Back Away From the Knockoff

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Immigrant hands sew much of the clothing produced in the US.

Immigrant hands sew much of the clothing produced in the US. Source: Eduard Chugunov hide caption

toggle caption Source: Eduard Chugunov

Well, there's just one problem with all that love for Forever21 (or Forever31)... even if you do think fashion should be more democratic, and not merely the province of the excessively wealthy, how do you think the stores we CAN afford keep their prices so low? According to filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, it's because of domestic sweatshops. Hmmm. Suddenly I don't feel so good about that sparkly top I purchased for New Year's Eve... Was it only ten bucks because the person who sewed it (quite well, too — that was NYE two years ago, and the shirt's still in mint condition) was making less than half that per hour? What do you think? Do low prices on garments always mean sweat shop labor got them to the shelves? Do you think about that when you pick up a pack of undershirts or browse at the mall? And is there any way to buy ethically... AND economically?



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could you speak to the psychology that drives people to want the brand name so badly that the demand has created this knock off industry? i have two friends, one that buys every fake coach bag or d&g sunglasses available...another that would never think of wearing a fake, only the real thing. (i do neither...even though i can afford the "real thing" i'm not interested in having it, at all. nor in having a fake.)

Sent by karen | 3:25 PM | 9-5-2007

The poor agrieved companies go to China to use "knock off" labor, so what is so wrong with people using "knock off" products? It is for the same reason: money. If American workers have become price uncompetitive to chinese workers maybe Nike has become price uncompetitive as compared to the "knock off" shoes. But the Billonaires whine like sick cats when it happens to them.

This is capitalism at its best. The chinese can do it better and cheaper and why should they not compete? Why should Rolex have a monopoly on the name? or the watch? Compete with the Chinese like the rest of us and quit whining!

Sent by George from Oregon | 3:44 PM | 9-5-2007

I was stunned that the program did not mention the obvious way that consumers can assure that their clothing is made under reasonable labor conditions -- look for the union label. Somehow, there was a mention of the ILGWU's early organizing drives without a recognition that there is still a textile workers union (actually an amalgam of all of the earlier unions, in part due to the decline in American apparel production). Just go to the UNITE-HERE website ( to find out what is happening. I've heard the union president, Bruce Raynor, speak and he is an interesting person. I think Talk of the Nation would do well to have a focus on their efforts.

Sent by Jan Hack Katz | 8:04 PM | 9-5-2007

is there a book about this that they talked about on NPR?

Sent by Rachelle | 9:05 PM | 9-5-2007

im an inmigrant from argentina, i have 2 kids and i love america my home. Im still "without papers" but i cant think my life back in my country. This story touch me deeply because i live it every day. Some day it will change, but we have to feed the kids for now.
keep the excellent work.

Sent by Emiliano | 11:35 PM | 9-9-2007

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