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Alta Gracia promotes fair factory practices

Drew Pangraze | Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Focused on promoting service and socially responsible business practices, members of the Notre Dame community met in Geddes Hall on Wednesday to discuss the apparel company Alta Gracia.

The clothing company provides workers with living wages while maintaining competitive pricing in the apparel market.

Since its inception 10 years ago, Alta Gracia has surpassed Nike and adidas as the No. 1 supplier of collegiate apparel and is gaining ground as Notre Dame’s chief source of blank T-shirts, event presenters said. 

Alta Gracia’s website states it is also the only clothing factory in the world that pays the people who make the clothing a living wage, the amount of money needed to support a family.

During the presentation “Alta Gracia: Changing Lives One Shirt at a Time,” senior Alta Gracia intern Caitlin Alli said the company can provide adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, healthcare, child care and education for its workers by charging $0.30 more per shirt.  

“With the extra $0.30, Alta Gracia is able to pay their workers a living wage of $2.83 an hour — that is 240 percent higher than the minimum wage of $0.83 an hour in the Dominican Republic,” Alli said.

College students nationwide have demonstrated an interest in paying extra if it means their purchases will have a direct positive impact on workers’ lives. Notre Dame, Duke, UCLA and Brown are among the 350 schools nationwide that are currently working with Alta Gracia to produce their collegiate apparel.

Alta Gracia has already partnered with The Shirt Committee and agreed to produce The Shirt for the 2012 football season. Junior Andrew Alea, president of the 2012 Shirt Committee, said Alta Gracia’s mission makes it the perfect vendor for this year’s version of The Shirt.

“They produce quality shirts, have a quick turnaround time, are fully committed to The Shirt Project and their message of ‘changing lives one shirt at a time’ is consistent with the inherent goals of The Shirt Project and the University of Notre Dame,” Alea said.

According to the presentation, Alta Gracia relies heavily on workers’ stories and college student activism for marketing. Senior Amanda Meza had the opportunity to visit the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic last spring.

“During my time in the Alta Gracia village in the Dominican Republic, I stayed with a local family,” Meza said.  “There was little water and the electricity went out frequently. I was able to talk with the factory workers and to spend some time in their shoes.”

Meza has since returned to Notre Dame with a passion for the Alta Gracia cause and hopes the community becomes more involved in the company’s mission.

“Alta Gracia can make the shirt for any Notre Dame club on campus,” said Meza.  “The factory makes the literal shirt, and a local South Bend vendor imprints the graphics. We need students’ support.”

Sophomore Alta Gracia intern Samuel Evola said Notre Dame’s proponents of Alta Gracia are working to sell more of the company’s clothing at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, as well.  

“We know that socially responsible clothing is highly profitable, so we hope the [Hammes] Notre Dame Bookstore will support Alta Gracia,” Evola said. “We’re hoping to have as much as $500,000 worth of Alta Gracia gear for sale in the bookstore down the road.”