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‘Patriotic’ Brand Drops Supplier Over Xinjiang

A veteran-operated clothing company in Georgia has given one of its fabric suppliers the boot after accusing it of “participating in the slave trade” by using cotton from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where human-rights abuses against Muslim minorities have taken place.

Nine Line Apparel, which touts its made-in-the-U.S.A. T-shirts, hoodies and hats, wrote in a blog post on Thursday that the unnamed supplier had failed a round of isotopic testing, suggesting that it had falsely labeled the origin of its material. The Savannah-based company said that it has made the decision to no longer conduct business with the supplier in question until further testing shows it no longer employs cotton “derived from Uyghur forced labor camps.” Products that include the fabric have also been removed from the “relentlessly patriotic” retailer’s website.

“For reasons both moral and financial, we cannot in good conscience stay quiet as companies employ these inhumane practices,” Nine Line Apparel wrote. “Allowing this type of behavior is what hurts American companies competing with behemoths that have no concern for anything but their bottom line.”

Importing products made in whole or in part from Xinjiang is also illegal. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which went into effect in June, exacts the rebuttable presumption that all goods from the region are made with forced labor and therefore barred from entering the United States. As of Dec. 6, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has identified more than 2,300 entries valued at nearly $740 million for further examination under the statute.

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Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities are “currently being subjugated to work in inhospitable conditions with little to no pay,” it added, drawing a line with Georgia’s own ignoble history. “They are held against their will and will likely live and die within the confines of the prison system similar to that experienced by slaves right here in GA a few hundred years ago.”

Nine Line Apparel said that it has cut ties with Chinese manufacturers over the past decade to focus on working with partners in the United States.

“While most of our manufacturing is conducted stateside, when we do utilize foreign fabrics it is done so with extreme care and caution to ensure facilities are rated and adhere to international standards of care and compensation,” the National Rifle Association collaborator said. “As such, we were extremely disappointed to discover a small portion of our product indicated the presence of internationally banned cotton.”

This isn’t the first time DNA testing, which CBP accepts as evidence of compliance with the UFLPA, has uncovered a product’s ties with Xinjiang. When German scientists used isotopic techniques on a slew of garments in March, they found traces of Xinjiang cotton in T-shirts and button-downs from Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss—despite the fact that the brands say they no longer source materials or products there. Experts say this shows how difficult it is to purge supply chains of Xinjiang cotton, which accounts for more than 90 percent of Chinese cotton. Without enhanced mapping, goods made with forced labor can easily fall under the radar. Cotton, in particular, is prone to “laundering” to other non-Xinjiang locations, obscuring its provenance and potentially skirting scrutiny.

“We will take any and all steps to ensure the appropriate authorities are made aware of the situation,” Nine Line Apparel said. “We challenge all apparel brands across the country to follow suit and commit to ensuring that no slave cotton is sold to an American consumer. Only by cutting off the demand for slave-based fabrics can we strike a blow to the Chinese government’s genocidal campaign against the Uyghurs.”