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Who is Making The Shirt 2017?

Positive impact begins long before the first Shirt sells. Learn more about the company producing Notre Dame’s favorite tradition!

The 2017 Shirt is being produced by the one of the largest collegiate apparel companies in the U.S., Colosseum Athletics. Along with a strong reputation for quality and value, Colosseum is also a leader in social responsibility and ethical practice! As we reflect on the impact and importance of the charitable aspect of The Shirt Project-and anxiously await the big color and design reveal-let’s take a moment to look at the positive impact Colosseum is making behind the scenes, in the factory where The Shirt is being produced.

The Cotton Shop in Vietnam

Empowering women, improving health: Colosseum has partnered with local Vietnamese NGO LIFE Centre  to implement a health education project in their factory based on the HERproject initiative. Their efforts to educate and improve the lives of low-income women in supply chains have included education programs in pre- and post- natal care, breast cancer prevention and detection, nutrition, and more. The two year program continues with the help of a specialized health team, and is changing the lives of women in supply chains!

Fostering communication: Colosseum has partnered with Better Work Vietnam and provided a workshop at the factory to improve communication between union workers and management.

Involvement with UNICEF: Colosseum’s factory was one of only 4 in Vietnam to participate in an initial assessment from UNICEF and Save the Children Vietnam. This new program moving into Vietnam has been established to assess the current practices in factories and strengthen and improve principles related to child rights. Colosseum looks forward to continued assessments and involvement with these organizations!

The Shirt is one of Notre Dame’s favorite traditions, and its charitable aspect changes the lives of students. Thanks to the efforts made by Colosseum, The Shirt can also change the lives of global supply chain workers in Vietnam. Stay tuned for the 2017 Shirt unveiling on April 21st!

The Shirt will be sold at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore! Preorder yours now here.


The Importance of Buying it Licensed

Did you know that the University of Notre Dame can consistently be found on the list of top 20 universities across the nation? Were you aware that the university has 430 student clubs and organizations available, which include a variety of social, cultural, intellectual, recreational, religious, and governance programs so that every student can find a place where they fit in? Has it come to your attention that 48 percent of undergraduates receive some form of financial assistance directly from the university? Did you realize that when you buy licensed Notre Dame gear, you’re helping to support all of this and more?


It’s true, when you buy a licensed Notre Dame product, a portion of the proceeds goes back to Notre Dame’s general fund. This fund supports teaching, research, student groups, financial aid, and many other campus initiatives. The benefits of buying licensed products go beyond Notre Dame’s home campus, and reflect back to our licensees across the world. During the process of evaluating new license applications, we ask many questions about licensees’ manufacturing practices. We look for companies that have a strong Code of Conduct and that have relationships with their factories. We also require that every retail licensee be a member of the Fair Labor Association. Through the FLA, many companies are required to complete assessments of their supply chain, and look for areas that need improvement. We work closely with our licensees so that working conditions can continually improve over time. As you can see, each purchase of a licensed product supports the goal of fair working conditions for everyone around the world.

How do you know what is a licensed product and what is not? The simple answer is to look for the “Genuine College Product” tag or sticker attached to the merchandise. If a product has one of these, then you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, it is not a licensed product of Notre Dame. Buying your Notre Dame gear from Hammes Bookstore is a great way to ensure that what you buy is definitely licensed by the University. Always be sure to do your homework and double check that the item you want to buy is one that the University supports.

If you come across an infringing product, don’t panic, there is a way you can help. If you spot infringement,you can report it to us directly at: http://licensing.nd.edu/contact/ or through our licensing agent, Fermata Partners: http://fermatacollege.com/report/. All reports are confidential.tag
We thank everyone
who buys Notre Dame licensed products, for you are a part of something great. With your help,we are promoting ethical work environments across the world as well as ensuring that our students here at the University are getting the best education and opportunities possible!

Socks that Tell a Story

Socks are much more than a highly functional wardrobe essential. They are a canvas where you can showcase your personality, style, what you love, and what you believe in.

Argyle. Grumpy Cat. Coffee. Polka dots. Bacon.

