December 7, 2015 Stink!

FORTUNE MAGAZINE: How Stinky PJs Launched a Crusade Against the Chemical Industry

Fortune Magazine on STINK!

“Parents of young children all know about smelly pajamas. Few would consider them good source material for a motion picture.

Still, the documentary Stink! — which may cause clothiers, fragrance makers and cosmetics manufacturers to lose some sleep — emanated out of the PJs that director Jon Whelan bought his young daughters for Christmas 2011. When they opened the package, they said, they were greeted by a chemical “stench.”

Deciding to find out what was what, Whelan explored the customer-service route, got a runaround and decided to turn his subsequent inquiries into a crusading, Michael-Moore-like documentary — about industry’s use of questionable chemicals, the lack of government oversight over these chemicals, and the companies that exercise the freedom not to be fully transparent on their product labels.

The battle, which plays out in the film, is between advocates who want full disclosure on product labeling and companies that don’t. Among the principal targets in the film, which opens Friday in Los Angeles, is Justice, the tween clothing chain operated by Tween Brands, a subsidiary of Ascena Retail Group Inc. And the maker of those odoriferous pajamas.

“Safety and transparency are separate issues,” Whelan said. “What’s happened in the past is that industry has argued ‘it’s safe; we don’t have to disclose.’ But they don’t have to prove that it’s safe.”