What the makers of cat-flavored jams, yogi scarves and cocktail rice balls say about street vendors in the Philippines

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I always knew there was a story behind the fun sweatshirts and hoodies advertising the arrival of the next season’s most expensive designer clothes. I just never knew what it was.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened: More than a decade ago, high-end retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 snatched up dozens of islands from island hopscotching peddlers in pursuit of the high-end designer brands associated with them. (They eventually started doing the same for other cities as well.)

When asked if they could locate where the process starts, customers began to ask, “Where is the sourcing of these goods?”

It didn’t help that mid- to high-end fashion labels offered monthly samples that shoppers would be sure to get ahold of at the earliest opportunity.

One day, I asked a friend of mine about it. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just saw a story on ABC News a few years ago about the pieces it found that were bound for retailers.”

The story was about a Texas mom who was suspicious of the multi-billion dollar marketplace and found their island sourcing risky because it wasn’t located on one of the 600 islands the companies were searching for in the Caribbean.

The retailer then decided to monitor their island sourcing, only buying from markets within the Caribbean. As it turns out, there was a scary trend starting to develop — the sellers, who were known as clearing houses, were clearing a large amount of funds before giving the items to the retailers. The retailers purchased the wares and then sold them for even more money.

Finding out the sourcing on the island where the clothes are believed to be sourced can take some doing. You have to call them directly and dig into documents or documents submitted by the sellers themselves.

It was enough to make anyone start to worry about the safety of their designer garment. You get around this by hand-pouring samples and collecting reports of the sales.

What’s worse is that since the outfits looked like they were straight out of Europe, you would assume the designers and their manufacturers were on foreign soil. But maybe not.

Since 2007, many designers have helped high-end retailers find well-known labels from their home countries using the Filipino Fashion Marketing Fund and the Philippine Fashion Designers Association. One of the first influencers was DAPL Design. Their “10 Days in July” sale began online and in New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, and has since spread to other countries.

As for me, I chose to bring my purchases back home to my house.

– by Evanora Broussard, editorial assistant

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