A Celeb-Backed Apparel Factory in Haiti Goes High-End

The apparel plant seeks to spark an industrywide revolution
Workers at IRII are trained in multiple skills, increasing their employability Photograph by David Rochkind for Bloomberg Businessweek

When apparel brand Boxercraft was searching for a new supplier for its T-shirts and tank tops earlier this year, it didn’t turn to factories that crank out millions on the cheap. Instead, the 120-employee business, based near Atlanta, chose Industrial Revolution II, a garment manufacturer in Haiti. What clinched the deal was more than IRII’s competitive prices and low importing costs: It was the venture’s promise to train unemployed Haitians, pay them more than the minimum wage, and donate half its profits to social programs. Shoppers are “feeling responsible for the actual employee that is making the products that everyone is wearing today,” says Boxercraft Chief Executive Officer Shelley Foland, noting that the garment complex collapse that killed 1,100 workers in Bangladesh this spring has brought renewed focus on the dismal conditions in some factories. Foland wants IRII eventually to produce about 40 percent of the millions of tops and bottoms Boxercraft sells annually through wholesalers and retailers in college bookstores and resorts.

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