I have a question. This past weekend I was in Berkeley and I came across some OBEY clothing, which I purchased, in a store called WICKED. There were some really cool t’s in there and some kick ass girl stuff too… My question is coming…
I am a huge Shepard fan…. HUGE. I think what the whole OBEY team is doingis pretty incredible! I am looking to you guys as my inspiration for the things I am trying to do… I run a few political t shirt companies and picking up some good momentum. I have gone through and read a lot of Shepard’s philosophies on his art, message and beliefs. One thing I noticed is that the clothing has the country of origin on it, i.e. Made in China or Thailand or whatever…
Conscious clothing has really been on my mind with all of the “sweat shop” talk and the idea that going to places like Mexico and China not only hurt our American economy, but also run the possibilities of unsafe and inhumane working conditions… My question would be this, do you know what the sources are for your clothing and products?
The reason I ask is because I don’t want to stand for a certain political or social view and then contradict myself by putting out a product that demeans that very true belief. Has OBEY thought of this or tried to assure that improper labor is not being used?
Keep up the true inspiring work…
Free Our People
From: Shepard Fairey
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 9:40:38 PM US/Pacific
Subject: Re: Obey clothing
I understand your concerns. When we first formed the Obey clothing company, I inquired about making the clothes domestically. The guys I work with explained that with the exception of certain items, clothing can not be manufactured domestically at a price the “streetwear” market will bear. Secondly, the U.S. makers who are more affordable, deliver a noticeably inferior product and pay their workers less relative to the cost of living in the U.S. than the people are paid in Asia relative to the cost of living there. Unfortunately, there are far fewer people who are willing to pay more for clothing to make sure it was made under humane conditions than there are who won’t buy it if it costs more than the Gap’s stuff. There is an incredibly low profit margin in clothing…20% if the brand is lucky. The store(retailer) however, has a standard mark-up of 100% or even more. For example, Obey wholesales its T-shirts for $9.50 but you rarely see them in the stores for less than $22. This is because the stores know what the consumer will pay and adds on a little extra. Retail rent is usually very expensive… so this policy is frustrating, but not hard to understand. The bottom line is that clothing is a very tough business overall; I do it as a platform for my graphics, not so much as an income source. Back to the labor conditions issue. My close friend Mike who is the clothing designer for Obey has spent a considerable amount of time with our manufacturers in China. The standard of living there is decidedly lower in general, but the factory conditions where the Obey stuff is made are very acceptable and people seemed more than happy to be working there. In fact, people came from hundreds of miles away because the pay is way better than what they could find in their town. Mike has actually spent the night in the factory many times to help make sure the production items were what he wanted. He describes the set-up as similar to college dorms with private bathrooms and lounge areas with T.V’s. I feel it is irresponsible to generalize about all factories in China or India. Look at the breadth of working conditions in the U.S., is it not logical that there is a range of conditions in other countries as well? I am definitely anti-exploitation and I have been given enough reassurances to feel that I can have a clear conscience. Your own conscience has to guide you.