The fashion industry remains accused

Between the demonstrations in China against the persecution of the Muslim people and the new revelations about the SHEIN brand, let’s take stock.

In 2021, Chinese-Swedish designer Louise Xin will dedicate her first digital fashion show to the Uyghur community. Photo credit: Emma Grann.

It will soon be three years since ASPI (the Australian Institute for Political Strategy) published a report denouncing many international companies that profited from the exploitation of Uyghur labor. By collaborating with factories where the nationals of this town had to work by force, these companies are accused of being complicit in their persecution. This exploitation is part of the genocidal policy (carried out by the Chinese government since the 2010s) to which the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region are subjected. The ASPI list, taken up in France as the list of shame, mentions many fashion brands and has grown ever since. Many have denied these accusations, others have remained silent.

In 2022, the repression continues, as recalled by a tragedy on November 24 in the capital of Xinjiang: 10 Uyghurs died in a fire. They were unable to leave their apartments due to the government’s “Covid zero” policy, which is particularly strict for Uyghurs. Since then, Uyghur, Chinese and international protesters have been voicing their outrage, and companies accused of profiting from the exploitation of this people are once again in the spotlight. Where is the fashion in this topic?


on the marks

In 2021, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) launches the “Uyghur Forced Labor Checker,” a Google Chrome extension that lets consumers know if the clothing brands they buy use Uyghur forced labor.

The issue was also revived in the industry at the end of November, when the Bloomberg media published an investigation that showed that SHEIN, the ultra-fast fashion giant, used cotton produced in the Xinjiang region and therefore linked to the exploitation of oyghurs. A new controversy for this China-based brand known for its catastrophic ecological and environmental impact. But is SHEIN the tree that hides the forest? This is explained by the Pay Your Influence account, which reiterates that 20% of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang and many brands listed by ASPI in 2020* have never responded to the allegations, or stated that they do not/stop collaborating with Xinjiang suppliers. without providing sufficient evidence. According to Fashion Network, this was still the case for Authentic Brands, Fila, Dangerfield, CostCo, Cerruti 1881, Skechers, Caterpillar, Zegan, Li-Ning, LL Bean, Jeanswest (Harbour Guidance), Jack&Jones (Bestseller) or Major, Early 2022 .

Puma, adidas and Hugo Boss had declared an end to all collaboration with the Xinjiang suppliers, but they came under suspicion again last May. The Spanish group Inditex (owner of Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe), the Japanese Uniqlo and the French SMCP (Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot and De Fursac) are under attack. for cover-up of crimes against humanity, filed in June 2021 before the French court by the Ethics in Etiquette collective, the Sherpa association and the Uyghur Institute of Europe and a Uyghur survivor. Last May, the hashtag #FreeUyghurs flooded a Nike publication, indicating that the public is not convinced by the brand’s statements that as of March 2021 it claimed to have reviewed its production chains in China.

Nike does not source products from the XUAR region and we have confirmed with our contracted suppliers that they do not use textiles or yarns from this region. … We have conducted an ongoing survey of our suppliers in China to identify and assess the potential risks of forced labor associated with the employment of Uighurs or other ethnic minorities from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, in d ‘other parts of China.’explained the comma in a press release.


What does the industry say?

Louise Xin is one of the rare designers to generate a few fashion press releases for her fight.
Photo credit: Emma Grann

Since the start of the scandal in 2020, the fashion media have addressed the issue, especially in the so-called generalist and women’s press (Elle or Marie Claire) but very little in the media focused solely on fashion. Condé Nast, one of the biggest groups in the industry, talked about it in Teen Vogue, but little in its flagship title, US Vogue, or even in the French edition. Finally, the independent media (such as Antidote or ANCRÉ) and the professional press (Vogue Business, Fashion Network or Business of Fashion) are the ones that mention the issue the most on their platforms. And while some industry figures have spoken out strongly, many influencers and influencers continue to collaborate with brands incriminated by “the shame list.”


we need laws

Photo credit: Associated Press

It is difficult to know if the brands incriminated have actually changed their practices, even when they say so, due to their lack of transparency and the absence of legislation forcing them to do better. But the situation is changing: the United States launched an “import ban” at the beginning of June, which consists of seizing Chinese production whose components come from Xinjiang.

The European Commission is currently debating a similar measure (which would ban the products of the exploitation of Uyghurs in Europe), pushed by committed parliamentarians and human rights activists. In June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs and calling on Brussels to establish “a new trade device to ban forced labor products in the European Union”. Now it remains to implement. On the French side, if the government recognizes the Uyghur genocide since January 2022, researcher Dilnur Reyhan states on Instagram: “The fighting continues, because the French government has not yet done anything concrete, Europe takes a delicate look at the genocidal Chinese regime in the context of the war in Ukraine, and the genocide continues with renewed vigor against the Uyghur people.

To follow the news of the Uyghur struggle, ANCRÉ recommends following Uyghurs News, Dilnur Reyhan, the Uyghur Institute of Europe and Paye Ton Influence.

*In particular: Adidas, H&M, COS, Weekday, Monki, H&M HOME, &Other Stories, ARKET, AFound, Lacoste, Nike, Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Pull & Bear, Uterqüe, Stradivarius, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Amazon, Puma, Ikea, Uniqlo, Muji, GAP, C&A, Patagonia, Cotton on, Carter’s, Badger Sport, Esprit, Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo Ralph Lauren , Target Australia, Victoria’s Secret, Woolworths, Maje, Claudie Pierlot, Sandro, De Fursac, Hart Schaffner Marx, Fila, Dangerfield, Costco, Cerruti 1881, Skechers, Summit Resource International, Zegna, Hugo Boss, Asics, Li-Ning, LLBean , Jeanswest, Jack & Jones, Mayor, Marks & Spencer

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