Chances are good you’ve pretended to be a superhero while wearing nothing but your underwear, but thanks to the British clothing company Drake & Hutch, you actually will be one when wearing their skivvies. There’s an ugly side of fashion where both high-end lines and affordable chains use sweatshop labor to maintain profits. Drake & Hutch founder Pete McGuinness decided it mattered to him who made his clothes.
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In 2013, the world was rocked by the Rana Plaza collapse which killed an estimated 1,134 people in Bangladesh. This tragedy has been called the deadliest accidental structural failure in history. The workers in this willfully-neglected building were making clothes for companies all over the world, including brands like Walmart, J.C. Penny, and The Children’s Place in the US. There’s a hidden human cost to that t-shirt being so cheap and most companies work hard to keep it that way.
Not McGuinness. He chose to be completely transparent about the production of his Drake & Hutch tees and boxers. For a couple of years, McGuinness focused on finding the right resources, from raw materials to ethical manufacturers, that would enable him to create luxury clothing he could feel good about making and you would feel great about wearing. He saw, in action, how happy workers, paid a living wage, create superior products.
Let’s say you decide on a pair of Drake & Hutch’s Kensington Boxers, possibly the mint green pair with stag heads. Excellent choice! On the website, you can track its life, from its design inception in London’s famous Jermyn Street, to the cotton grown in the US and Turkey, over to Porto, Portugal, where a partner factory produces the underwear. Even the mill in Italy where the waistbands are made is highlighted. All of Drake & Hutch’s facilities and suppliers are deliberately located in Europe, the United States, and Australia, which have stringent laws on working conditions and pay.
At £22 (roughly $28 depending on the exchange rate) a piece, these boxers are a bit pricer than what’d you’d normally buy, but that’s because they’re a quality garment, designed and made with integrity and meant to last. Ironically, buying less expensive clothes can cost you more because they wear out so quickly. Each of those 22 pounds represents how every person in the process of making the garment benefits rather than being exploited.
With any luck, Pete McGuinness will be a trendsetter in more ways than one: when consumers are informed about the production process behind their clothes, they’re empowered to send a message that they want quality pieces made by people who have a good quality of life.