Manufacturing Clothing in a Global Community

Mata Traders in action.
Mata Traders in action.

Some of us are old enough to remember a time when clothing was made in this country and featured “Union Made in the U.S.A.” tags, when it was durable, with things like invisible hems and additional fabric in the seams to allow alterations.

In the 1960s, “mod” designers introduced disposable clothing. It was also a time when the big discount retailers, like Walmart and Target, proliferated around the country.

In the 1970s, massive textile mills began opening around the world so that retailers could relocate or outsource their manufacturing operations, saving millions of dollars.

As of 2011, only 2% of clothing was made in the U.S.A. We probably also remember the campaign to purchase clothing and other items made in the U.S.A. It’s a push that hasn’t worked, and of course, it would take work away from deeply disadvantaged populations in places around the world if we returned the entire industry to the U.S. and closed down all those mills.

Yet every day we are more aware of factories that are really sweatshops, where pay is unlivable, where there are no benefits, where children work alongside adults, where the hours are long and the environment unsafe. “From 1990 to 2012, there were at least 33 major fire incidents at garment facilities in Bangladesh.”

These stories parallel our own history in the garment industry. In the Manhattan Triangle Shirt Factory fire of 1911, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history, 146 garment workers died, many by falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were Italian and Jewish immigrants, aged 16-23. The youngest victims were 14 years old. The doors to the stairwells and exits had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks and reduce theft.

In that case, the two owners were prosecuted for manslaughter. Although they were acquitted, they were later sued in a civil suit and forced to pay the families of those who died $75 per person. The owners’ insurance compensation amounted to about $400 per person. New York City’s Fire Chief, John Kenlon, told investigators that his department had identified more than 200 factories where conditions made a fire like what occurred at the Triangle Shirt Factory a possibility.

The fire led to legislation that improved factory safety standards and stimulated the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

In recent years, social entrepreneurs have taken another approach than trying to persuade everyone to purchase US made clothing. Through the mechanism of their businesses, they address particular problems in the global social environment, particularly working conditions in disadvantaged areas. We featured several of these businesses in our blog, businesses whose clothing lines we proudly carry:

We’ve taken important steps in this country to ensure the safety of workers, to eliminate child labor and to provide adequate compensation for work. We need to do much more. But it’s also important to see ourselves as part of a global community, not only benefiting from its pool of laborers, but helping to improve their work situations. It’s called fair trade, and that’s what we support at Green Box Boutique.

Green Box Boutique: 5 Reasons to Visit Us Today

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Of course you want to stop into Green Box Boutique for a visit because you like us. But there’s more: of course you also want to stop in because we are in the heart of Woodstock On the Square that we all love.

Perhaps most importantly, though, we are at the heart of Woodstock’s sustainability movement, and that’s a big issue in our little town.

Did you know that Woodstock has its own sustainability plan, called the Woodstock Environmental Plan? In its opening paragraphs, the plan’s authors say, “The concept of sustainability holds the promise of long-term economic security, social equity and environmental integrity. It suggests that through increased self-sufficiency and responsibility, the production and consumption of goods and services can be maintained without harming the natural environment. ”

The Plan deals with all the environmental issues we expect in an agricultural area, but it also deals with issues like Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP), “the purchase of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to competing products that serve the same purpose.”

The McHenry County Green Guide, published yearly, provides a glimpse of the range of services available to assist those who want to live greener lives. You’ll find Green Box Boutique listed on page 32 of the 2015 edition, by the way, under clothes and accessories. We are proud to join the Woodstock Farmers Market, Environmental Defenders Green Spot and Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties, also on the Square, Habitat for Humanity ReStore Woodstock, the Foodshed Coop, location yet to be announced, the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and so many other organizations and businesses on and off the Square who are doing their part for sustainability.

And nearby in Crystal Lake, Duke’s Alehouse sponsors a Green Drinks monthly local environmental social networking event with speakers on eco-topics.

Our local community college, McHenry County College, features a Green Campus:

  • Green Campus including physical campus and campus operations
  • Green Education that includes curriculum development for a green economy and training for employees and students about sustainable practices
  • Green Community including how MCC shares with the community resources that improve quality of life

So many ways you can get help and information, and so many ways you can participate in making McHenry County and Woodstock in particular front and center in the movement toward sustainability in the 21st century.

Here are five reasons to stop into the Green Box Boutique today as part of your sustainability commitment in 2016:

  1. We do the research for you. We thoroughly vet all the products we carry to be certain they are part of the solution, not the problem.
  2. We carry products from many local vendors.
  3. We seek out vendors who produce clothing that is not only made with sustainable raw materials and non-toxic dyes but is crafted by workers who do their work in a safe, dignified environment and are pair fairly.
  4. Our products are beautiful and fun, and they grace your home with products that are good for you, good for the environment, and good for the workers who make them.
  5. You can enjoy your Green Box Boutique purchase at home while sipping on that delightful organic wine you picked up from us at the same time or savoring a bite of Wei of Chocolate.

If you’re not already part of the sustainability movement in Woodstock, why not join us today? Feel good inside and out, and help build a world where those who follow can do the same.