Fair Trade Apparel Confusion is Already Mainstream: Part 1

Apparel fair-washing is here.

We stumbled across this example of fair-washing for T-shirts, and we are compelled to share as a sort of public service announcement to fellow fair traders.

The basic point is this: a tee shirt company that clearly wants to do good in the world is claiming their shirts are “fair trade apparel.” The shirts are in no way actually “fair trade” as anyone in any part of the movement would define the term, (yes, even Fair Trade USA).

A brief WRAP’s timeline:

1. In 2000, Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production, (WRAP) is established after “several prominent apparel producers approached the American Apparel Manufacturers Association.”

2. Controversy follows WRAP because of this close industry connection, resulting in this quote from Making Global Self-Regulation Effective in Developing Countries. This Oxford University Press published book states:

WRAP has been criticized by a range of stakeholders for it’s perceived industry bias and low level of public transparency.

3. Next Level Apparel’s 2010 catalog states their factories are sweatshop-free, child-labor free, socially responsibly, and respecting the environment. They say this is because they are “WRAP certified” and “Wal-Mart approved.”

4. Sevenly charity T-shirt brand says on their FAQ page, live in 2012, that they use “fair trade” T-shirts from Next Level Apparel.

What this mess looks like in print:


We now know they are fair-washing. Now what?!

I am going to let you process this while I work on Part 2 of examining blatant fair-washing. If you need a pillow to hit or a private place to sob, you are welcome by the Ethix office anytime to get your frustration out. We are here for you.

And- if you need to see pricing for real fair trade, union made, organic, and other kinds of T-shirts, please check out Ethix Merch’s T-shirt quote tool:


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