Notre Dame.

FBF Originals, a brand you can find on the tags of many Notre Dame socks, is a successful global manufacturer that helps individuals tell their story. They operate in a 225,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility and distribute their products all over the world. But how they got there is story about overcoming some of life’s greatest challenges.

Sharon Rivenbark was a single mother of 5 children and a school teacher. In 1984, she received devastating news: at the age of 16, her son, Timothy Scott Magnuson, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery, Sharon was informed that his abilities would diminish over time. Sharon was determined to provide Tim with a safe, secure occupation that would give him a sense of ownership and pride. She purchased an antique knitting machine, and opened the doors to the first For Bare Feet (FBF) sock shop in Nashville, Indiana on April 1, 1984.

Tourists visiting Brown County were captivated by the sock machine. One visitor took a particular interest in the socks – Marcie Davis, Indiana University Director of Retail. She requested that Sharon and Tim make FBF socks for the IU Bookstore, and invited Sharon to her first trade show to sell her socks to other colleges and universities. As orders started coming in from colleges nationwide, Sharon and Tim quickly outgrew the little sock shop.

Sadly, Tim passed away in 1987 after a long, hard battle. On the FBF Originals website, the family wrote: “He never lost his sense of humor and ability to laugh while teaching us how to live with dignity, style, and to never give up.”

Sharon and her daughter, Kelly, persevered. They continued to attend apparel, gift and college bookstore trade shows to grow the business, and rented a small warehouse to meet the increasing demand. FBF outgrew the space in 3 months. The company found its permanent home in a larger facility in Brown County and continued to flourish. Kelly successfully procured licenses for the NFL, MLB, NBA NHL, and many colleges/universities including University of Notre Dame. Several family members joined the company in management positions to help drive the business: Sharon’s son-in-law, Dave Baugh; son-in-law, Karl Mills; daughter, Mandy, and her husband, Alan Zellmer; and daughter, Tina, and her husband, Randy Bode.

On the afternoon of September 10, 2011, an air compressor housed on the outside of the
FBF facility caught on fire. Flames quickly engulfed the building, traveling through air compression tubes that fed the knitting machines. Manufacturing and finishing equipment, raw materials, and inventory were completely destroyed.

The following Monday, Sharon, Mandy, Tina and Kelly met the entire staff in the parking lot. Instead of focusing on the devastation, they reassured the staff that their jobs were safe and FBF would pull through. Exactly two months later, FBF Originals moved into its current location – a state of the art facility with 225,000 sq. ft. Every employee was able to continue working for the company after the move.

“Ultimately, FBF Originals was a company started on the foundation of a mother’s love for her son and her family. With that love, it has blossomed into a prosperous global company,” the FBF website states. “Even though FBF has moved and is no longer in its founding location, it has brought all the memories and history with it and will continue to honor the legacy of Timothy Scott Magnuson.”

FBF Originals socks are available at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore and other major retailers.


Notre Dame Products are Funding Service Dogs

Planet Dog products are tough, eco-friendly, and saving lives.

My black lab, Emma, has only had 3 dog toys in the last 5 years. (Queue comments about how she is a poor, deprived puppy.) If you have a black lab, you probably understand that they are lovable, loyal, with so much personality – but can also have a tendency to chew and destroy. We gave her several different toys when we brought her home for the first time, and each was missing a head/tail/stuffing/squeaker within a couple minutes. She never really bonded with a toy like the adorable, heart-melting Dachshund in the commercials with its well-loved stuffed dog, Bobo.

Until we brought home her blue Notre Dame Campus Dog® Orbee-Tuff® Ball last winter. This toy is part of Planet Dog‘s new Campus Dog line of products specifically made for Notre Dame.Emma-CampusDog

Notre Dame Campus Dog Products

As you know, fellow pup-parents, no toy is indestructible to those canine teeth. But, this ball is the closest thing I have seen – trust me. We have seen even “durable” toys in pieces on the living room floor. In addition, the Notre Dame Campus Dog products are:

  • Made in the USA
  • Buoyant
  • Eco-friendly
  • Non-toxic
  • 100% guaranteed

That guarantee is the cherry on top. If any Planet Dog product is chewed, destroyed, doesn’t fit, if the dog doesn’t like it, if you are not satisfied for any reason whatsoever… you can return it.

