WORLD founder Denise L'Estrange-Corbet. Photo: Garth Badger

Those WORLD T-shirts: Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet responds

The outspoken ethical fashion champion has contacted The Spinoff with further comments about the garments that were manufactured offshore but boast ‘Made in NZ’ tags.

Following the publication this morning of a story revealing the provenance of garments being sold at WORLD with a “Fabriqué en Nouvelle Zélande” label attached, the fashion house’s founder Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet has contacted The Spinoff with a further response.

L’Estrange-Corbet complained that the headline – “T-Shirts from Bangladesh. Sequin patches from China. Sold by WORLD as ‘Made in New Zealand’” – was misleading, because, she said, the sequin patches on the T-shirts are manufactured in Hong Kong, not in China. (In 1997 the British transferred Sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, though Hong Kong maintains a Special Administrative Region status.)

L’Estrange-Corbet also disputed any suggestion their clothing isn’t clearly labelled. “The tag with where it’s made is right in the neck. It’s not misleading at all. It’s in the neck,” she said.

The Spinoff visited a WORLD store shortly after this phone call at 10am this morning and took the below photos of the labelling on the neck of their t-shirts. The string leads to the cardboard tag proclaiming “Fabriqué en Nouvelle Zélande” – Made in New Zealand. The country of manufacture, Bangladesh, is only to be found in a label low in the inside hem.

Images: Alice Webb-Liddall

L’Estrange-Corbet also emailed to clarify a point made in her earlier response regarding the cardboard tags and whether or not they could mislead customers. “The SWING TAG is made in New Zealand, the garments clearly state the country of origin in all our garments,” she said.

“The swing tag is not misleading, it is a tag that the prices are put onto, and yes, the tag is made in NZ!”

She also upbraided The Spinoff, saying, “Your support of a 99% New Zealand brand is remarkable.” She added: “The Tall Poppy syndrome I see is alive and well and still raging in NZ. Please remind me again why I should keep my production here??”

As of mid-morning, WORLD had taken down the web-page selling the strawberry sequin T-shirt.

All the visible labels in the neck area (Image: Toby Manhire)

L’Estrange-Corbet asked that The Spinoff’s initial questions and her responses be published verbatim. We are happy to do so; they are printed in full below.

The Spinoff: How long has WORLD been selling AS Colour clothing?

Denise L’Estrange-Corbet: AS Colour has been making t-shirts for WORLD for approx. 7 years. The t-shirts that AS Colour manufacture for us represent 1% of our annual garment production.
We manufacture only in New Zealand unless what we require is unable to be made here

All our t-shirts were once made in New Zealand, but one by one, these factories that were able to manufacture these, closed down, due to the fact that NZ designers were producing less and less garments in NZ.

After the final one closed, we were unable to manufacture the garments here, as there are specialist machinery required, which we did not have access to any longer, and this is why I have been so vocal, as I can see this is the way the industry across the board is going, if something is not done. It was not a decision we took lightly.

Why does WORLD cut the care tags off the AS Colour clothing before selling?

WORLD does NOT cut off the care labels of the AS Colour made t-shirts, you are very uninformed and alarmingly accusatory regarding this, as it is blatantly untrue. It is illegal in NZ to not say where garments are produced, with a lot of other information also. The care tags are highly visible in all our garments, if you had visited any of our stores, you would have seen this.

The WORLD label is sewn in, as AS Colour are a supplier to us, they make our t-shirts for us, it is our product, labelled by us. The garments are not sold as they are manufactured; they are all hand embellished/printed and hand finished, by us, in New Zealand, and available within our physical stores and online store.

[The Spinoff accepts that labels were not cut off]

Are you aware that AS Colour clothing is manufactured in Bangladesh and China?

Do you have any knowledge of the working conditions in the factories AS Colour uses?

Yes, of course I am fully aware where the t-shirts are manufactured. AS Colour were asked to meet a number of criteria put to them from WORLD. AS Colour also had to produce a certificate for the factory that would be manufacturing our t-shirts. The factory that produces WORLD t-shirts hold a Gold Certificate of Compliance, from WRAP, (the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production). The factory has worked with AS Colour for 10 years. WORLD has always been socially aware of its responsibilities, and have always believed in supporting those that have supported us, it is as simple as that, which is why 99% of our production is still made here, we chose not to go offshore, but feel without change and awareness, we will have no option. It is so hard to produce in New Zealand, anyone who does so, will tell you.

