For as long as we’ve been selling shirts here at Irregular Times, we’ve been committed to selling our shirts ethically. We’ve sought out partnerships with companies like Skreened, which only sell items of clothing made in the USA. We’re also pleased that CafePress is taking strong moves to offer more sweatshop-free clothes, though many of its shirts are still made in highly unethical conditions. Selling only made in the USA shirts is an important stand for us, because most clothes for sale in the USA are made outside of the USA in order to evade fair labor standards and environmental regulations.
Sweatshop clothes are cheap because they’re made at the expense of child workers, and sometimes even slave labor, in factories that spew filth that poisons the surrounding communities. Eventually, we all pay the price for the existence of these reprehensible garment mills, but many people don’t pay attention to the long term consequences, and just focus on finding whatever seems cheap at the moment.
Young girls between the ages of 9 and 12 would definitely fit into the category of people focused on finding cheap clothes. They don’t have much money to spend, after all. The people who run the women’s clothing store The Limited seem to have noticed their interest – they’ve created a whole new store focused on connecting young girls of this age (they call them “tweens”) with cheap clothes with just the sort of gaudy clothes that their young minds find stimulating.
It was the name of this store that caught my attention when I saw it: Justice. Justice? Could it be a clothing store in the mall that focused on selling ethically-made, sweatshop-free clothes? I had to know more, so in spite of the risk to my eyesight, I walked into the store, and fought my way through the ocean of bright pink and yellow, to ask for a catalog.
Sadly, there was no information about anything at all related to actual issues of justice in the catalog – only shirts with the peace symbol, sold under the slogan peace rocks! Oy. Peace doesn’t rock, actually. That’s kind of the point of peace.
I went to the website – shopjustice.com – and looked there too, and at the site of the store’s parent company, tweenbrands.com. I found absolutely nothing about justice for workers in overseas sweatshops. In fact, even in the TweenBrands code of business conduct and ethics, there is not one word about fair trade, or fair labor standards, or a living wage, or even a commitment to pay minimum wages. Justice seems quite willing to sell clothes made cheaply through the exploitation of unjust conditions. The only commitment Justice and TweenBrands make concerning selling clothes made overseas is that they will obey importation laws: “We have a strict policy of complying with all legal requirements associated with the importation of goods into the United States.”
When it comes to ethical standards, the standard followed by Justice and TweenBrands is so low as to barely be a standard at all. It seems that Justice stores are not really doing anything to battle injustice. In fact, they’re promoting injustice using the brand name Justice to make it seem otherwise, appealing to young girls’ fresh idealism even as they trash it, selling clothes for tweens that probably were made by tweens. Orwell rocks!
There are ethical alternatives. One of these alternatives actually comes with the same brand name – or nearly the same name: Justice Clothing, which only sells clothes that are made by unionized and sweatshop-free businesses. Tweens, take note: That’s what real justice looks like.