I've long wished for a way to buy clothing with the knowledge that it was produced in good working conditions. Enough time spent around labor organizers has convinced me that even the occasional Made in America label doesn't guarantee worker safety, and it's almost impossible to know what sort of story the Made in Malaysia label is desperately trying to tell.
That's why I'm happy to direct you all to American Apparel, a completely sweatshop free, domestically made and immigrant staffed clothing company. They're one of those rare companies with a combination of social conscience and economic vision (from the Sacramento Bee):
American Apparel, run by a unique, effusively irreverent Canadian immigrant named Dov Charney, is itself a unique and moving tale. It prides itself on paying an average of $13 an hour to its largely immigrant work force, nearly double the minimum wage, plus health insurance. It offers - and pays for - classes in English, plus a string of other benefits. Its motto is "sweatshop free." One sign at the gate declares American Apparel to be a "T-shirt kibbutz."
Just as telling, maybe, the company, operating in an industry in which bare-bones cost-cutting is standard, doesn't outsource any of its work. None of its products are made in China, not because Charney wants to be a good guy, but because he believes he can do everything, from design to shipping to marketing, more efficiently here.
I'm always excited by companies that make good products, do good things and have a chance for survival. So if you need some clothing anytime soon, I'd suggest shopping with them. At the very least, I know exactly who's going to be providing my UCLA wardrobe. And for once, I know they pay their workers $13 an hour, help them learn English, and ensure they have health benefits. What more could you want?