Women love to empower other women by purchasing CAbi (Carol Anderson by Design) clothing and supporting people they know while keeping the money local… but do you know where the clothes come from, and the conditions under which they are made?
The CAbi catalogs are beautiful, the website is okay (needs a proofreader and a really good Web designer), and the representatives are upbeat and supportive and really good at what they do. The clothing isn’t all that overpriced when you look at comparable pieces at Nordstrom, Dillards, Saks, Elder-Beerman…
The issue I have with CAbi is unfortunately a BIG ONE. The clothes are made in China, not in one of the more modern, humane facilities where working conditions are beginning to catch up with the First World and the 21st century, but in Shanghai’s “Manufacturing City,” which is nothing more than legalized slavery. Workers are paid virtually nothing (less than ONE U.S. dollar per day), are not allowed to leave the complex for weeks and sometimes months on end, and are forced to PAY for accommodations where they sleep in crowded, filthy conditions that are similar to puppy mills.
CAbi has its own foundation that claims to “encourage and empower women,” and that foundation supports some great not-for-profit organizations like World Vision and the International Justice Mission. Doesn’t it seem a little counter-intuitive, then, to EXPLOIT women in the making of designer clothes for westerners and then turn around and give a portion of the profits to fight one of the very same injustices that CAbi helps to perpetuate? No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.
So the upside is, the clothes tend to have a timeless style that you can continue to mix and match in your wardrobe for several seasons. Carol Anderson designs her clothes to mix well with other pieces from the same line AND from previous and future lines. The clothing is well-made, so you can expect to get several seasons out of your new CAbi items. Once I received an item that was NOT well made (one seam was completely missing — just an open side) and my sales rep made the arrangements to have the item replaced. She was terrific, but the company did take 12 weeks to complete the exchange — by which time, the new season had been introduced.
Even though, as a rule, I don’t support sweat shops, I do continue to purchase a lot, and I mean a LOT of CAbi clothing because I like the experience. That said, I feel an increasing sense of guilt and shame each time I spend $500 to $1500 per season on clothes that I know are the products of extreme exploitation. Would we want our mothers, sisters, or daughters to be treated the way the offshore garment industry treats its workers? Of course not! Much as I enjoy the clothes and the parties, I may need to get out of the CAbi habit soon.
It is starting to become easier to find quality clothing, accessories, and even the occasional appliance with the “Proudly Made in U.S.A.” label. Hopefully Carol Anderson and her company will follow the trend — and their consciences — sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful that CAbi will see the value in the “Made in USA” label. I posted a question on their website — very gingerly — asking if they would ever consider bringing production of CAbi fashions to the U.S. After a day, my question was deleted. Gone without a trace.