So, for this week's edition of Real World Wednesday: Child Labor and the Gap.
Gap started in San Francisco, and before the brand grew to be known as the place for middle-class and/or 1980's yuppy jeans or factory shopping in bulk, Gap had a reputation for doing business differently. Maybe it was the start in San Francisco, but the brand didn't seem to get tossed around with the same disdain as other chain stores and over the past (nearly) forty years has grown to be a part of the International middle-class fashion vocabulary.
So, when I learned that they were having a child labor problem, I grew concerned. Many of my clothes come from the Gap, or their sister stores Banana Republic and Old Navy. It would prove quite the challenge for me to boycott the store. So, unlike my willingness to believe, for such a long time, that Tommy Hilfigger was an awful person, I simply couldn't accept that Gap had gone so, so wrong.
Certainly, I've seen the labels in my clothes. Made in Bangladesh. Made in India. Made in China. But I had hopes of employee owned cooperatives and happy people making decent wages. Instead, I saw that, "children as young as 10 who said they were working 16 hours a day for no pay." I went over the clothes in my closet, in my drawers, my beautiful ivory colored coat bought straight out of the front window of Seattle's Banana Republic four years ago. I held my breath and kept reading.
A Gap executive says (in the Article on CNN.com), "In 2006, Gap Inc. ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations. We have 90 people located around the world whose job is to ensure compliance with our Code of Vendor Conduct."
Clearly, at least one of those 90 people wasn't exactly doing the job right.
The article goes on to say that the particular factory, with which the Gap will no longer do business, was producing blouses for the Christmas market, not necessarily anything that I happen to have in my closet right now. So, that's a sigh of relief. But I have not been a responsible shopper, blindly purchasing from Gap for years. Obviously "made in Bangladesh," cannot be a good sign, can it?
Gap is scrambling for handle the PR mess, and has placed a statement on their website that basically reiterates everything already stated in press coverage around the world.
I am not clear on what to think of the Gap story. I won't stop wearing the clothes I do have, because, quite frankly, they make up so much of my wardrobe that someone would need to give me a large check in order for me to search out clothes not made by seven year olds. I will, however, strive for more caution when making purposes.
In contrast to the Gap story, Oprah Winfrey has truly handled her awkward scandal with gusto. Instead of releasing statements with multiple meanings, she has flown to Africa twice in two weeks. If Oprah made clothes, I would probably buy them.
More Info on the Oprah story:
Resources On Child Labor Violations Around the World