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Corps looks to dump gear provider after fire

Dec. 24, 2012 - 10:24AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 24, 2012 - 10:24AM  |  
The Marine Corps may cut ties with M.J. Soffe, an American apparel company that manufactures skivvy shirts and other fitness clothing, after production materials with the Marine Corps logo were found in an unauthorized factory in Bangladesh.
The Marine Corps may cut ties with M.J. Soffe, an American apparel company that manufactures skivvy shirts and other fitness clothing, after production materials with the Marine Corps logo were found in an unauthorized factory in Bangladesh. (NAVY)
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The Marine Corps is moving to cut ties with a well-known American clothing company that makes skivvy shirts and PT gear after manufacturing materials were found in an unauthorized Bangladesh factory ravaged by a deadly fire in November.

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The Marine Corps is moving to cut ties with a well-known American clothing company that makes skivvy shirts and PT gear after manufacturing materials were found in an unauthorized Bangladesh factory ravaged by a deadly fire in November.

The Marine Corps is investigating whether M.J. Soffe may have violated its licensing agreement with the Corps by producing gear at an unauthorized overseas location.

It's unclear whether a decision by the Marine Corps to end its licensing agreement with M.J. Soffe would apply to all gear made by the company — effectively ending the availability of Soffe products at Marine Corps exchanges — or would simply end the company's production of Marine Corps-branded clothing. Other companies, such as New Balance, also sell authorized PT gear.

According to media reports, order forms and design specs for sweatshirts and tank tops with the Marine Corps logo were discovered in the wreckage of a devastating factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed 112 workers Nov. 24. The Tazreen Fashions factory, whose safety certification expired in June, had no fire exits and failed safety inspections prior to the blaze.

M.J. Soffe, a North Carolina-based company that makes fitness clothing for all branches of the military and nonmilitary outlets, is a subsidiary of Delta Apparel Inc. Earlier this year, Soffe worked with the Tuba Group, a subcontractor and the owner of factories in Bangladesh, including Tazreen.

The Corps shares a licensing agreement with Soffe, which is authorized to produce clothing with the force's logo and insignia. According to the Delta spokesman, "the skivvy and non-logo items do not fall under the licensing agreement currently at issue," but a Marine Corps official, who spoke on background, said the license applies to all lines of operation.

Delta Apparel's spokesman denied wrongdoing. He noted that in March, when Soffe received a shipment of nonmilitary goods from the Tazreen location, the company "immediately informed the Tuba Group that Tazreen was not an authorized facility [for any of the company's products] and ordered an immediate stop to further production there." Soffe later cut all ties with the Tuba Group.

Jessica O'Haver, who oversees the licensing program, told ABC News, "The Marine Corps has reason to believe that Soffe has in fact breached the license, and has informed Soffe of its intention to terminate the license." Delta officials could not explain why order forms and design specs were found in the Tazreen facility. When they inquired after the fire, they were told the materials were being stored there as part of the Tuba Group's "general marketing efforts."

Andrew deGrandpré contributed to this report.

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