High street 'shame' hits fashion week

19 February 2010 - 12:25pm
Press release


  • Friday, 19 February-Wednesday, 24 February 2010 London Fashion Week
  • Saturday, 20 February 2010 First joint LFW catwalk show by high street retailers

Garment workers poverty wages attacked

London Fashion Week launches today amid claims that overseas garment workers are exploited producing clothes for British stores involved in the event's first-ever joint catwalk show presented by high street retailers.

The accusation comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want on the eve of a show tomorrow (Saturday, 20 February) by 14 high street brands, including French Connection, River Island, Miss Selfridge, Marks & Spencer and Next.

This is the only London Fashion Week catwalk event open to consumers and will feature clothes available straight afterwards, in contrast to the official lineup, which showcases autumn and winter collections.

A report published by the campaign group Labour Behind the Label and War on Want criticised French Connection, River Island and Miss Selfridge for their failure to undertake any real work towards a decent wage for their overseas garment workers.

And War on Want points to the Sunday Times report last month which revealed that thousands of women in Sri Lanka, toiling six days a week making clothes for M&S and Next, take home basic pay of less than £50 a month, well below a living wage.

Asuntha, 22, who produces M&S clothes, said her £45 salary covered only bare essentials, such as rent, groceries and her factory canteen bill.

Asuntha's wage slip for December showed that she worked 52 hours of overtime, earning £77.50. Two other slips indicated overtime exceeding a legal limit of 60 hours a month.

Her one-room shack, which costs £11 a month to rent, is only just big enough for a bed, a table and a small stove. Asuntha's clothes are suspended from the ceiling to save space. A shower in the courtyard is shared with three other lodgers.

Inoka, 25, a machine operator at a factory supplying Next, who earns a basic salary of £53, shares a room 6ft by 9ft and a single bed with her aunt to save money. "It's not enough to live on," she said.

Her November wage slip revealed that she worked 65 hours of overtime, five more than the legal limit.

War on Want also highlighted its research on London Fashion Week sponsor Tesco, which showed that workers making its clothes in four Bangladeshi factories earned well below a living wage - as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "While these retailers celebrate their London Fashion Week show, they are shamed by people making their clothes who struggle to survive on poverty pay. High street retailers are failing to ensure a living wage for their overseas garment workers. It is high time Gordon Brown stopped this abuse."
War on Want is making the biggest-ever call on the UK government to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.

Over 16,000 people so far have backed the campaign Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops.


  • The catwalk show featuring high street retailers will take place from 3.30-4.45 pm tomorrow (Saturday, 20 February) at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ, King's Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4SQ.
  • The report from Labour Behind the Label and War on Want, which also criticises Asda and Matalan among high street retailers, can be alt downloaded here.
  • The charity's report on Tesco, which also examined Primark and Asda can be alt downloaded here.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728




This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of War on Want and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.















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