As part of our search for an outlet to offer shirts with ethical messages, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Zazzle, a print-on-demand vendor of shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers aiming to be an alternative to Cafepress. They’ve got some neat stuff over there, including square buttons and huge six inch round items, and so we’ve opened a shop at Zazzle with those in mind.
But even though Zazzle offers some neat-looking sweat-free shirts made by American Apparel, we have decided not to sell shirts through Zazzle. Why? Because Zazzle does not let a seller pick which sorts of apparel will be made available for sale and which wonâ€™t. That means that if Irregular Times put up a peace sign t-shirt design, someone could put my design on a t-shirt made with questionable sourcing. In effect, weâ€™d be selling a probable sweatshop shirt. Some people might feel comfortable with that ethical decision. We don’t, and so we won’t.
Last month, I asked the folks at Zazzle if they would consider changing their approach so that a shop designer could place some shirt types off limits. To their credit, they agreed they’d consider it. But I haven’t heard from them since. They’ve claimed since that their shirts are all ethically made, but despite prompting, they have not released information on sourcing and certification to support their claims. That’s a corporate approach which attempts to control information that might be embarrassing. I understand the motivation, but am frustrated by it.
Another approach entirely has been displayed by Skreened, an outfit that has just accomplished its grand opening this week. Like Zazzle and Cafepress, Skreened offers American Apparel shirts that folks like myself can put progressive political and social designs on for sale. But unlike Zazzle and CafePress, Skreened offers only American Apparel shirts, out of the same concern for ethics of production that I have. Skreened founder Daniel Fox is committed to that sort of ethics as an integral part of his operation, and that shows in other ways, too, like his commitment to donate 10% of his profits to Asia’s Hope:
Being wealthy is nice, I’m sure. But being able to eat and have a safe place to stay is nicer. That’s why skreened is dedicated to giving 10% of our profits to Asia’s Hope.
So, what does that mean for you?
It means that not only are you buying quality garment made in the US under good working conditions. But you are also helping put a roof overhead of kids who, for whatever reason, have been left deserted.
This is what drives us. It is why Skreened exists; to change the world just a little bit. But it might add up to a lot in the lives of the people we’re able to affect.
Join us. Give to whatever charity moves you. We’re working on ways to make it very easy for each and every one of us to change the world just a little bit. I think it will add up.
That’s right: Daniel Fox is working on a way for Skreened shopkeepers to send some part of their revenue straight to world-changing charities. That’s not just a compassionate move; it’s smart, too, because it attracts the sort of people who tend to give a shit. Those are the kind of people that could really make Skreened the sort of place people want to come to — not just a samey-samey Web Mart.
Here’s another way Fox and Skreened have shown that they’re different: they’re really, really responsive to concerns in a way that CafePress is definitely not and that Zazzle only sort of is. You’ve seen it here in an intense discussion during which someone objected to the Skreened Beta shop’s use of the word “Girls’” (along with “Guys”) to refer to women’s clothing. Look at the clothing descriptions on Skreened’s webshop now: you won’t see the word “Girl” used to refer to women’s clothing any longer.
I saw the same responsiveness yesterday when I wrote an e-mail to Daniel Fox with a question about the brand-spanking-new full version of Skreened:
I’m wondering if you could clarify. It seems from some of the “fabric info” links revised just today that some of the shirts (the
cheap tee, the hip hop tee, others?) are NOT American Apparel, but from some other line? Is this accurate?
I don’t have a problem with these being offered by Skreened, but in order to work with Skreened I need to be able to make those shirts unavailable. The way that the shop architecture is set up, it appears I can’t choose which products to make available on my shop and which to make unavailable, and that’s seriously unappealing. What’s the plan on this?
This seemed to be, in short, the same problem that the Zazzle webshop system presented. But here was Daniel’s response very shortly thereafter:
Actually, it’s not a problem at all, they’re gone.
I MAY bring them back in the future, I don’t want to, and if I do, I’ll make sure there’s a way for you to exclude them…
How could you possibly improve upon that?
Skreened seems to offer exactly the sort of t-shirt webshop that we’ve been looking for, with priorities in an order we can agree with. And so, starting today, we’re going to be opening up some webshops with political and social designs on them. And if you’re interested in doing the same thing, I strongly suggest you try it out. Daniel Fox and his team aren’t mega-corporate, so their system still has a few quirks to work out. But they’re authentically trying to improve the world around them, and you can’t beat that.