When ‘made in China’ is Really ‘made in North Korea’

by: Madhu on 07/03/2016

You care about ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty products, but sometimes it’s difficult to sort out who makes what, where, and what’s in it. With summer shopping around the corner, now is a great time to pick up Kate Black’s influential book, Magnifeco: Your Head-to-toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty to help you make informed decisions about what you decide to put on your body and face. What’s more, from July 1st to July 10th, you can receive a 35% discount as part of our Summer Sale 2016. Simply enter the coupon code Summer16 at the checkout when ordering online.

The following is a repost of an article from Kate Black’s groundbreaking blog, Magnifeco.com, the go-to digital source for eco-fashion and sustainable living. Kate has written over 1,000 articles about designers and ethical fashion drawn from her experience living and working in the major fashion hubs of the world. She is a regular feature on Huffington Post and is also the founder of EcoSessions, a global platform to facilitate discussions about change by bringing together designers, industry professionals, and consumers.

This piece is an exposé addressing misleading labels and the unauthorized outsourcing of production. As the title warns, sometimes “Made in China” really means “Made in North Korea.” It was originally published February 23, 2016, and is reprinted here with permission. Have a read:

When Anjaly Thomas was taken on factory tour in Pyongsung, North Korea in 2014 she was shocked to see a mainstream, Australian brand in production: RipCurl. Noting that the factory has been around since the 1970′s, first producing Russian orders, then Vietnamese uniforms, and then Japanese baby clothes it’s new clients are sub-contracted orders from China. In her blog, Travel with Anjaly, Thomas notes,

“China… ‘provides’ electricity to run or set up certain factories which in turn employs workers at minimum wages (North Korea follows a system of compulsory employment) who slave for long hours and then some, to mass produce goods such as these below, which are then packed, labeled and send straight back to China to be distributed throughout the world. China profits because they do not pay much to the locals, not even half as much as they would pay their own people and North Korea is happy that their factories are rolling and people are employed somehow.”

RipCurl, North Korea production. Image: Anjaly Thomas

RipCurl, North Korea production. Image: Anjaly Thomas

It is suggested that factory workers in North Korea are not compensated with cash but rather paid in food coupons they can redeem for rice or corn at government operated stores. This story not only highlights the tangled web of modern global supply chains, but shows how consumers become complicit in supporting slave labor; the North Korean factory was sewing in ‘made in China’ labels.

In their story, the Sidney Morning Heralds reported:

After Fairfax Media sent Rip Curl photos of its garments being made in North Korea, the company’s chief financial officer Tony Roberts released a statement that said the firm “takes its social compliance obligations seriously”.

“We were aware of this issue, which related to our Winter 2015 Mountain-wear range, but only became aware of it after the production was complete and had been shipped to our retail customers.

“This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorised subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorised factory, in an unauthorised country, without our knowledge or consent, in clear breach of our supplier terms and policies.

However, Nik Halik, a businessman who took a tour of the same factory, told Fairfax Media he also saw Rip Curl clothing being manufactured and affixed with ”Made in China” tags. According to Fairfax Media, Halik visited North Korea in July 2015, a year after Thomas.

Australia imports 90 percent of their apparel, mostly from Asia. Want to support ethical fashion, seek the Ethical Clothing Australia seal, an accreditation body working with Australian textile, clothing and footwear companies to ensure their local supply chains are transparent and legally compliant. You can see a list of accredited brands here.

Want to comment on this story, use #ripcurlcaught on twitter.

Have un-Ethical fashion news? Email us at tips@magnifeco.com





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