Its been an interesting few days in the world of fashion here in New Zealand, there has been controversy over "Made in New Zealand" claims and one of the founders of WORLD Brand Denise L'Estrange-Corbet has been defending her brand against transparency claims after calling out another, Trelise Cooper of not being ethical, and well on that note I have to agree with L'Estrange-Corbet, Trelise Cooper is far from an ethical brand when you consider all aspects of production from product design to manufacturing, social and human rights of workers, this brand is not 'Made in NZ' but Trelise Cooper does have Social responsibility information on their website, you can read it here trelisecooper.com/social-responsibility. It is not the most comprehensive but it does state countries they manufacture in New Zealand, China and India and that they have an Ethical Code of Conduct for manufacturers they work with.
But it begs the question of WORLDBRAND as I found nothing on their website about transparency or ethics as part of their CSR, or even a CSR page at all! "Made in NZ" well maybe, but the consumer only has WORLDBRANDs word for it and that could read more as "Designed and Sewn in NZ", where are the textiles sourced from?
So I checked the Tearfund Ethical Fashion Guide 2018 to see how they stacked up against each other. WORLD was not on the list while Trelise Cooper had an F* rating, the * meant that the company did not engage with Tearfund in the sourcing of information to create this report.
Things are not looking good for purchasing from these 2 brands on ethical principals regardless of where they are sewn.
On Monday 7th may I read this interesting article from The Spinoff written by Madeleine Chapman a staff writer.
It is interesting to note that "For 28 years, WORLD has positioned itself as the conscience of New Zealand fashion, maintaining its embrace of ethical principles and a patriotic attachment to home manufacturing throughout the globalisation era." It was slightly confusing then to read Dame Denise's words below stating that the "labels are Made in NZ" so there is nothing misleading about it.
" The WORLD tag on every item of clothing proclaims “FABRIQUE EN NOUVELLE-ZELANDE”. Translation: Made in New Zealand.
Find the care instruction label on the inside seam, however, and you’ll discover the t-shirts are sourced from AS Colour and made in Bangladesh. The sweatshirts and sweatpants are also purchased from AS Colour and made in China.
“It is illegal in NZ to not say where garments are produced,” said L’Estrange-Corbet when that was put to her by the Spinoff. “The care tags are highly visible in all our garments. If you had visited any of our stores, you would have seen this.”
When The Spinoff revisited an Auckland WORLD store, we found 10 t-shirts with sequin or embroidered patches. All 10 had care instruction labels stating where the garment was made on the inside seam, near the hem and out of sight. Only the sample t-shirt that The Spinoff had already purchased had the place of manufacture where the consumer could see it clearly. This is not unusual. A lot of clothing companies won’t include the place of manufacture on the collar tag. But what the Bangladesh-made WORLD t-shirts did have were highly visible cardboard tags stating “FABRIQUE EN NOUVELLE ZELANDE”. Made in New Zealand.
When The Spinoff asked if L’Estrange-Corbet believed this could mislead customers into thinking the t-shirts were made in New Zealand, the answer was no. “The WORLD clothing tags that say Made in NZ are Made in NZ, so there’s nothing misleading about this,” she says. “The t-shirts do not state this.”"
And let me just clarify here Dame Denise is talking about the TAG not the T-SHIRT, the TAG is "Made in NZ" so its acceptable to put that on a not made in NZ T-shirt?
It seems our labeling laws are not quite up to standard or is it just open to individual interpretation?
The Spinoff followed that up with this article about NZ's rules for claiming Made in NZ, and it seems that WORLD has breached those labeling laws according to this article. https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/07-05-2018/kiwi-as-the-rules-for-claiming-made-in-new-zealand/
It is finally time where WE can demand more transparency as consumers, makers, designers and retailers. As the Fashion Revolution movement reminds us to Be Curious, Find Out and to Do Something. I am pleased the New Zealand fashion industry is opening up to having this conversation. It is well past time we stop shying away from transparency as if its a naughty child banished to the corner, being open to this conversation is the start of movement forward to a circular fashion system. It has been great to see the arrival of the Baptist World Aid and Tearfund Ethical Fashion guides as a starting point in holding brands to account. If we can do this more as consumers, users, designers and makers we put pressure on the brands, manufacturers and designers to think past the take, make waste linear fashion system we currently function in.
But these are not the only culprits of such grand fashion faux pas, everyday we are bombarded with marketing telling us what's best for us and that glossy perfection is attainable. The Fashion industry selling you more than you need at a price cheaper than it costs for a coffee, you can guarantee that garment worker wasn't paid a living wage. If we look to those who have come before us we find rampant green washing everywhere we look.
The article below points out that Vivienne Westwood, who even I held with high acclaim for her work creating awareness around the climate change issues is also trapped into the current ways of creating fashion. It just shows that the consumer needs to inform themselves and do their own research about what they are purchasing as very few in this industry can be 100% trusted.
I truly believe the current fashion system is broken and there is plenty of work to be done in this area, There are many innovations and disruptions needed to shift the perspective of the industry, but that's such an exciting concept. imagine all those new jobs that can be created to solve these rampant issues. I am committed to working towards the new paradigm of fashion and clothing creation for a circular economy. ARE YOU?
Fiona Clements. Pakeha, Kai Tahu, Craftivist, Sustainable Fashion and Zerowaste Textile Practitioner. Conscious Consumer advocate.