Everybody in NZ demands to be paid a living wage, yet are quite happy to buy garments that are made by people who are not. On the recent TearFund report, not one designer listed on that, paid a living wage to their workers.

This factory that produces our t-shirts has worked with AS Colour for 10 years.

Child Labour Free (CLF) strongly supports and endorses AS Colour who are diligently working towards ethical sustainability in the area of supply chain transparency, ethical sourcing/supply and of course, the child labour free certification process.

Nik Webb-Shephard, CEO of the Child Labour Free Foundation said “it is so pleasing to see AS Colour work through their ethical sourcing policies and processes and how they integrated this into their business day to day, this shows they are going abode and beyond a tick box assessment exercise”.

“It shows a brand taking the lead in walking the talk towards an entire supply chain that is free from child labour”.

The production manager that oversees the factory making WORLD’s t-shirts, visits the factory every three months to ensure the conditions set out are adhered to. He is currently there at the moment. This is done as the factory is not owned by AS Colour, but is used by them.

How does WORLD reconcile selling AS Colour clothing manufactured in Bangladesh and China with your highly public critical stance against offshore manufacturing, particularly Ethiopia, Cambodia, India, China, and Bangladesh?

As explained in answer 1, we were unable to still manufacture them here, 99% of all our men’s and women’s Summer and Winter collections, which are sold nationally and internationally, are made, designed and marketed in New Zealand, by New Zealanders.

Where are the sequin and embroidered patches – including the strawberry, lips, and wolf – on your current range of t-shirts manufactured?

Hong Kong, where one of the founders of WORLD is from.

In light of your comments around the poor conditions and “I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that children were making my garments or stitching on sequins.” If the sequin patches are manufactured in China, are you aware of the conditions in factories, particularly those manufacturing sequinned clothing?

Francis Hooper, one of the Co-Founders, Designers and Directors of WORLD, was born and raised in Hong Kong. He travels to Hong Kong at least 4 times a year, and personally visits the factories making and producing these patches. He is more than aware of practices, which is why he chooses to source them himself.

Having heavily criticised the mark ups of labels that manufacture offshore, do you accept that it is hypocritical of you to sell clothing manufactured offshore – including t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants – at a high mark up?

I am not a hypocrite. Lets for instance, take TopShop a brand that was brought to New Zealand by a local, which was undercutting all NZ made clothing manufacturers by a mile.

TopShop were retailing t-shirts designed by Beyoncé, yes, an internationally acclaimed artist who likes to talk about ’empowerment for women’, and as we know, she has a very wide range in terms of people she talks to.

The garments designed by Beyoncé for TopShop made her, no doubt millions of dollars, whilst the factories that manufactured the garments for her, paid their workers just NZ$8.00 per DAY!

Garments sold at TopShop are made in third world countries, shipped to the UK, and these were then shipped to Australia and NZ. With all this cost, plus rental, wages, electricity, heating, GST, cleaning, sick pay, holiday pay, security, PR and advertising, packaging and the freebies sent endlessly to media etc. the garments actually retailed for very little money, and the owners were making at least a 100% mark up.

So someone, (not just one, but numerous) somewhere were being paid a pittance, which is why, when we had to make the unenviable decision to use a factory offshore, we ensured we examined the process prior.

WORLD do not use a factory that does anything like this and never have. The factory we use ensures that the workers work a 40 hour week, have lunch and tea breaks, holidays and their working conditions are modern and kept under scrutiny, WORLD shows the same respect we have for our New Zealand employees.

AS Colour is also New Zealand owned, the owner is from the North Shore, so WORLD felt comfortable using a NZ company, (that employs many locals here), to oversee the factory practices for us.

Considering your WORLD clothing tags say “Fabriqué en Nouvelle Zelande”, would customers reasonably assume these t-shirts and more have been made in New Zealand?

As already stated, the WORLD clothing tags that say Made in NZ are Made in NZ, so there is nothing misleading about this. As explained, the t-shirts do not state this.

Is WORLD misleading its customers?

No.

Read more: T-Shirts from Bangladesh. Sequin patches from China. Sold by WORLD as ‘Made in New Zealand’

If you have any information relating to this story that you’d like to share, please email madeleine@thespinoff.co.nz 



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