Women and men alike across the US are familiar with JCrew, a brand that has built both clothing lines and a style within itself. I personally love the bridge between simple classics and colorful whimsicality, but then again…this is isn’t a post about my style preferences J. Owning both Madewell and crewcuts, secondary brands and clothing lines, JCrew has gained fame as a high-quality brand catering to women and men of all ages. Their prices have a wide range, from designer collaborations with a designer dollar amount to off-season sale prices comparable to Target. Whether you are trying to be a smart shopper or a savy trend shopper, JCrew has it all.
But, how much do they let us see? JCrew does not own any factories overseas, and up until recently, used this as a claim to protect their integrity as a company. Really, this produces the opposite effect. Generally, the more transparent, the more trust consumers will put in a brand. Maybe, since they don’t own the factories deeper down the slope of the supply chain, they aren’t responsible. But, this is a concept we should challenge, as JCrew has recently done so. Just because we aren’t responsible first-hand for what happens behind the scenes doesn’t mean we can support it.
To their credit, before the company began investigating into their supply chain to create more transparency, they had in place a Vendor Code of Conduct, covering a multitude of areas such as child/forced labor, discrimination, harassment, wages, hours, health, safety, law compliance, and more. They publish their stance and actions of each of these issues they implement in the factories they source from.
However, the company claimed no responsibility for what happened in their outsourcing supply chain below sewing textiles into garments until the year 2010. This includes how the textiles were made, the creation of buttons, trims, zippers, dyes, etc. After 2010, they were affected by the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which called for companies to cultivate transparency for the sake of their customers. JCrew is continuing to work on transparency so their buyers can make informed, responsible choices.
On top of JCrew’s Code of Vendor Conduct, this Act requires them to verify products made abroad and assess factories for risks of human trafficking and forced labor, conduct factory audits, certify direct suppliers with compliances to their conduct code, maintain internal accountability, and provide employees who are dedicated to keeping the company on-track with all the above compliances.
Obviously, it takes a bit more than six years for a company to be transformed by one act, but JCrew has improved greatly with their transparency and compliance with laws and company-written codes that lead to ethically produced products. The company seems to have a highlighted focus on anti-human trafficking and forced labor, which is cool because a large percentage of their outsourcing is from Asia, where both of these injustices are tangible risks. So, though the company isn’t perfect, they are working on changing from the inside out, implementing both federal regulations and internal, corporate values into the way their products are fashioned.
Written by: Madeleine Williams