Campus Dog

10% of Net Profits Fund Assistance Dogs

This is the best part about buying a Notre Dame Campus Dog product. Ten percent of the net profits are donated to organizations that provide assistance dogs to people in need. Since 2006, the Planet Dog Foundation has donated more than $1 million in cash grants and product donations to non-profits that train, place and support dogs working to help people in need.

The mission of the Planet Dog Foundation is to promote and celebrate programs in which dogs serve and support their best friends. We fund and support all dogs working to enhance and save human lives.

Ellen Chaleff, a senior at the University of Notre Dame, can speak first-hand to the importance of service dogs. Her Dachsund/rat terrier mix named Fred is her constant companion on campus, and helps her manage her bipolar disorder. In an Observer article last winter, Ellen shared details of her relationship with Fred.

“I love my service dog more than anyone. We are together 24/7, he has saved me so many times. He’s my best friend, and when I’m in a dark place with my disorder, he’s everything I need,” Ellen told us recently.

The cost of obtaining a service dog can be an insurmountable obstacle, and the Planet Dog Foundation is committed to bridging the gap.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how lucky I was in my situation – there was a trainer willing to help me for way less than most service dog trainers,” Ellen told us. “A trained dog can cost between $5,000 and $20,000, something I can’t imagine being able to afford. Companies who help provide these dogs can be saving lives daily.”

Campus Dog Event at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore

The people behind Planet Dog are giving you an opportunity to interact with their products and their mission this weekend. Stop by the Bookstore on Friday and Saturday for demonstrations, activities, a visit from Ellen Chaleff and Fred, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and more! All humans and dogs are welcome.

The best part: Planet Dog will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this event to Leader Dogs for the Blind, and Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore will be matching the donation.

September 18th, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm in the Bookstore Lobby

September 19th, 12:00 – 3:00 pm on the Bookstore front lawn (live service dog demonstrations)

Employee Benefits that Make a Big Impact

Tomi Gerhold, the Associate Director of Licensing at the University of Notre Dame, recently traveled to El Salvador to visit the League Collegiate Outfitters factory. She gained an insider’s perspective of a company that is redefining “employee benefits”.


Gang Rehabilitation

League Collegiate Outfitters has partnered with local organizations to implement a gang rehabilitation program. Former gang members in El Salvador find obtaining a job nearly impossible, but by joining this program they have the opportunity to change the course of their lives. Former gang members that have entered into the League program have become some of the company’s most productive employees.

Gang Rehabilitation - League

Clinic & Pharmacy

Employees at League have access to a full-service medical clinic and pharmacy housed inside the American Park (industrial business park) where League is located.

On-Site Daycare

League and the American Park offer parents an affordable on-site daycare facility during work hours. Employees are able to work full-time and know that their children are safe and looked after.

On-Site Daycare - League

Affordable Meals

Employees are given breakfast and lunch every day in the factory’s cafeteria. Meals are subsidized by the company and the employees pay a very affordable portion of the meals.

English Classes

Each employee is allotted 30 minutes each day to participate in English classes at no charge. The classroom in the factory is fully equipped with computers, and is air conditioned and comfortable. Learning English can sometimes be an avenue for career advancement.

English Classes - League

Education Program

The League factory partners with the Ministry of Education to provide workers with an optional after-hours education program. League employees can work toward their high school degree. Classes from 1st through 6th grade are taught by company management that volunteer their time. Employees entering 7th grade through graduation are taught by certified teachers.


League Collegiate Outfitters provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. There are very few factories in the area that are accessible for individuals in wheelchairs, but League has made this a priority. To go a step further, the company has built an accessible housing facility near the factory for these employees, and provides daily transportation to and from work.

Accessibility - League

Savings & Loan (Employee Co-Op)

League workers who have borrowed money have often found themselves involved with aggressive loan “sharks”. League Collegiate Outfitters has established a savings and loan, which will pay off the loan sharks and allow employees to make payments at a lower interest rate.

