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Merrimack Valley

May 5, 2013

Shoppers face hurdles in finding ethical clothing

(Continued)

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of the firm, says when he polls shoppers about their biggest concerns, they rarely mention “where something is made” or “abuses” in the factories in other countries.

“We have seen no consumer reaction to any charges about harmful working conditions,” he says.

Tom Burson, 49, certainly is focused more on price and quality when he’s shopping. Burson says that if someone told him that a brand of jeans is made in “sweatshops by 8-year-olds,” he wouldn’t buy it. But he says, overall, there is no practical way for him to trace where his pants were made.

“I am looking for value,” says Burson, a management consultant who lives in Ashburn, Va. “I am not callous and not unconcerned about the conditions of the workers. It’s just that when I am standing in a clothing store and am comparing two pairs of pants, there’s nothing I can do about it. I need the pants.”

In light of the recent disasters, though, some experts and retailers say things are slowly changing. They say more shoppers are starting to pay attention to labels and where their clothes are made.

Swati Argade, a clothing designer who promotes her Bhoomki boutique in the Brooklyn borough of New York City as “ethically fashioned,” says people have been more conscious about where their clothes come from.

The store, which means “of the earth” in Hindi, sells everything from $18 organic cotton underwear to $1,000 coats that are primarily made in factories that are owned by their workers in India or Peru or that are designed by local designers in New York City.

“After the November fire in Bangladesh, many customers says it made them more aware of the things they buy, and who makes them,” Argade says.

Jennifer Galatioto, a 31-year-old fashion photographer from Brooklyn, is among the shoppers who have become thoughtful about where her clothes are made. Galatioto has been making trips to local shops in the Williamsburg, a section of Brooklyn that sells a lot of clothes made locally. She has also ventured to local shopping markets that feature handmade clothing.

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