Je Suis un T-Shirt. Am I Charitable?

There is an interesting article in the New York Times on the post tragedy selling of things, particularly t-shirts In particular. They focus on the terrorist killings of the newspaper staff in Paris and all the shirts and other items for sale related to that.

Folks want to express themselves on an issue, and that statement might be a political reaction, grief, solidarity or what have you. The feature image above is a shirt designed by Kerby Jean-Raymond for himself. He then was basically hounded into making more. He had really originally only made the one shirt. He’ll be printing 1000 shirts and donating about $20K to the ACLU.

This is in counterpoint to the reaction one person in France had to shirts related to the shooting tragedy who said, “You are not Charlie. You are a T-shirt vendor. You have changed sides. You are trying to gain prestige. This is just marketing. You are disgusting”

If you solely make money for yourself on a tragedy, you are a selfish jerk. I love writing this blog compared to writing for trade journals, I can say what I think (and many people think) and don’t have to mince words.

Real charity can be done, and I urge readers to support those efforts. Look for the details, good people always have the details. How much money and where is the money going? Beware of vague promises like they will be sending the profits (there is an elusive term if ever there was one.)

After Katrina we printed New Orleans solidarity shirts, such as “New Orleans Bent Not Broken” shirts. We gave 100% of the proceeds to some solid New Orleans charities. We were able to do it by getting donations from Hanes, Rutland, Jakprints, Olec, and KIWO. It meant that the charity got ALL the money that was raised.

After the marathon bombing we printed “Boston We Stand Together” shirts and again with donations from Hanes, Rutland, and Jakprints we were able to give 100% of the money (all the money, not just the “profit”) to two companies that donate prosthetic limbs.

Think about what you are buying. Would you buy an Auschwitz t-shirt commemorating a visit? Who is benefitting from the sale of the shirt you are buying? Think on it.

In the coming weeks I’m going to dig down into this subject and reveal what some folks who are selling “charitable” t-shirts are making.

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New York Times article on items sold on the occasion of disasters.



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