Wednesday, February 23, 2011

By the way, T-shirts are made in Liberia

Amid the debate that heated up in the past two weeks over World Vision's distribution of the NFL's cast-off t-shirts, which fired up keyboards from boutique Aid blogs to the Huffington Post, I felt like I was the only one pointing out that, amidst all the very interesting economic development conjecture about the global garment trade, local vendors, and real consequences, there is actually at least one t-shirt manufacturer in tropical Africa: Monrovia's own Liberian Women's Sewing Project, part of Liberty & Justice and backed in part by Root Capital.

I thought this had been well-exposed during the high-profile story by Christian Purefoy on CNN last August, but in all the blog posts and related comments about this as well as the lesser-known move some time ago by Bono's feel-good couture brand Edun to move its production from Africa to China, there seemed to be a lack of awareness that making garments in sub-Saharan Africa is not purely theoretical.

Purefoy's video report on the sewing project suggests that the company plans to be able to produce millions of t-shirts this year. Aside from whether NFL t-shirts are the type of purchase order they would even care for, and apart from any of the other questions about the true impact of giving t-shirts away, it is worth pointing out again that Liberia is successfully manufacturing garments, right now.

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