Housing Development

League Collegiate Outfitters is in the process of acquiring an abandoned housing development near the factory. Approximately 83 homes will be completed and renovated, and made available for League employees to purchase via reasonable mortgage and interest rates.Housing Development - League

Tomi Gerhold with League factory workers as officially licensed Notre Dame shirts are made.

Tomi Gerhold with League factory workers as officially licensed Notre Dame shirts are being made.


Find League Collegiate apparel and accessories at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.


To learn more about the League Collegiate Wear factory in El Salvador, take a look at the following:

League Central America, Part 1: VIDEO

League Central America, Part 2: VIDEO

An Elevated Path to Success

How Christian Estrada, Notre Dame Class of 2014 and founder of Custom Elevation, is elevating artisans in Nicaragua out of poverty.

“To be completely honest, I really had no idea what I was doing when I was getting started,” said Christian Estrada, a 2014 Notre Dame graduate and founder of Custom Elevation, in a recent interview. That’s exactly why building a business is so complicated and wonderful; you can’t know everything you will need to know until you dive in. With the right combination of passion, a great idea, and the drive to see it through, anything is possible.


Christian Estrada was born and raised in Nicaragua, where he was exposed to a level of Custom Elevation ND Hammockpoverty that starkly contrasted the environment he encountered as a Notre Dame student. Artisans in Nicaragua are known for their intricately handwoven hammocks, a skill passed down through generations.

“Everyone in Nicaragua has hammocks. My parents had several in the house and three set up in the trees outside,” Christian told us. Due to the competitive, crowded nature of this market, the highly skilled artisans often struggle to make a living.

Christian, along with co-founders Roberto Pellas and David Kenney, decided to find a way to elevate these artisans out of poverty. The three Notre Dame undergraduate students worked with artisans to create a diverse product offering, including wine caddies, hammocks and handbags, and developed a plan to sell the products in the U.S. where they could demand a fair price. To differentiate the products from other fair trade items, they decided to pursue a license with Notre Dame.

A Great Idea

In order to be approved for a license with Notre Dame, all vendors must provide detailed manufacturing information, marketing plan, and distribution strategy, affiliate with the Fair Labor Association, and adopt the Notre Dame Labor Code of Conduct. Custom Elevation also needed to establish a relationship with Follett Higher Education Group, the managing company for Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, where they hoped to sell their products.

“Christian had great spirit and drive to help the artisans and bring quality Nicaraguan-made products to market,” David Werda, Director of Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, told us. “Also, he and his partners had a sharp business acumen and had the resources necessary to bring the goods to market.”

Christian, Roberto and David began working closely with Notre Dame faculty in the summer of 2012 to develop a business plan that would satisfy all of the requirements for a Notre Dame license. “The professors at Notre Dame are open to helping in any way they can. I was able to incorporate the project into my degree in at least 4 classes. I was also allowed to use Custom Elevation as my capstone project,” said Christian.Custom Elevation

One of the faculty members who worked closely with the Christian during this process was Michael Vogel. Michael is an Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Notre Dame Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, and helps students, alumni and faculty navigate their business ideas. He talks through new concepts and provides guidance on funding, viability, patents, trademarks, etc.

“Christian got out there, got samples, talked to the artisans, talked to Follett, talked to Notre Dame Licensing,” Michael told us. “He has a high energy level, and is always thinking of new and better ways of doing things. And he is also willing to accept when something isn’t a good idea.”

It took over six months to complete the process, but on November 7, 2012, Christian received his Notre Dame License from the Collegiate Licensing Company.

The Drive to See it Through

While pursuing the Notre Dame license, Christian had the opportunity to meet Joe Bozich, founder of Alta Gracia Apparel. He was inspired by Joe’s commitment to paying workers a living wage, and wanted to make a similar impact on the artisans of Custom Elevation. Christian told us that Custom Elevation is currently able to pay their artisans 240% above the Nicaraguan minimum wage, and this is having a profound impact. These workers are able to afford better education, food and housing. One artisan used his earnings to remodel his home, and another was able to purchase a computer so that his daughter could pursue her academic goals.

