Five Fashion Brands That Use Sweatshops

In a world where everything moves fast -- from food to trains to fashion -- it can be difficult to keep a tab on where your clothes are made. But if you were to dig deep into the source of how some of most revered branded clothes are made then you’d not only flinch but also never use that brand again. Let’s look at five (not an exhaustive list by any margin!) fashion brands that use sweatshops.

Forever 21


Even though twenty to thirty percent of its clothes are made in the US, the LA garment industry faced a backlash for their sweatshop-like conditions. The U.S. Department of Labour had unearthed an investigation wherein a factory was making its workers work over 10 hours a day without any remuneration for overtime. A worker claimed that she wasn’t paid by the hour but paid per item, i.e. she was paid a meagre 12 cents for a garment that was later sold for $13.80. Forever 21 has been mired in a few sketchy controversies that doesn’t instil any confidence.



H&M manufactures its clothing in Bangladesh, a country which has repeatedly disregarded international labour practices time and again. About 61% of H&M factories didn’t have fire exits that matched the required regulations. So it’s a high possibility that workers could die in a fire while making your H&M jeans for terribly low wages. Even though H&M champions environment-friendly clothing lines and claims to pay its employees a living wage in 2018, only time will tell how it really treats its workers.



As recent as 2011, ZARA was under investigation for allegedly using slave labour in its Brazilian factories. Fifteen immigrant workers, who were just 14-year old were made to work 12-hours shift for just $156-$290/month, whereas $344/month was the minimum wage in Brazil in 2011. Two years later, they were found to be continuing with the same disgusting practise -- employing child labour to work 12 hours at a stretch. So next time you see a garment by ZARA, take a moment and think about who made it? And at what cost?



Since the 90s, GAP has been championing the anti-sweatshop fight. Even though it is way more transparent now than it used to be, there have been numerous instances where the garment workers at its factories were treated inhumanely. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that when the Rana Plaza Factory -- a sweatshop in Bangladesh -- collapsed, killing over 1000 people, GAP donated millions of dollars to the victims’ families. However, the workers at GAP continue to protest and strike because they are paid absolutely low wages and have no union rights! So, it’s going to be a long way for GAP to be really humane.



The Rana Plaza tragedy ended up killing 1134 people, out of which 300 were working for the UK fast fashion brand called Primark. Even though it was proactive in donating money to the victims’ families, they had to provide DNA evidence just to be able to avail monetary compensation. A campaigner from “War on Want” is quoted as having said, “We're here to send a clear message to Primark that the 300 deaths in the Bangladesh building collapse were not an accident – they were entirely preventable deaths. If Primark had taken its responsibility to those workers seriously, no one need have died this week.”

Next time you shop, ask yourself — What’s the cost of fashion?

Honest Charitable Organisation - Ethical Clothing

Image Attributes: H&M, Primark & ZARA | CC images - GAP & Forever 21 | Banner image