For Ethical Purposes, Purchase Jabali Walli Shirts

Photo courtsey of Jabali Walli

Students show support for Jabali Walli T-shirts by modeling.

When I first heard about Jabali Walli T-shirts at a school meeting, I exchanged snarky comments with a friend. These shirts were made by slaves in South American sweatshops, right? Hearing about the T-shirts left me pondering an article I had recently read regarding the unethical ways that such clothing is manufactured. Websites like Custom Ink have made it extremely easy for people to make cheap custom T-shirts. However, the cost of these shirts pales in comparison to the human cost.

The largest T-shirt brands, such as Hanes and Gildan, have been found to use extremely unethical manufacturing practices. For instance, Gildan was recently criticized for using sweatshop labor in Honduras, where workers were harassed, intimidated, and ultimately fired for trying to unionize. But, because of  their affordability, these are the brands students usually choose when designing a dorm, club, or team item — and I expected Jabali Walli to be the same.

Jabali Walli is a T-shirt business, run by Sarah Gurevich ’19, that donates its profits to the financial aid office and local charities. I learned from Gurevitch that the Jabali Walli logo is printed onto Port & Company long-sleeve shirts at a local Wallingford business. Contrary to my expectation regarding Port & Company’s ethics, their parent company, SanMar, has been a member of the Fair Labor Association since 2012. The company has done a wonderful job of meeting legal and ethical standards, as well as being transparent about its supply chain.

The Jabali Walli T-shirts are made in Honduras, where San Mar has only one T-shirt making factory. According to a Fair Labor Association’s 2009 audit at the factory, which employs Honduran workers to sew their T-shirts, each factory posts the company’s global operating principles. This includes an open-door policy that allows workers to voice grievances  to supervisors any time. This stream of communication is essential to a healthy workplace. In the global garment industry, which employs more than 60 million people worldwide, policies such as these are surprisingly uncommon.

Gurevitch deliberately chose to print Jabali Walli shirts through  a Wallingford business. It is necessary for us as Choate students to consider our impact on the town that surrounds our campus. Supporting a local business is not only a more ethical choice, but also helps to promote stronger relations between the town and the school.

With luck, Jabali Walli’s exemplary use of printing Port & Company T-shirts in Wallingford can help to set a new standard for our commitment to ethical practices when making team, dorm, and club items. Even if you are not aware of it, purchasing a Hanes T-shirt means supporting the enslavement of Uzbek cotton pickers who produced the materials of that T-shirt.

Unfortunately, companies that profit from this cheaper labor are not willing to change their ways without consumers first speaking up. It is our job to be informed consumers and to think beyond the affordable price. Not only is there a human cost to our consumption, but there is also an environmental one, as well. Fashion is one of the world’s most polluting industries. It is the second largest polluter of clean water, and its overall environmental devastation is second only to the oil industry.

So spend your money on a brand like Jabali Walli. It’ll not only support Choate Financial Aid, but also  ethical labor practices in South America.

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