While wandering through the bookstore, did you ever wonder who designed all the Witt gear that fills the racks? Well, wonder no more. Third year veteran, Tim Gognat, the manager of Wittenberg’s bookstore spends countless hours doing just that.
“Every term, I take a look at our store, run inventory numbers, analyze garment sell-through, the cost and retail price, and look at collegiate trends and popular trends from runways to what students are wearing to class everyday,” said Gognat. “Most students have no idea I walk around campus before ordering each season and take ideas from their style. I like the idea that what you wear to class today can influence what is sold tomorrow.”
Gognat continued, “The vendors come into the store hauling their assortment of clothing and binders full of past and present artwork. After selecting the clothes and designing the graphics it is sent to the vendors art department. From the art department, we get digital proofs, and, once approved, everything goes into production. It really is a blank slate each season, and although there are industry trends, each garment and graphic is hand selected and designed. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to look at the big picture of the task, but it is an aspect of my job that is truly creative.”
Gognat also takes into account social responsibility, passing on his light by choosing vendors that can guarantee without a doubt that their workers receive a fair wage for their work.
“We are a member of the Fair Labor Association,” said Gognat. “The Fair Labor Association is a code of conduct for all of our vendors. It states no forced labor, no child labor, a workplace free of harassment and or abuse, no discrimination, a safe and healthy work environment, respect for the workers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, proper compensation for overtime hours, and paying workers wages and benefits in accordance with the law.”
However, Gognat goes further than just partnering with the Fair Labor Association.
“Beyond this agreement, we have also partnered with vendors that exemplify social responsibility,” explained Gognat. “Alta Gracia is a company out of the Dominican Republic that supplies us with a few styles of rolled tee shirts. Alta Gracia is a company where workers are paid a ‘living wage.’ Simply put, a living wage enables an employee to afford adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care, child care, and education for themselves and their families.”
Gognat continued, “I don’t know how I can answer the question of why it is important to me because it just seems obvious. If you can you should! I think it is also an excellent example of Wittenberg “Having light we pass it on to others.” Alta Gracia workers are paid three-and-a-half times the average salary of apparel workers in the Dominican Republic, and although there are only about 130 employees, it is my hope that carrying this product serves as an example, and maybe someday we can see a change from a ‘living wage’ in the Dominican Republic to just a WAGE.”
This does, however, affect the cost of goods in the store, but Gognat explained that they take measures to reduce the cost to consumers.
“It does cost more to produce goods following this philosophy, but it is just as important to give back and tell a story that you can offer quality products at fair prices and help change lives. The retail price of our rolled tees has actually not changed with our recent agreement with Alta Gracia. The retail before the partnership was $14.99 and has remained at that price. Rather than passing the additional cost on, we absorb it.”