The news that the U.S. Olympic team’s apparel, supplied by American designer Ralph Lauren, is being manufactured in China has caused a firestorm of criticism. The concern relates to something more than national pride – it relates also to issues about the working conditions of the workers who produce the clothing.
According to Robert J.S. Ross, a professor of sociology at Clark University, who wrote an op-ed piece entitled “A fashion don’t” published in today’s Los Angeles Time, the Olympic team women’s skirt produced in China costs $498. Ross states that Chinese producers officially pay their workers between 93 cents and just over $1 an hour, although unofficially many workers earn less and rarely get a day off. Ross urges the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure its logo gear is sweatshop free, wherever it is made.
Attending festivals is a delightful part of the summer season, and seeing what the vendors have to offer is part of the fun. For instance, the Festival of the Arts in Hermosa Beach, California, held on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends each year, is a delightful opportunity to enjoy festive music and tasty food and to shop for artwork, clothing and trinkets under the Southern California sun.
I relish the opportunity to browse through handmade artwork, clothing and jewelry designs at the festivals. There’s something wonderfully special about acquiring an item created by a local vendor, and always associating the item with the place it was purchased and the story behind it.
What I find sad, however, is seeing the throngs of women crowding the booths where jewelry is being sold for as little as a dollar or two.
I can’t fault the high school students or others with limited resources for taking advantage of an opportunity to buy something fun for a song. For the rest, consider: If the jewelry is being sold for so little, imagine what the vendor paid for it and its likely source. These products are a fashion don’t.