A new line of clothing is being sold at CSUN’s Matador Bookstore but unlike the numerous clothes that already line the racks, this clothing line is much different.
Alta Gracia, the new brand of clothing, is made in a factory that pays the workers a living wage, enough money to provide for adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care and education for their families.
“This can truly be a way out of poverty and can be life-changing,” said Joe Bozich, CEO of Knights Apparel, the sponsoring company of Alta Gracia, in a conference call.
Bookstores all around the country are carrying the new clothing line in their stores in hopes of making a difference, as stated in a press release.
“This exciting new offering will enable students, their families, and alumni to buy T-shirts and fleeces made at a factory that pays its workers a living wage, fully respects their associational rights, and meets or exceeds all university labor standards,” said Amy Berger, director of the Matador Bookstore.
The Alta Gracia factory is based in the Dominican Republic and named after Villa Altagracia where the factory is located.
The brand chose the Dominican Republic because there was a previous factory there that had lost jobs and the owners saw that there was some expertise there, Bozich said. They had originally wanted to do it in Haiti, but because of the infrastructure could not do it, he said.
The workers get about three times more than the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic, Bozich said.
There are currently about 125 people employed but there is room to expand if the demand is there, said Donnie Hodge, president of Knights Apparel in a conference call.
The factory is watched by the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights watchdog organization.
This organization has been monitoring Alta Gracia from the beginning throughout conception and development, said Theresa Haas, director of communications, in a conference call.
There hasn’t been a factory that has been monitored this intensely, Haas said.
The success really depends on consumer demand, Bozich said.
Other bookstores throughout the country that already have the Alta Gracia brand have seen some success.
Jim Wilkerson, licensing director and bookstore manager said Duke University currently carries the line and they have sold about 600 pieces which totals about $11,000 in retail.
Prices are similar to other similar items, Wilkerson and Berger said.
The company is working off a lower profit margin because the costs are higher, but they still wanted to price the items competitively, Bozich said.
The marketing stag is to have workers tell their own story in their own words, and the brand has devised the campaign about that, Wilkerson said.
It’s important that students know the difference about these jobs, he said.
Alta Gracia features pictures of workers along with quotes from them, about what it’s like working for the company.
The Duke University bookstore has been marketing the line by using large displays, full color signs and taking out ads in the school newspaper as well as around the community on buses and banners.
“We are marketing aggressively, we are doing everything we can so students understand the uniqueness,” Wilkerson said.
Junior Lauren Lefkowitz, 21, marketing major, said she is more likely to buy the clothing if she knows it comes from a company that treats employees fairly.