John Oliver Explains Why Clothes Are 'Cheaper and Easier Than Ever'


On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver offered a 17-minute addendum to that ‘cerulean’ speech Meryl Streep gave Anne Hathaway in the first act of The Devil Wears Prada. Streep memorably explained how the color’s popularity slowly trickled down from designer trend to bargain bin, but Oliver points out that she forgot one tiny step: the child labor.

“Half of our clothing was made in the United States as recently as 1990. [And today?] 2%.”

Oliver goes on to discuss the “pattern of troubling behavior by the fashion industry [as a whole] for the past 20 years.” He explains that after companies like Gap and Walmart found themselves accused of contracting with factories that use child labor, they declared their commitment to sweatshop-free clothing by exclusively contracting with approved factories. The problem, which he points out is industry-wide, is that those factories then subcontract out to the smaller ones where 12-year-olds stitch jeans together in buildings that are basically fire-prone death traps.

So when child laborers and poor working conditions are discovered, as they frequently are, the CEOs of these companies can give their most dramatic shrugs and say they didn’t know about it. As Oliver puts it, “Deniability seems to have beens stitched into the supply chain.”

Take that, Miranda.

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