Great article on Shepard Fairey at Fecal Face.com. Take a look. As part of the commentary associated with the article, Fairey comments a bit on his clothing line association, the cost of goods and why they cannot afford to be made domestically:
"as far as corporations are concerned- where are the OBEY clothes being made?
Written by rdecute on 2007-08-14 19:18:57"
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.