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Leon Kaye headshot

Workers Sew a Nightmare into Zara’s Supply Chain

By Leon Kaye

As widely reported on news outlets including Newsweek, and fanned by outrage on social media, the Spain-based clothing company has been accused of not paying some of its workers. The company may be inclined to place the blame on a rogue supplier, but labor and human rights activists will not buy any such excuses.

Unlike most apparel companies, Zara for years had eschewed sourcing clothing from factories that they did not own in Asian countries as far away as Bangladesh to Vietnam. The retailer (and its parent company, Inditex) long stood out for being vertically integrated.

Such a system had long been long been one of Zara’s greatest strengths, as the company harnessed technology (such as the personal digital assistants, or PDAs, of yesterday) before many of its competitors. The outcome has been lean inventories and nimble responses to consumer trends as shoppers were thrilled again and again with the constant change in fashion lines. Lead times were quick, as clothing was stitched together in nearby countries such as Morocco and Turkey - and of course, across the Iberian peninsula. Clothing could go from factory to shelf in mere days instead of weeks.

But as the company grew, it would only become natural that some of the chain’s clothing would have to come from contracted companies. And according to the Associated Press, one of those factories, owned by a Turkish company named Bravo, has been accused of not paying its employees on time, if at all.

“I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” is an example of one such tag shoppers had found. Such notes also encouraged Zara’s customers to exact pressure on the company so that they can receive their backpay.

One of the results has been a petition on Change.org, which is close to meeting its goal of having 25,000 people sign onto this campaign.

Zara has found itself mired in controversy before, from poaching designs from artists to accusations of animal cruelty within its supply chain. Allegations of slavery in factories providing the company clothing have also dogged Zara; one such case occurred in Brazil several years ago.

The company’s trouble in Turkey come less than a month after Inditex claimed it had entered into an agreement with the International Labor Organization to boost “best practices” for labor conditions within its factories.

To date, Zara nor Inditex have publicly commented on Bravo or its workers’ accusations.

Image credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye