There have been many reports over the last few years that showed that much-loved brands on red carpets still outsource manufacturing to suppliers that use dangerous working conditions, as well as forced and child labour.
The dark side of the red carpet
Red carpets are events many look forward to, as the glitz and glamour makes a lot of us wish we were rich and famous. These ceremonies can be huge publicity for designers, as the media talk about who wore what outfit after the event, and even for years to come. However, there is a dark side to this.
A lot is talked about how we need to move towards sustainability and how celebrities can promote this via red carpets or runways, but what about forced labour and horrific working conditions befitting the 19th century?
Yes, that is true, many of the brands you can see showcased on the red carpets of formal occasions such as the Oscars may very well be using sweatshops to make their products. Whilst not a very known fact, it is quite shocking. Could celebrities do more to know exactly what is the story of the clothes they are wearing and to stop the publicising brands that still use sweatshops?
Over the last few years certain popular brands have been controversial due to issues such as forced and child labour, the use of sweatshops and inhumane working conditions. These brands include Primark, H&M, Zara and GAP.
In the example of Gap, there were reports of these conditions 16 years ago, and whilst one would think the brand would correct this issue, and find new suppliers that do not use sweatshops, this has not been the case. In 2019, it was reported that their workers were being physically and sexually abused in sweatshops that worked for both GAP and H&M.
Luxury by name, not by nature
Whilst it is common knowledge that suppliers from fast-fashion brands do unfortunately use sweatshops and child labour, not much is usually said about luxury brands that you would commonly see in places like runways and red carpets. However, this does not mean that it does not happen.
There have been reports that some of the top designers seen on red carpets have been linked to the use of sweatshops. Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Hugo Boss have been reported to outsource manufacturing to suppliers in Bangladesh, where dangerous working conditions are an issue.
When questioned, Armani pointed out that just because there is an assumption the working conditions are inadequate in Bangladesh, it doesn’t mean this is the reality. There have been however, many inquiries into the horrific nature of the sweatshops in Bangladesh.
And whilst maybe they did not use a supplier on that occasion that used unacceptable working conditions, a few months after, another sweatshop making luxury goods for Armani, Fendi, and Saint Laurent was closed by the police.
Passing the buck
Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. There are many more luxury brands that have been reported to use suppliers with similar conditions. Many brands wash their hands of this by stating they did not know that their suppliers have been using child and forced labour, that they have been abused, and working in dangerous working conditions.
However, isn’t it the company’s responsibility to know who they are employing? To ensure that their supply chain is always completely free from modern-day slavery? To prevent this from happening? There is a lot that could and should be done.
Celebrities can help with fighting the case against these extreme working conditions. Not giving brands linked to this the promotion on the red carpet is a start. The rich and famous have influence, and using the red carpet as a platform to make a stance against modern day slavery and sweatshops can help raise awareness and start the change towards fashion that does not exploit workers.