What Is Victoria's Secret? Actually, It's Child Labor


Bloomberg Markets went to Burkina Faso, where Victoria’s Secret usually buys up the entire fair trade and organic-certified cotton crop to make the lingerie it sells in the West. There, the magazine found children of 12 and 13, laboring in the fields on pain of being whipped with switches by their bosses the cotton farmers. Burkina Faso-grown cotton is shipped to India and Sri Lanka, where it is milled into cloth, cut, sewn and finished (Sri Lanka and India, it is worth pointing out, also have their issues with child labor in the garment industry). From there, finished underwear made of the fair trade organic cotton is shipped to the U.S., where it used to be sold by Victoria’s Secret with hang-tags that read, “Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women. Good for the children that depend on them.” (The company has since dropped the “good for children” part.) Bloomberg, which spent six weeks in the country, reports:

In Burkina Faso, where child labor is endemic to the production of its chief crop export, paying lucrative premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has — perversely — created fresh incentives for exploitation. The program has attracted subsistence farmers who say they don’t have the resources to grow fair-trade cotton without violating a central principle of the movement: forcing other people’s children into their fields.

Victoria’s Secret‘s partners in cotton-sourcing, including the Swiss organization responsible for certifying the cotton and auditing producers, say they have raised concerns about child labor since 2008. Victoria’s Secret says it never saw the relevant report. Cotton is produced thanks to forced and child labor in more countries than any commodity except for gold; the fair trade program is supposed to ensure fair labor standards are met. But this is hardly the first time that certification standards for organic and fair-trade cotton have been thrown into doubt: last year, the German Financial Times uncovered fraud “on a gigantic scale” in the production of “organic” cotton originating from India. One of the children Bloomberg interviewed, a 13-year-old girl named Clarisse, took a reporter into the field where she works and demonstrated how she turns the soil with a hoe:

Bending at the waist, Clarisse buries the edge of the blade and starts scraping a deep row into the earth, taking small steps backward with each cut. “It’s very, very hard,” she says, “and he forces me to do it.” Before long, her arms and hips ache. “It’s painful,” she says. When she strikes rocks beneath the soil, it sends the blade cutting into her bare toes. If she slows down from exhaustion, “he comes to beat me,” she says. He whips her across the back with the tree branch and shouts at her. “I cry,” she says, looking down as she speaks and rubbing the calluses on her hands.

As always, those $8.50 panties carry a high price. [Bloomberg]

Here are some more pictures of Karl Lagerfeld‘s relaunched namesake line, which goes on sale in the new year on Net-A-Porter. [The Cut]

Yeah, it’s December, but here’s another spring campaign for your consideration. Louis Vuitton, Steven Meisel, starring 27-year-old new face Kati Nescher and Daria Strokous. Marc Jacobs calls it “very soft and sweet, yet at the same time very bold and graphic.” Very. [WWD]

Jaime Beck and Kevin Burg captured this “cinemagraph” — a gif, but shot with the intentionality of a photograph — of Crystal Renn dancing on an F train. [The Cut]

This is Lanvin’s iPhone 4 case. It only costs $75. [TLF]

“Modeling doesn’t have anything to do with self-confidence. Working off your looks makes you pretty much the opposite of self-confident,” says Paulina Porizkova in the trailer for About Face, a new documentary about models and aging, set to debut at Sundance. “So maybe I became beautiful once I stopped modeling.” [Fashionista]

  • Jennifer Saunders explains that in the new Absolutely Fabulous, what with Christian Lacroix having gone out of business, Stella McCartney has become Patsy and Eddie’s touchstone label. “It’s funny because the joke is that Stella McCartney won’t ever let Eddy into her shop to get any clothes,” says Saunders. McCartney herself guest stars. “Lots of people go in but the door is always locked and I can’t get in. And I’m like, ‘Stella! Why don’t you love me?’ I fall at Stella’s feet at a drinks reception and go, ‘I’d look great in your clothes!’ She treats me like her stalker, which I’ve become. But actually, in real life, Stella told me, ‘Oh, I’d love Edina to look really nice in my clothes. Can’t she have a Stella makeover?’ And I said, ‘No, she can’t!'” [Vogue UK]
  • Today in horrifying dispatches from fashion parties: The H&M/Dragon Tattoo clothing line launch. Reports Racked,
  • While guests shop the collection, they can watch extended trailers for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and even look through a window into a “living room” where a model, attired as Lisbeth Salander, sits bound in chains watching scenes from the film.
  • Oh, don’t mind the girl in chains — just keep shopping! [Racked]
  • In other H&M collaboration news, Sofia Coppola shot the ads for the upcoming Marni collection. [WWD]
  • Company-wide, H&M — which has been experiencing a run of soft sales — announced its same-store sales fell by 3% during the quarter just ended. [WWD]
  • Do you want to eat powdered porcine placenta and goji berries? No? What if someone told you it was good for your skin? Still no? Okay then. Carry on as you were. [NYTimes]
  • Kim Kardashian picked up some jade bangles for $65,000 during the second day of the record-breaking Elizabeth Taylor auction at Christie’s. [InStyle]
  • Zandra Rhodes says she wishes textile designers were better known for their work. “If you see a fabulous Chanel suit in a beautiful weave on the runway, you can be sure Karl didn’t design [the fabric]. I’d like to see more credit given to textile designers for all their work done in the background.” [WWD]
  • Sometimes Daphne Guinness uses nail polish as lipstick. [Stylelist]
  • Oh no not this again. Paris has rejected the tentative show dates agreement for next September, arrived at between New York, London, and Milan — so it’s back to square one. [WWD]
  • You didn’t really believe that rumor that Fashion’s Night Out was ending, did you? Anna Wintour’s will kick on for 2012, friends, although the exact date is TK because of the whole September show schedule confusion. [WWD]
  • Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino sued Abercrombie & Fitch for trying to distract from its dismal quarterly results by writing a public letter making fun of his style and begging him to stop wearing its clothes, because he argues that constituted a kind of ad campaign in which he was made to participate without compensation. Abercrombie has fired back, stating that its actions — which included a t-shirt emblazoned with “The Fitchuation” — count as parody, which is protected speech. [TMZ]
  • Meanwhile, Vera Wang — the queen of collaborations — is said to be launching a line of moderately priced tuxes with the Men’s Wearhouse. That’s the same store with which Sorrentino has a line of tuxes. [WWD]
  • Racked rounds up the best store bathrooms in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. [Racked]
  • And now, a moment with Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The photographers are interviewed at length by Style.com about their relationship, work history, thoughts on art, dislike of stage-y “behind-the-scenes” videos, and one exciting-sounding new project: an entire February issue of Vogue Paris that features Daria Werbowy. They also discussed their relationship with their models, and why it is they only shoot people over 18. Van Lamsweerde explains:
  • Especially with girls, they start at 14 and everyone says to them, “Wow, you’re incredible. You’re so skinny. You look like a boy.” And once that girl is 18 and her body is finished growing, all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, she’s fat.” The poor girl. She’s just growing. We felt it was unethical to support that. You get judged anyway and it’s not easy. You have to really know who you are first. And at such a tender age — between 14 and 18 — you’re figuring out who you are…It’s an exchange of inspiration, of trust. You spend a day together and definitely anyone that poses for anyone is in a very vulnerable position. It’s not nothing to let yourself be photographed. We approach everything that we do with as much respect as we can possibly have for the person that we’re photographing. That’s also why in most of our images there’s a big awareness of the person knowing what’s happening.
  • Sounds like Uncle Terry could learn a few things about bedside manner from these two. [Style.com]
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