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15 Jan 2009

Fashion industry ethics

When you hear of human rights issues in the clothing industry you'd be forgiven for thinking of workers toiling in poor conditions in the developing world, such as women in Bangladeshi factories working for a well-known sportswear brand.

This week the story is closer to home and features Primark’s knitwear supplier, based in Manchester and a series of allegations of employing illegal immigrants and paying half the minimum wage. An undercover journalist at the TNS Knitwear factory filmed workers putting in 12 hour days, seven days a week in cramped, cold conditions for just £3 an hour.

Fast fashion has seen a boom in business for retailers such as Primark, who churn out copies of items seen on the catwalk at knock-down prices. Consumers are able to snap up high fashion pieces for under a tenner but someone, somewhere has to pay. And in the case of the clothing industry, it’s usually the case of the farmer and the seamstress who made the item.

Consumers may be feeling confused by Primark’s alleged ethical stance in recent years. Until this recent furore, all stores displayed the Ethical Trading Initiative logo in it’s windows. This weke the high street giant has been asked to remove them pending further investigation.

It remains in the hands of us, as consumers, to make a decision whether to support companies with dubious ethics and working practices or to pay extra and ensure that the clothing that we wear supports a fair wage for everyone involved in the supply chain. Which would you rather choose?

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