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Clothes made in Haiti are potentially causing more harm than good in Haiti

The clothes that Haitians are making in large factories for American consumers are making their way back to the country and undercutting local tailors and clothing makers. That is what journalist Isabeau Doucet discovered while investigating the textile industry in Haiti.

The cruel irony of it all is that the growth of Haiti’s textile industry is in large part due to neo-liberal measures applied by major donors to Haiti, such as the United States. Doucet says that the flood of used clothing is harmful in much the same ways that subsidized US farmers flooded Haiti with cheaper food effectively undercutting the nation’s agriculture sector.

Now t-shirts are causing harm to Haitian businesses.

These days, demand for Haitian-style clothing designs has been reduced to uniforms, church clothes—for those practicing Vodou and members of other religious groups—or high-end fashion and tourist boutiques. And the streets throughout the country look like a protracted, open-air friperie, where clothing made cheaply all over the world—bought, worn, and discarded in Montreal, New York, or Dallas—is shipped to the Caribbean and can be seen billowing in the exhaust fumes of busy Haitian high streets or clogging canals, adding to the Haiti’s water and sewage crisis.

“Professional tailors who do haute couture are disappearing from the country,” says Daomed Daniel, a tailor who has run his own shop in Cité Soleil for 30 years. Daniel says he used to have full-time work, but the expansion of the used-clothing market, locally known as pepe orcontrebande because it is often smuggled and dumped illegally, has forced him to live mainly on commissions earned by making children’s school uniforms.

Industrialization was meant to bring better jobs and wages for Haitians, but it hasn’t. Minimum wage laws have done little as wages have held steady for the past decade while the price of things from rent to food increase.

HT Tate Watkins


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]