  Did you know that I also freelance?  I would like to start writing more and more music content for up-and-coming musicians and artists.

That leads me to Main Thing #2: my music. I play in a band called Mariel. You can read a little bit about us on the Villains site. I play synth/keyboards and sing. We’re going on a miniature tour with another Villains band, Sullen Ray, this coming Valentine’s Day weekend, in celebration of the annual Villaintine’s compilation release. I also have a solo project called Raymond the Sparrow that I started as an homage to sci-fi but has turned more personal as the months have passed. My friend/roommate Will recently recorded me, and that song will be released on this year’s Villaintine’s record!

And finally, Main Thing #3 is my online shop. I like to make jewelry and knit and embroider cards and the list goes on and on. My 2014 for SHOP.jlowatari is to get at least one brick-and-mortar to carry my earrings. I wrote about my latest jewelry project on the blog. To succeed, I have to get more earrings made, take professional-looking photos, and start contacting shop owners around San Diego and outside. My friend Jonnie Estes has been so nice and helpful, giving me advice! She and my friend Becca of Little Otto Shop inspire me to continue with what I’m doing, despite all the self-doubt I have about my skills and creativity. I hope they know how much I appreciate their help!