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Shirt representatives visit Dominican partners

Meghan Thomassen | Monday, April 16, 2012

Notre Dame fans can wear The Shirt with even more pride than usual this football season, thanks to its new socially-conscious manufacturer, Alta Gracia.

Alta Gracia is the only apparel manufacturer in the world that pays a living wage to its employees, “respects their rights” and “provides a safe workplace,” according to the company’s website.

Senior president of The Shirt Project Andrew Alea and freshman designer John Wetzel paid a visit to the Dominican company’s headquarters from April 11 to 13.

“We were down there for one day, where [The Shirt] is being sewn together, boxed and shipped,” Wetzel said. “We toured the factory … You could see how a lot of the people there who were usually jobless were happy to go to work every day.”

Alta Gracia flew Alea and Wetzel down to the factory on an all-expenses-paid visit. Alea said the experience was enlightening, showing the pair the good the production of The Shirt does.

“It was good will on their part to show us what good The Shirt will do,” Alea said. “It really is making a difference.”

Wetzel said his experience as a design major was the primary reason he became involved in the organization. However, he said seeing the operation of the factory firsthand made his work all the more real.

“[The workers] knew they had somewhere to go to work every day to earn money for their families,” Wetzel said. “One worker, who had only been with the company for two years, had already built himself a brand-new house with four bedrooms for his entire family.”

Alea said The Shirt’s involvement with Alta Gracia is more rewarding now that he has seen the work being done in the Dominican Republic.

“I have a whole new level of appreciation now that we got to see the outcome,” Alea said.  “We saw the socially-conscious facility, and some of the workers who have been there for almost seven years.”

Wetzel said the people who work at the factory contribute to the socially-conscious spirit of the company.

“The workers are excited to be part of the progress, part of the change,” Wetzel said. “It’s obvious they enjoy what they do.”

The 2012 edition of The Shirt will be revealed April 20 at the Unveiling Ceremony at the Hammes Bookstore from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Both Alea and Wetzel will represent the Shirt Committee, with Irish football coach Brian Kelly participating in the ceremony.

For more information about The Shirt, visit theshirt.nd.edu, follow @theshirtnd on Twitter or “like” The Shirt ND on Facebook.