Decoding Glassons #trueloveis tee

Today I saw three people I know wearing a simple white Tee with a plain rose on it, it got me thinking what this t-shirt was all about and so I did some digging.

The tee in question was manufactured by one of the most well recognised New Zealand fashion labels, Glassons. Made in association with the New Zealand charity Prepair, 100% of profits go towards supporting their work preventing domestic violence in NZ through educating young women.

All sounds great, right? But like most fashion labels, what’s presented on the outside is often far different to what is actually happening on the inside.

I believe that Glassons may have made a misguided attempt to ease consumer guilt by pushing a product that will likely convince thousands of young kiwi women that they are supporting a good cause. The problem is though, that we are attempting to solve one problem whilst ignoring (albeit potentially inadvertently) the true cost that this purchasing decision has.

Wearing a garment that supports women affected by domestic violence in our own country is admirable, but we need to acknowledge that the clothing used to demonstrate this is most likely made by exploited women and children in a developing one.

In a world that is increasingly connected we have to continually ask ourselves what the unintended consequences of any actions we take might be. Of course supporting campaigns that reduce domestic violence are important, but we must start looking at problems from a systems perspective.

I don’t have access to Glassons profit margins, supplier information or claim to know how they do business, but my knowledge of the industry combined with access to their publicly available “code of conduct” allows me to draw a number of conclusions about how this t-shirt was likely produced.

Decoded below is my personal assumptions and conclusions on how this tee was probably manufactured. I hope it’s recognised not as an attack on Glassons, but as a challenge to disclose more information about how their clothes are made.

Glassons Code of Conduct states, “Employers shall pay employees, at least the minimum wage required by local law or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher.”

As per the garment label this t-shirt was manufactured in Bangladesh, where the legal wage (and coincidentally the prevailing industry wage) is 68USD per month. Given that this equates to 20% of the Living Wage in this country this is my number one concern about this particular garment.

I’m willing to be proven wrong on this, actually I hope that I am, but my instincts tell me that I’m probably not.

Glassons Code of Conduct states,The supplier shall not engage in or support the use of child labour under 15 years of age.” I question if this benchmark is truly ethical, in the factories we work with nobody below the age of 18 is employed. I will leave that one for you to make your own judgement on.

Glassons Code of Conduct states,Personnel shall be provided with at least one day off following every six consecutive days of working. Exceptions to this rule apply only where both of the following conditions exist:

a) National law allows work time exceeding this limit; and

b) A freely negotiated collective bargaining agreement is in force that allows work time averaging, including adequate rest periods.”

So basically, one day off a week or zero days off a week. This particular statement in the “Code of Conduct” really irritates me because it actually doesn’t say anything of substance. It also fails to recognise what a “day of work” even consists of. In an industry where factory managers typically pressure employees to work 10–12 hour days, sometimes 16–18 hour days if a deadline is approaching, the statement provides no indication of the likely conditions endured by these workers.

Glassons Code of Conduct states, ‘All suppliers are obliged to provide Glassons with up to date information on the location and name of all production facilities that are being used to manufacture our product.’ This indicates that Glassons allows its factories to sub-contract work. While not un-ethical it goes against best practice because the ability to regulate the working conditions in sub-contracted facilities are even more difficult to monitor.

Glassons Code of Conduct states, “Compliance with all local laws, and general respect and awareness towards our actions and how this can affect our environment.” This product was made with non-organic cotton. The environmental impact in terms of pesticide use and water requirements for conventionally grown cotton is significant. We use only rain-fed organic cotton to ensure we actually respect the environment.

Glassons, if you want to make a campaign tee together next time that supports a cause AND does no harm in the process, give me a call. I’m all ears!

In the meantime if you’re passionate about a cause, do all you can to support it, perhaps consider donating directly.

p.s we love your work Prepair NZ.