Trust but verify: one of the core tenets of the special operations community. But to the most senior executives within the apparel industry, it’s apparently a foreign concept.
Like the President mentioned in his State of the Union, the American people want to know their jobs are secure and that their government will crack down on unfair competition and unethical business practices. In 2021, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was the first of its kind legislation championed by both Democrats and Republicans and came into force in June of 2022. At that time, all manufacturers importing textiles had to certify they were not utilizing cotton or any other materials sourced from Xinjiang China where over 1 Million Uyghurs are conscripted from birth to some of the most inhumane and inhospitable conditions imaginable. The idea behind the law was to cripple the dependence on goods from China’s slave camps. Free slave labor meant of course much cheaper products for American businesses that imported cotton materials and clothes.
1. Stringer Shanghai/Reuters.com
At first I did not believe the test results and began to conduct a subsequent test in hopes this was an isolated incident. When I contacted the manufacturer’s CEO to request a meeting to determine next steps,their lawyers threatened litigation if I did not keep their name confidential. When I had my lawyers respond with Isotopic test results that are admissible in court, the tone changed and excuses came pouring in.
I buy my blanks – the plain clothes on which we print – from distributors like Sanmar and S&S activewear who house dozens of brands that I still use like Bella Canvas, Hanes, and District Thread. When I tested these brands and others, the results were offered to both manufacturers and distributors to know who is potentially breaking the law and at the very least, who is unethically misleading customers to believe products did not originate from Xinjiang.
As a result, I demanded to return all products at the exact cost I paid, and requested all goods be destroyed. While I have assurances from the manufacturer that the products I re-branded as Nine Line will be destroyed, there were no assurances that the slave-ridden products I did not re-label would be quarantined from entering the market. I would hope the manufacturer would work with a testing facility to verify my results or show competing results that my testing was flawed. Due to this lack of transparency, I informed the manufacturer that I will not be using their product offerings until they make assurances that all goods purchased through S&S Activewear's distribution center are tested prior to further purchases, unless the manufacturer will guarantee no future tests will show the presence of slave cotton. I truly appreciate the help of S&S and commend them for taking this situation seriously; they are allowing me to use the credit provided to purchase products from the likes of Hanes and Bella Canvas, who have passed previous tests. Over the past few months I discovered competitors who manufacture shirts with slave cotton can cut their COGS by upwards of 50% versus those companies who are ethically sourcing materials according to current import laws. This unfair advantage hurts those doing the right thing by forcing us to lower costs in order to remain competitive. One of my competitors in the Veteran space - a company that alludes they are “Veteran Owned” when they are in fact not - uses this unethical manufacturer almost exclusively, while similarly posting on social media the importance of ethics and doing the right thing for your community.
3. Getty Image/BBC.COM
It’s a shame that the American people have been lied to and are not able to trust what a company says. I have made it my life’s work to bring manufacturing back to the US and if we are unable to enforce the current laws, China will succeed in its blatantly obvious intent to undermine our economy and destabilize our manufacturing capabilities. Nine Line will answer the call to stick up for the Uyghurs and for the workers in our factory right here in Georgia. We will allow our actions to speak louder and will happily call out the hypocrites who advocate against social injustice while profiting hundreds of millions of dollars from the slave trade. Nine Line will return any and all products that test positive for containing slave cotton and encourage any retailer who is concerned with where their product is sourced to have them tested and look to alternative suppliers who do not sacrifice their soul for profits.
Image 1: (Stringer Shanghai/Reuters.com)
Image 2: (Wikicommons/Baptistpress.com)
Image 3: (Getty Image/BBC.COM)