Christian, Roberto and David have since graduated from Notre Dame, but the journey for Custom Elevation is just beginning. When we asked Christian “what’s next” for the company, his answer was directly in line with their mission. Custom Elevation is poised for expansion, but the owners have chosen to first invest in facility and machinery improvements. Their first priority is always the health, safety and happiness of the company’s most valuable asset: the artisans.

Find handmade wine caddies and hammocks at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

Custom Elevation ND Wine Caddy

Take a look behind the scenes at Custom Elevation.


The Extraordinary Value of an $18.00 T-Shirt

Raise your hand if you do NOT own a t-shirt. Anyone? Anyone? …Bueller?

Whether it’s something you throw on to relax on the weekend, or it’s the beginning and end of your entire wardrobe, t-shirts are everywhere. But they are not all created equal. What if we told you that you could make a tangible, measurable difference in someone’s life by simply choosing to purchase a particular brand? Sounds almost too easy, right? The brand we’re talking about is Alta Gracia, a label that you can find on the racks at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

You might be thinking: “That’s a very nice concept, but it’s still $18.00 for a t-shirt.” Here is our challenge: by the end of this article we will convince you that it’s more than worth it.

What’s the difference?

We’ve all seen the headlines and heard stories about appalling conditions and wages that riddle the apparel manufacturing industry. Child labor, forced overtime, alarming working conditions – all in an effort to cut costs and grab a larger piece of the pie. Before Alta Gracia was founded, the average clothing worker in the Dominican Republic was barely paid minimum wage, which equates to about $150.00 USD per month. This is hardly an income to feed, clothe and shelter a family, let alone build a life.

Joe Bozich founded Alta Gracia as an experiment. He wanted to prove that clothing companies could exist – and thrive – with a different business model. And it’s working. Employees at Alta Gracia were the first in the apparel industry to earn a living wage, which equates to more than $500.00 USD per month or over 3 times the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic. The extra few dollars that you spend on your t-shirt fund all of this:

Alta Gracia Living Wage

The difference a living wage has made in the lives of Alta Gracia workers is astonishing. Most houses in Villa Altagracia are made of thin materials and dirt floors, and without the luxury of running water. Many employees have used their income to build a new concrete home for their families and loved ones. Clary Arciniega, pictured second from the right below, was able to start her own dry-cleaning business on the side and is providing jobs for others in the community. By giving workers the freedom to make a living, Alta Gracia is reshaping the landscape in this small manufacturing town.


Clary Arciniega of Alta Gracia, with members of The Shirt Committee 2014 and Tomi Gerhold of Notre Dame Licensing.

Colleges and Universities across the country are giving a voice to workers in the apparel manufacturing industry, and Notre Dame is at the forefront of this movement. In 2012, The Shirt Committee saw the potential to be a force for good by pairing with Alta Gracia. Over the past 3 years, the project has provided the factory with orders for over 475,000 t-shirts.

“Support from Notre Dame and The Shirt has truly been a backbone for Alta Gracia as we’ve grown from a new initiative to a nation-wide brand sold in over 1,000 college bookstores,” says Rip Scott, Brand Director for Alta Gracia Apparel. “The support that the Notre Dame community has given Alta Gracia with The Shirt is so important, not only in the jobs it has created and the lives it has changed, but in the ripple effect it has inspired: The Shirt program has become a model imitated by peer schools nation-wide.”

Are you convinced?

Then buy an Alta Gracia t-shirt. Plain and simple. Go out and get The Shirt 2016 at Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, or stay in your pajamas on the couch and shop online. Either way, you’re providing hardworking families the opportunity to pursue their dreams.


To learn more about Alta Gracia, we recommend:

Tejidas Juntas/Stitched Together: Alta Gracia Documentary

Huffington Post: “Can You Make Clothes Without Sweatshop Labor? This Dominican Factory is Trying”

The Shirt Project (2013) visits Villa Alta Gracia: Alta Gracia Blog