flatter world?

SHIRT-articleLarge-v2 Being overseas for an extended period of time allows you to look into a small window of how other countries live.  The quality of life, the importance of their day to day, how they eat, etc.  On one hand, the world is getting flatter but on the other hand there is a big divide.  Maybe it will always be that way because cultural differences, I hope the cultural different will always remain.  Of course, if they are cultural different like stoning women. 

There are the small things in London.  In NYC there is a garbage can on every corner but not here.  The biggest frustration that Fred has written about is the phone.  The cost to call and text Internationally are insane. In many ways, it is no different than the variety of different plans out there in the US based on what phone service you use, which phone you have, and if your phone is unlocked or locked.  A total scam if you ask me.  It takes some serious navigating to figure out how not to get ripped off. 

This morning, both kids are off to their respective classes and I get the day to regroup.  You can probably hear me sighing through the post.  As I am sitting here reading the Herald Tribune, the daily read overseas, I came upon an article that really hit on the flatter world concept. 

The majority of goods that we wear on our backs are made overseas in third world countries.  The laborers are paid so little that they can barely put a roof over their head or food in their mouths.  Alta Gracia is a factory in the Dominican Republic.  This particularly factory is owned by Knights Apparel, a privately held company in South Carolina.  They are the leading supplier of apparel to college universities.  What they have done might be called risky but I call it smart and forward thinking. 

Knights is paying the laborers at the Alta Gracia factory fair market wages which are about three times what everyone else in the Dominican Republic is making in factories.  Bozich, who owns and runs Knights, believes that people will pay more for the final product if they know that the laborers are being paid well.  I think he is right and I believe the time is now.  Appealing to the college students is the perfect entry market because as this group graduates they will continue to hunt out and support brands that are paying their laborers fairly.  If the laborers are treated fairly, they can educate their children, put food on the table, put a roof over their head then as a consumer we can help change communities across the globe.

When I worked in the garment center, we made many of our products in Long Island City.  We never went overseas for a variety of reasons.  We were growing at a rapid pace and not sure we had the long term orders and bandwidth quite yet to jump over to China to start doing business.  Yet, one of the most frustrating things of the business was working with companies like Walmart.  On one hand, they wanted "made in America" but on the other hand they wanted to pay a price for a garment that didn't really allow for it to be "made in America".  Their customers might want to pay $15 for skirt, have it made in the USA when our labor costs including union fees are too expensive to actually make the garment in the USA.  If the customer pays $15 then Walmart wants to pay the manufacturer about $7.  $7 includes fabric, cut, sew, ship and hangers.  In essence, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too.  Very American actually.  Everything should be cheap and free without any thought of who is paying for it… on any level.  In England, taxes are going way up because it has become apparent that all the free benefits are killing the economy.  Someone has to pay for it but that is another topic.

I have found that there is no doubt that the college students and recent graduates are very much into the concept of less is best, willing to pay more for a "green" product or a product that is making an impact in someone else's life like money for education or higher salaries in third world countries.  That concept is being executed by Holstee and reported on by Jenni Avins.  Recycling the planet, embracing higher wages for laborers in other countries, and in essence, creating a flatter world. 

That is one of the things I really love about each generation.  They always see the areas that need change and embrace it.  That is what makes the US tick.  Making garments overseas at prices that can allow families to live and prosper is good for everyone.  Bravo to Joseph Bozich at Knights for making a change for "fair labor" in the Dominican Republic.  I for one, would rather buy one of the t-shirts made in his factories knowing that I am not wearing a shirt that was made on back of someone barely eking out a living so the cost is kept low the margins are kept high. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. sherrytruitt

    This post is certainly food for thought. I have learned over the years that in many countries factory work is dignified and sought after. We adopted our son from El Salvador, which now after the civil war, has a thriving clothing business. While it is difficult to make sure our clothing is sewn in factories with decent working conditions,with fair labor pay, it is not impossible. I have seen first hand the difference viable steady employment can make.I source materials for my jewelry design business the world over, so I do not expect to only then purchase made in America clothing. What I do expect is fair treatment of the “worker” on the planet. Kudos to all who strive for this.One of the reasons I support KIVA, is that the businesses we help fund to thrive, may be the larger business owners in the future.xoSherryhttp://sherrytruitt.com

    1. Gotham Gal

      KIVA is great. If you look on Holstee’s website, I believe they give 10% oftheir profits to the company. Putting their money where their mouth is.

  2. Sunchowder

    I can personally relate to this as an entrepeneur. I purchase American made jars for my business and they are three times the price of the imported Chinese jars. I have stuck with American and passed the price on to my customers, and I can only hope they will appreciate my decision and purchase my products even without being able to give my wholesalers the deeper discounts that they require.

    1. Gotham Gal

      3 times. That is a huge ouch on the bottom line. Your product is also veryunique which is the beauty of it. It will become exceedingly more difficultas the large orders come in to make those margins with the American madejars. Unfortunate.

  3. kirklove

    Loved this article when I read it in the Times the other day. Glad you reblogged it as you have a heck of a lot more clout (and readers) than me.Wholeheartedly rooting for KA to succeed.Thought the most ridiculous line in the article was from Nike who said, “They are watching this with interest” Really Nike, why don’t you take the lead and pay someone more than 2ยข. Dicks.Go KA!

    1. Gotham Gal

      The line about Nike was insane. They could easily charge customers another$4 more for a t-shirt and make the margins too. That is what Americans areso pissed at right now. Big business, bad attitude!

  4. YourTurn

    Great article, thanks for posting on it. It’s interesting to read about businesses with a real, sustainable social component. This reminded me of a tweet from Gina Bianchini the other day that said, “I don’t see how you create a company in 2010 that doesn’t seek to have meaning and impact.”As the head of a startup focused on education, I wonder if you agree and if you think it’s a pervasive belief (or becoming one) among investors.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I think Gina is right on the money. I’d want investors who believe in that exact mindset.

      1. Travis Valentine

        I don’t know if you’ve read it, but there’s an interesting part of Muhammad Younes’ new book on Building Social Business that is relevant to the article above. It’s his concept for the Otto Grameen Textile Company, which initially will make goods that customer companies can market under their own brands. The income generated will go to decent wages and employment benefits, as well as “access to healthy, nutritious food; healthcare; educational assistance/worker training; access to credit; assistance with housing; and ownership prospect’s for the workers.”

        1. Gotham Gal

          Have not read it. Glad to know there are others out there doing the right and good work.

  5. johndodds

    You may already know this but I’m pretty sure the garbage cans disappeared a long time ago due to IRA bombs being left in them.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Ah. That makes sense. Too bad. They could use a few garbage cans on the street.

  6. Macrr14

    Read “The China Price” By Alexandra Harney. I enjoy making semi precious and stone bead necklaces. Years ago beads were cut and drilled in Germany, then Hong Kong and now mainland China. The workmanship has really gone down and the workers are dying from inhaling all those stone fragments. The factories do not give their workers protective breathing devices. What to do? It is almost impossible to find German drilled and polished beads. I have beads that I got 30 yrs ago and new ones. The difference is great.I am told that Burburry uses factories from Thailand and other Asian counties? Does anyone know if that is true?