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new york fashion study College of Design

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sweatshops? In America?

So what exactly does "Made in America" mean anyway? Does it mean that employees are making these clothes in fancy factories? Does it mean that these employees are making enough money to support themselves and their families in an expensive city like New York City? Reality hit me after visiting SemSem as I was exposed to working conditions that I wouldn't consider "fair." I was in a factory in the United States but I immediately compared the space to factories in China where sweatshops exist.

A sweatshop  is a factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages. Sweatshops often have poor working conditions, unreasonable hours, and a lack of benefits for workers.

The picture to the left was taken in the SemSem factory. This picture also resembles many sweatshops that I have seen in documentaries and protests recognizing poor labor conditions. This factory was tight, the room was small and workers had with little space to work. Not to mention, pipes, pieces of wood, and cords were hanging everywhere; it looked like a safety hazard ready to happen. It was also extremely hot in the factory, emphasizing the word 'sweat' in sweatshop. I was terribly uncomfortable in the little time that I spent in the factory, I can't even imagine how the workers felt working long hours standing in that heat and crammed area.

Although I can't say specifically what the employees in SemSem's factory are making, I can say with confidence that it isn't much. Especially compared the price that the garments they make sell for. SemSem produces garments for The Row and other high end lines. These garments sell anywhere from $495-$1500. I was surprised to learn that garments with such high value and sold at such high prices were produced in a factory like this.

When I used to think of "Made in America," I envisioned something much more glamorous. However, my trip to SemSem's factory changed my outlook completely. There are people all over the world that pacifically only purchase items made in America and there are also people who protest anything made outside the United States. It would be interesting to here what "Made in America" means to them. Have they seen what I have now seen? Are the labor conditions that much better in America?

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