In February of 2013, about 200 workers at a garment factory in Cambodia went on a hunger strike. They were employees of the Kingsland Factory in Phnom Penh, which produces underwear for retailers such as Walmart and H&M. The strike was meant to draw attention to the unsafe working conditions and unlivable wages the workers received. Eventually, the retailers reached a settlement with the workers, but the industry remained mostly unchanged. Garment workers are making pennies an hour in dangerous work environments so that we can have cheap briefs.
A number of garment workers were imprisoned in 2007 for challenging management about grueling production goals. Their employer was D. K. Garments, a contractor manufacturing underwear for Victoria's Secret.
A study by GreenPeace in 2011 found that a number of major fast fashion brands including Victoria's Secret, Zara, and Gap were manufacturing and selling clothing items that were LOADED with toxic chemicals. But it's cool, because apparently that's totally legal.
The point is, we need to stop buying cheap undies. People are suffering and not getting paid nearly enough to make your crappy panties. And what's worse, we're rubbing toxic chemicals on our most sensitive bits! So, let's not.
I'm guilty of it too. My underwear drawer still has plenty of the 5 for $25 pairs that I used to load up on from Victoria's and H&M. It's hard to find ethical replacements for most wardrobe staples; it's even harder to find ethical underwear that's actually affordable.
But, not so hard that it can't be done! Here are some brands worth trying. As you start to phase old underwear out, start adding some of these brands to your drawer. Your crotch will thank you.
Ethigal's Guide to Ethical Underwear
Europe & U.K.
WORON is a Scandanavian brand of sustainable apparel, including underwear and other wardrobe basics.
Pants to Poverty is an eco-friendly, fair trade underwear brand out of London that makes underwear using ethical methods from the farm to the butt!
Luva Huva is an Etsy shop out of London that ethically manufactures incredible, sexy lingerie using natural fabrics including organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and soy Jersey. They ship all over the world, including USA.
Canadians - Check out Azura Bay. This online shop sells nothing but ethical brands of lingerie! They use recycled packaging and donate a portion of the proceeds from every sale to charity.
p.s. sorry for all the times I said panties.