A hot topic this week circulating is the modern slavery claims going against Boohoo Group- including Boohoo, bohooMan, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Girl, MissPap, Karen Miller, Coast, Oasis and Warehouse.
Incase you've been living under a rock, let me bring you up to speed- an investigation by The Sunday Times found a factory, linked to manufacturing for Boohoo PLC called "Jaswal Fashions" were not only ignoring the localised lockdown rules for Leicester and not following the strict government guidelines for social distancing; essentially putting the entire workforce at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, but an undercover reporter was also told to expect £3.50 an hour, well below the national minimum wage for the age of £8.72 per hour.
I'd like to start off by saying that I'm not writing this to accuse anyone of anything, I personally don't know the ins and outs of their operation and I've never worked, been associated or heard of this factory. Boohoo PLC strictly deny the claims and say that although they did previously work with this factory, it'd recently been taken over by a new business. Despite their denial, their value has dropped by £1bn over the last week due to these claims.
So, you might be wondering- if I'm not accusing, or defending anyone of anything, what is the point of this blog? It's to bring awareness. Awareness to the fact that even if Boohoo PLC didn't use this fashion manufacturer in the UK to supply their goods, paying them £3.50 per hour and forcing them to ignore social distancing, then someone else did and the bottom line is this isn't good enough. If this can happen in the UK- where working regulations are water tight then just imagine what's happening in other countries where this doesn't follow suit.
We've worked in fashion manufacturing for a while and we love every second of it- the idea of taking a concept and turning it into a ready-to-market product for a client is so satisfying- it's our true passion and drives everything we do. We are however very aware of the issues with modern manufacturing, but equally aware of the measures put into the place to counter these issues... the fact remains that it's great that there are independent companies and charitable organisations who certify factories on ethical labour, but it shouldn't have to get to that- businesses should be paying the value for what they're getting and so should the customer.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where consumers want something for nothing and brands like Boohoo group are able to offer what I'd say is very good value for money- I mean, who can fault a t-shirt for £8? I would also like to point out one thing and that is as a consumer, I have purchased from these brands, I'm not perfect either.
Regardless of whether Boohoo PLC are involved in these so called claims, or if they're innocent as they're protesting, then the fact remains the same- as consumers, we need to be more conscious of our buying behaviours and if this huge drop in valuation, alongside large retailers removing the group from their sites doesn't demonstrate the true power of the consumer, then I don't know what will.
I, as someone who runs and operates a business will always suggest you listen to both sides of the story and appreciate that whether you'd like to admit it or not- the news reporting isn't always 100% accurate and that you shouldn't believe everything you read. Umar Kamani, the Founder of Boohoo released a statement, where he said the following:
“Our evidence to date has not found evidence of suppliers paying workers £3.50 per hour. However, we have found other evidence of non-compliance with our Code of Conduct and the Group has taken the decision to immediately terminate its relationship with both suppliers.”
This blog is being written on a limb, it's not perfectly structured, or well-written by any means but as I think of things, I often feel the need to jot them down- hence the reason for this blog and our thoughts on the consumer needing to change going forward. The best end result for all parties here (regardless of the specific claims) are for consumers and brands to be more aware of their behaviours and purchasing. We need to collectively acknowledge the issues around manufacturing all over the world and work together on fixing these issues, but it has to start with the consumer and trickle down through the supply chain- because if you expect something for nothing, it's often at someone else's expense.