Today I’m wearing a T-shirt from Robert Redford’s Sundance catalog. It was Made in the USA. I’m guessing that my T-shirt was made under good working conditions.
The reason I’m guessing is that I don’t have a whole lot to go on. Sundance doesn’t have a code of social responsibility that I could find — unless, you count this stuff about the environment. I’ve mentioned before that companies often shout from roof tops about the steps they have taken to ease their environmental impact (We care about the footprint, but what about the foot), but when it comes to social issues, their voices are mere murmurs if audible at all.
Still, I will give Sundance the benefit of the doubt that they do things right or at least try to. Robert Redford is a champion of many causes and I don’t think he would lend his name to anything ethically dubious. Here’s how he describes the catalog:
“To us, Sundance is and always will be a dream. What you see, smell, taste and feel here is a dream being carefully nurtured. It is an area whose pledge is to people. What we offer in the form of art and culture, spirit and service, is homegrown and available to all.”
I must confess: I wish that Robert Redford was my dad. No offense to my actual dad, but how cool would it be to have RR reading you a bedtime story as a kid — heck as an adult. When I read the statement above, I imagine that me and RR are watering our horses at the most idyllic mountain stream ever, and then he starts talking about Sundance’s “pledge to people” in that voice of his. So, I believe every word.
My heart and gut believe that Sundance is a company that others should strive to be like. Just glance at their catalog and a few really cool things jump out: they sell some fair trade items and they support jewelry artists. That said, the catalog is disappointingly typical in one regard and leaves me asking the question that most catalogs do:
Where the heck is Imported?
The catalog features hundreds of items that are sourced from only five places. Quite a few things come from the USA — more than in most catalogs. There’s dinnerware from Spain, Rodeo Fringed boots from Italy, and a bracelet fit for a Mayan king made in Mexico. But the majority of items were Made in Imported.
Why can’t we know up front where an item of clothing we order was made? As soon as we get the item, we’ll be able to look at the tag and see. Some people don’t want to buy clothes Made in China because they don’t approve of their human rights violations. Other may want to buy products made in Cambodia because the industry is more regulated than most.
All I’m saying is that we, as consumers, have the right to know where our products come from before we order them. I think that most companies only list the country of origin when it is advantageous on the marketing side of things: “Checkout my Italian shoes…Oh, this spoon, it was made in Spain…I’m glad you like my bracelet; it was handcrafted in Mexico.”
Join me in sending a letter to your favorite catalog asking that they list the country of origin for every item they sell.
Here’s the letter I’m sending to Sundance. Feel free to steal it:
I’m a long time customer. I’ve bought clothes and jewelry for my wife from your catalog. One of my favorite T-shirts is your long sleeve Camera Tee.
I love that you support artists, offer some fair trade items, and are environmentally conscious. As an engaged consumer I not only care about quality, I care about where my products come from. In your summer 2009 catalog, I noticed that many of your products are listed as Imported. I would like to encourage you to list the country of origin for every item in your catalog.
Patagonia started doing this last year, and has forever won my support. I hope you’ll do the same.
I wish my life was more like a Sundance catalog. I wish my father was Robert Redford. But most of all I wish Sundance would lead the way and list the countries where all of their products come from?
Kelsey Timmerman is the author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes. He’s currently hosting an iPod giveaway on his blog.