We may never know the true impetus behind Melania Trump’s goading decision to wear an “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket on the day she traveled to migrant detention centers. What we do know is that the jacket is from Zara, it cost 39£ back in 2016, and that it was made by Zara’s army of poorly-paid garment workers in Pakistan. Made by poor people, the jacket was then used as part of a wider campaign to keep poor people of color from Mexico and Central America out of the United States. A jacket has rarely ever meant so much.
Zara hasn’t revealed who approved the design, but resellers have turned to posting the jacket on eBay, along with pictures of the inside labels that read: Made in Pakistan. Here’s what we know about those workers:
- Zara has over 100 factories in Pakistan and employees 125,000 garment workers there.
- Zara’s main suppliers make at least 20,000 garments per year.
- Garment workers in Pakistan make about $128 as a minimum wage each month, with female workers making 66% less than men.
- The minimum wage in the Pakistani garment industry is hundreds of dollars less than the $311 living wage recommended by the Asia Wage Floor Alliance.
We can only wonder what the Pakistani workers thought as they stitched this particular garment together. Considering Zara’s parent company makes 1.3 billion-plus garments per year, do any of the garment workers remember making this one jacket? Have any of them seen the news about the jacket? So many questions.
Everything we wear is tied to history, meaning, relations of production, and global supply chains. Melania’s PR handler turned to Twitter to say #itsjustajacket and asked the public to focus on the matter at hand: Immigration. And yet this jacket sums up the whole situation. Most of our clothes are made by very poor people, people seeking opportunities just like migrants, people made poor by the same capitalist system that makes our part of the world rich and able to adopt disaffected attitudes and keep people less fortunate than ourselves out of our bubble of privilege. One of the most outlandish lies we can tell ourselves is that clothes are “just” clothes and what we wear just appears without context, consequence, or purpose.