NPR logo NPR's Planet Money Illuminates The World Behind The T-Shirt

NPR's Planet Money Illuminates The World Behind The T-Shirt


Multimedia Series Explores Global Economy by Following T-Shirt Around the World, From Farms Where the Cotton Was Grown to Factories Where the Shirts Were Assembled

NPR's Planet Money launches its most ambitious project to date to illuminate the vast, interconnected world behind one unassuming and ubiquitous clothing item – the T-shirt. After selling almost 25,000 T-shirts through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the award-winning team today kicks off Planet Money T-shirt Week, a globe-spanning series that documents the entire production of its tee in sound, images and words. Audiences can experience the journey today-Friday, December 2-6 on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and also at a stunningly-produced, video-rich website at

Led by Planet Money co-creator Alex Blumberg, the project tells the story of how most people's clothes actually get made and reveals there is nothing ordinary about a simple T-shirt. Blumberg and other Planet Money journalists follow each step of the shirt's creation in a trip that takes them almost literally around the world – from the U.S. to Indonesia, to Bangladesh and Colombia, and eventually back to the U.S.

As the reports progress, Planet Money unravels the complicated supply chain to discover both the economic forces and human labor involved in producing the basic T-shirt. Meet the people who grow the cotton, spin the yarn and cut and sew the fabric. Ride cargo ships that bring the T-shirt from factories in Bangladesh and Colombia to ports in the U.S. Find out why the shipping container may be the unsung hero of the global economy. And learn more about the crazy tangle of international regulations which govern the apparel industry. Each report from disparate locales brings new revelations, both serious and humorous, about everyday goods often taken for granted.

Planet Money initiated the project with a Kickstarter campaign. They set the goal at $50,000 (enough to make 2500 shirts); in two weeks, fans ended up donating almost $600,000. The first run of those 25,000 T-shirts has been shipped to contributors, who are encouraged to share photographs of themselves wearing the shirt via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #seedtoshirt. More photos and behind-the-scenes moments can be found at the Seed to Shirt tumblr.

Planet Money is a joint project of NPR and This American Life. It focuses on coverage of the global economy. Imagine being able to call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now, imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's the high bar Planet Money reaches for. The team produces a twice-weekly podcast, reports stories on NPR programs, and on its blog. Follow the team @PlanetMoney and on


NPR Media Relations: Emerson Brown
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