We all love those fresh new finds that revive our tired wardrobe, or catch the eye of a love interest. Many people have outfits they consider sexy, or lucky, that may help them get their dream job or land that second date. Some people shop out of boredom, and have a constant collection of shopping bags sitting in the backs of their cars. What we don’t always know, is the type of companies we are supporting. Which brands have crazy policies, or are run by devilish characters? What is the true impact of that $9.99 fabulous find you bragged to your friends about? Here we will examine five popular brands that do not have the cleanest hands.
5. Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries was recently able to offer an explanation as to why the brand does not offer women’s sizes XL and XXL, or pants over size 10. His reasoning sounds completely exclusionary and offensive-and it is meant to! The CEO spoke out that he didn’t want fat people (what he would call someone wearing an XL or XXL) shopping in his store because it might deter good looking people from buying the clothes. Jeffries said that Abercrombie was going to specifically market to cool-good looking people only, and that less popular people who are not as good looking are excluded from their marketing, as they don’t belong. Jeffries’ reasoning for being so exclusionary is that Abercrombie is a brand that markets their clothes using sex appeal- the brand hires only good looking staff and models, and that is because they want the brand to excite the people that buy it, and not turn dull or bland in their eyes. It is interesting to note though that in men’s sizes, the brand carries XL and XXL, but this is perhaps because Abercrombie wants buff guys who never skip chest day to wear their clothes, as they would consider these types to have the sex appeal that plus-size girls allegedly lack.
Nike, and the other brands owned by Nike have been criticized of utilizing sweatshops and maquilladoras to produce their clothing, shoes, and accessories. They are still under inspection by several agencies as well as independents who hope to change the conditions the workers in these factories endure. In sweatshops, workers are forced to work in small areas, often with poor air quality, often doing repetitive assembly-line tasks. Sweatshop workers are often underage and are mostly female. Nike owns brands like Onitsuka, as well as Converse, and the abuse that employees endured at an Indonesian factory producing Converse sneakers was recently brought to the media’s attention. The Associated Press conducted interviews where workers and former employees stated that they had been physically abused by supervisors (slapped and kicked), terminated on unjustified grounds, and verbally abused (called names and insults that were especially offensive to Muslim workers). Although Nike has made several attempts to improve the conditions of workers and has made promises to improve its reputation of corporate responsibility, Nike is still failing to right their wrongs. Nike factories are being audited, but a reported two thirds of factories still do not meet Nike’s standards. Although factories are locally owned, so Nike may exert little control over them, Nike is still receiving criticism from watchdog groups. Think carefully before buying a new pair of kicks.
Lululemon pants are arguably the uniform of Canadian college students and yogis alike, and the brand is constantly expanding; however the founder of this brand, Chip Wilson, has some truly bizarre ideas. According to business insider, he believes in objectivism, like that taught in the book “Atlas Shrugged”, and that everyone’s foremost priority should be in pursuing self-interest. He thought birth control led to divorce, since women were more powerful, and men didn’t know how to deal with them. His reasoning for the three “L” name of the brand was that he thought it would be funny to hear Japanese people pronounce it. He thinks child labor helps struggling economies because it provides needed wages for families. He also had a harsh outlook on the lives of employees while he still acted as CEO. Business Insider claims that Wilson thought that if employees were sick, or if their lives were not going how they wanted them to go, that was entirely the fault of that person. Wilson asked his employees to answer strange questions, go on strange retreats, and eavesdrop on customer conversations as a means of getting product feedback. Although Wilson is no longer the CEO, he remains the brand’s chairman. This favorite Canadian brand has made a few moves production-wise that have tarnished the brands image. In 2007, Lululemon was called into question about their Vitasea collection, which contained seaweed fibre. Lululemon claimed that the seaweed would allow your skin to absorb benefits when the fabric was moist. The fabric claimed it could endow you with vitality from the vitamins and amino acids contained in the seaweed. Ultimately, the Textile Labelling Act forbids a company from making false claims about fibres in clothing, so Lululemon had to change the labeling of the product. Lululemon did claim that independent tests had lead to the claims of these benefits, though other agencies disputed these benefits. Lululemon had a more recent issue in 2013, where they were forced to recall pants from their most popular Luon line after the fabric was made too sheer in an effort to decrease manufacturing costs. Stories of embarrassed customers rained in on local radio shows and in the media all over Canada. Despite these factors, Lululemon is still a largely successful company with growing trading prices on the stock market.
2. Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld has his own name brand, designs for Chanel fashion house, is the director of Fendi, and has collaborated with companies such as Tokidoki, Diesel and H&M. Karl’s H7M collaboration was one of the most popular ones the high street brand had ever seen; however, Karl refused future collaborations with the brand. Why? Karl was angry that his designs for H&M had been offered up to size 16. Karl’s other brands do not go up to such high sizes, as he wants his clothes to be modeled by tall, statuesque fashion goddesses. Although pattern drafts are difficult to resize, and may not have the right proportions when scaled up for larger sizes, Karl was aware before the collaboration that his designs were to be made available in a typical H&M size run. He seems to be another designer who thinks his clothes should only be worn by beautiful people. In 2004 H&M demanded an apology. Not everyone has that body-type, Karl, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
H&M is a leader in a popular fashion outlook called fast-fashion, or kleenex-fashion, where clothes are meant to be worn while they are on trend, and then discarded for new clothes. This endless process of buying cheap designer knock-offs as they become trendy is taxing on the environment and on designers. The water and resources required to make each garment are astounding, especially since these garments are not made to last. Brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, and yes, H&M were put under the microscope by Greenpeace in 2011, by their report entitled “Dirty Laundry”. H&M utilizes the Youngor Textile Group’s factories for some of their clothing production. These factories have been releasing chemicals into waterways by the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas. Among the chemicals in the waste water from Youngor Textile Complex factories were PFC’s, Alkyl phenols, and hormone disruptors. The company denied using wet processing at those factories, but are known employers of Youngor. H&M tried to improve the public’s opinion of them by introducing sustainable marketing campaigns, only these were not as helpful to the environment an world as they had promised. H&M introduced a garment collecting program in 1,500 stores where they would provide a discount voucher to customers who brought in clothing donations. The clothes donated went to a fibre recycling program, but not to charity. Fibre will be re-used to decrease the competition for new fibres, so yet more H&M clothes can be produced for less. H&M has been accused of producing clothes that appear identical to runway looks of several fashion houses including Balenciaga and Kenzo, as well as the works of independent designers. H&M does not deny the similarity of their designs, but instead claims that they are doing the world a favor, by making fashion accessible to those in lower earning demographics. The price of looking like a superstar may be under fifty dollars from H&M, but the toll on the environment and designers who will not be credited for that design is worth much more.
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