No Sweat's NS01 short-sleeve T-shirts are available in 160gsm and 180gsm styles

No Sweat’s NS01 short-sleeve T-shirts are available in 160gsm and 180gsm styles

The T-shirt brand that campaigns against sweatshops

Since 2015, when No Sweat first decided to launch its own T-shirt range, it had one mission: to create the T-shirt that fights sweatshops.

After 15 years of campaigning against exploitation in the garment industry, from when it first hoisted its banner outside Nike Town on London’s Oxford Circus, No Sweat had seen many changes in how clothes are made and consumed – at least, that is how it seemed on the surface.

Jay Kerr, project lead on No Sweat’s T-shirts, explains: “We’d reached a point where the industry had said it had solved the problem, every company said it didn’t use sweatshops and every company was eco-conscious with their own organic range. But our trade union friends in countries like Bangladesh were still telling us stories about exploitation in the factories, and while every brand promoted its eco-range, they all sold plenty of non-eco products as well. Things hadn’t really changed, there was just a lot of PR saying they had.”

Workers’ rights No Sweat is known for its support of workers’ rights around the world. Its history  involves campaigns in support of trade unions from Haiti and Mexico to Myanmar and Indonesia. So, when the campaign group decided to start its own range of T-shirts, workers’ rights were always going to be at the centre.

No Sweat has campaigned against exploitation in the garment industry since 2000

No Sweat has campaigned against exploitation in the garment industry since 2000

“We didn’t want to create just another fashion brand,” Jay explains.

“We wanted to create the anti-fashion brand. If fashion was all about a shiny exterior that puts an ethical gloss on the exploitation the garment industry, we were going to create something that puts our principles first and make sure people and the environment came before profit.”

No Sweat made a decision to only sell organic T-shirts that were made by unionised workers, and last year partnered with the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation to source from a new factory that has a strong trade union.

The result is its NS01 and NS02 ranges that each come with a label proclaiming ‘This T-shirt Fights Sweatshops’.

Watch the Punks Against Sweatshops campaign video!

NS01 and NS02

NS01 is a range of short-sleeve jersey T-shirts that come in both a lightweight 160gsm style and heavier 180gsm, while NS02 is a long-sleeved version of the 180gsm T-shirt with ribbed cuffs. Both are made from 100% combed organic cotton that is super-soft and Gots-certified.

“We only use 100% certified organic cotton in all our products, so no pesticides are used in anything we produce, which makes them vegan-friendly too,” Jay says.

“We don’t believe in having an ethical range and a non-ethical range just to maximise profits, in fact we set the company up as a not-for-profit business that operates a co-operative model, this means ditching the profit motive entirely.

“While we do make a profit, that money does’t go into anyone’s pocket, it goes into a Garment Solidarity Fund that we send out to trade unions around the world fighting sweatshop labour.

“‘People before profit’ is more than just a slogan for us, it’s at the heart of everything we do.”

No Sweat also produces tote bags

No Sweat also produces tote bags

The No Sweat range is small by most standards but, says Jay, that is very much by design.

“Because we take sustainability seriously, we limited the colour range of our T-shirts to core, popular colours. While this limits our potential market share, it means we produce less waste. Over-production is a serious issue in the industry, with tonnes of garments being dumped in landfill sites ever year. By limiting the colour range, we avoid over-production. When customers need a specific colour, we look to make bespoke orders tailored to their needs.”

“No Sweat T-shirts is a fresh face in the industry,” says the group.

“Activists at heart, we are putting workers’ rights and trade unions at the centre of what it means to be ethical.”