Zara, the global indie fashion brand, is no stranger to controversy. It has unabashedly ripped off an artist’s designs to mass produce on its own clothing and has equated being old with being ugly. It also spurred controversy after putting alt-right symbols on its garments.
All of these incidents sparked backlash. Yet, Zara apparently failed to learn its lesson.
The fashion retailer found itself in yet another hairy situation after workers allegedly left secret messages inside the clothes.
A report by the Associated Press claimed shoppers at a Zara store in Istanbul, Turkey, found tags pleading for help sewn into or tucked inside their garments. One of the notes read, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”
Apparently, the notes are a means to put pressure on customers to push the retailer’s top management into paying workers who have gone uncompensated for as many as three months. The tags reportedly stated the unpaid workers are employed by Bravo Tekstil, a factory that makes Zara’s garments in Istanbul.
Bravo Tekstil, which also produces clothing for Mango and Next, allegedly shut down overnight last year after similar allegations against the factory surfaced.
After the closure in July 2016, workers of the factory started an online petition demanding their employers give them their overdue pay as well as their severance pay.
“Creditors came to our factory and seized all machines and valuables. Meanwhile, our boss disappeared, taking our wages with him. We have yet to receive our wages or any form of severance payment,” the petition read. “We demand no more than our basic rights! We call on the international community to support our struggle, sign and share to support our campaign!”
While speaking to Refinery 29 about the secret notes, Intidex, the parent company of Zara, said it “has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Textil [sic] and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL affiliate, Mango, and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner.”
It also said it was working out a hardship fund that would help the workers impacted by the factory’s closure.
“This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation, and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted,” Inditex said.
However, despite having a year to comply, neither Zara (whose products make up of 75 percent of the factory’s output), nor Mango or Next paid around 140 workers hired by Bravo Tekstil.
The clothing companies reserve the right to close down their manufacturing factories — a trend which is quite common in the fast-moving fashion industry. However, in saving their own skins, fashion labels provide little to no protection to their workers and their hard-earned pay.
This isn’t the first time the company has come under scrutiny for its less-than-ethical work practices. Project Just reported only 1 to 25 percent of Inditex’s traced facility paid its worker a living wage. It has also been accused of slave and child labor for employing Turkish children and Syrian refugees.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters, Ints Kalnins