Your Ethical Guide to Custom T-Shirts - American Apparel and Alternative Apparel

You want to support worker rights and be mindful of the environment with your wholesale purchase, but you also want your shirts to look good. We understand sweatshop-free options aren't always fashion-forward, so we prioritize finding new styles that fit into our criteria.

Unfortunately, the trusted sources we use to evaluate brands like Anvil, Gildan, and Hanes don't review two of the most popular brands for fashionable wholesale orders: American Apparel and Alternative Apparel.

Though these companies both fit into various criteria we set, like being made in the US and manufacturing with organic/eco fabrics, deciding whether or not to work with them for bulk orders has been difficult.

    Explore the reports linked on this page, and make your own decision about which brands to support. If you decide you want an Ethix-approved T-shirt for your group, then we look forward to helping you!

       
     Company American Apparel Alternative Apparel
    Factory Locations United States United States, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Indonesia and China
    Company Type Public Company (US) Privately held
     Size 10,000 employees, over $500 million in revenue in 2009 100 - 250 employees, $50 - 100 million annual revenue
    The good American Apparel publishes information about their working conditions and vertical integration Alternative Apparel has corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental information
    The bad
    • The vast majority of American Apparel's options are not organic.
    • Criticisms of their overly sexualized advertisements have led some to call their campaigns out as pornography with very young women featured.
    • Last year the company nearly folded when massive expansion efforts did not result in massive sales. Thousands faced the possibility of losing their jobs, and they are still facing uncertainty.
    • Most of Alternative Apparel's clothing has no eco or organic component.
    • Double standards are apparent with a close reading of Alternative Apparel's CSR pages. Using qualifiers like "primarily" and "many" doesn't bode well with Ethix. What about the rest of the factories and workers there?
    • While some products are made in the USA, many are not, and there is no easy way to distinguish this. Could it be they only manufacture in the US when other (cheaper) options aren't available? It's confusing to figure out the locally made items.
    The ugly
    • Union busting has a rich history at American Apparel. After keeping UNITE out, the company remains unfriendly toward worker organizing.
    • As Robert J.S. Ross recently wrote about company founder Dov Charney, "One blushes to repeat the stories: Charney masturbated in the presence of a reporter from Jane magazine who was doing a profile; he was accused of harassment by female employees; he is reported to have conducted meetings in his underwear; he believes consensual sex with his employees is fine and apparently solicits it."
    • The most recent sexual misconduct charges were reported in 2011 by former employee Irene Morales; it's unclear what the outcome will be.
    • Alternative Apparel looks to the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP). Both organizations are known within the anti-sweatshop movement to lack moxie. See the United Students Against Sweatshop FLA page.
    • We consider the fact they trust the FLA and WRAP to be on par with how Gildan and Hanes "prove" their CSR, with fair-washing.

     

    We think there are several more ethical and fashionable t-shirt companies-

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