“Living-wage” line draws students to bookstore racks

The Alta Gracia clothing brand, a “living-wage” line launched at the Stanford Bookstore last September, has performed “as expected,” according to bookstore director Janet Gawley.

Alta Gracia is a subdivision of the Knights Apparel, Inc., which sources its clothing from the “La Altagracia” province of the Dominican Republic. The brand pays all of its workers a “living wage”–approximately three times the country’s minimum wage–which covers “adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care, child care and education for themselves and their families,” according to the company’s website.

(OLLIE KHAKWANI/The Stanford Daily)

According to Alta Gracia Commmunity Education Coordinator Rachel Taber, the brand is performing well this year. It launched in 250 bookstores and is already carried in 400.

“[We've had] a ton of student support nationally, tons of local newspapers have covered it and a lot of students have engaged their communities in it, teaching about it in their classes,” she said. “It’s totally unsolicited, a lot of it. At independent bookstores alone it more than tripled last year, which is a direct result of students going in and asking their bookstores to carry it more.”

For example, Taber noted, New York University’s $200,000 order of Alta Gracia apparel sold out within two weeks thanks to in-store promotions.

“Wherever students have really spoken up and vocalized that they want Alta Gracia to come to their campus, we’ve seen a lot of very good improvements,” Taber said.

Students on campus have shown substantial support for Alta Gracia, with student groups such as the Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) promoting the brand on campus.

The bookstore has also done its share of in-store and online promotion.

“We promote Alta Gracia through in-store posters and our website,” Gawley wrote in an email to The Daily. “When a customer selects the apparel section of our website–Alta Gracia is the first option available to them on the drop-down menu. No other vendor is listed within the apparel drop-down menu.”

Gawley called the price of Alta Gracia clothing “comparable” to other brands at the bookstore. For example, a basic short-sleeve t-shirt at the bookstore starts around $13. An Alta Gracia t-shirt is $18.

Follett Corporation, which runs bookstores across the country, including at Stanford, doubled its order from Alta Gracia in the last year, Taber said.

She also highlighted support from “progressive” and “business-oriented” groups across the country, among them the microfinance organization Campus Kiva, the United States Student Organization, United Students Against Sweatshops and various Dominican student groups.

“It’s really been a process across a spectrum,” she said.

Gawley said the Stanford Bookstore will continue to carry the brand given a positive consumer reception.

“Its products are of high quality, and the message they convey to the consumer is a positive one,” Gawley said. “We have seen steady sales of this merchandise, and I would expect that trend to continue.”

“We will continue to purchase apparel from Alta Gracia and bring in new product as it is available,” she continued. “We are very proud to be able to bring this product to the Stanford community.”

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