Italy: Investigation finds homeworkers who make fashion garments for luxury brands receive low wages & work without contracts; incl. co comments

An investigation by the New York Times found that some Italian workers making luxury fashion garments for local factories could be doing so from their home for as little as €2 an hour and without contracts or insurance. According to the report, the factories hiring these homeworkers produce clothes for labels such as MaxMara, Louis Vuitton and Fendi (both owned by LVMH). A spokesperson for MaxMara told the Times it was unaware of any of its suppliers using homeworkers, but that they had started an investigation, while LVMH declined to comment on the story. More information can be found in the articles linked below.

Note: The NY Times article also refers to Gucci (owned by Kering), although it does not directly link the brand to the practice of unregulated homeworking. Interviewed factory managers stated that they pay workers a living wage and that Gucci/Kering staff regularly checks working conditions.

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Article
21 September 2018

Italian workers are earning near sweatshop wages to make luxury clothes in their homes

Author: Marc Bain, Quartz

A “Made in Italy” clothing label suggests peak craftsmanship to shoppers around the world, helping luxury brands charge a premium for anything bearing the tag. But an investigation by the New York Times (paywall) reveals that some Italian workers making these items could be doing so in home workshops for staggeringly low pay.

One woman the Times spoke with was in the process of stitching a wool coat for the label MaxMara that could cost well over €1,000 (about $1,175) in a store. She earned €1 for every meter of fabric she finishes from the factory that hired her, which also produces outerwear for labels such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi...

Beyond the low pay, these workers generally don’t have insurance, or any way to address issues like being paid late, or not at all. Often they’re women, who may need the work to survive while being able to stay home and care for children...

A spokesperson for MaxMara told the Times it was unaware of any of its suppliers using homeworkers. “MaxMara considers an ethical supply chain a key component of the company’s core values reflected in our business practice,” it said in a statement.... LVMH declined to comment...

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Article
20 September 2018

Inside Italy’s Shadow Economy

Author: Elizabeth Paton & Milena Lazazzera, The New York Times

In [...] the southern Italian town of Santeramo in Colle, a middle-aged woman [...] stitched carefully at a sophisticated woolen coat, the sort of style that will sell for 800 to 2,000 euros ($935 to $2,340) when it arrives in stores this month as part of the fall and winter collection of MaxMara, the Italian luxury fashion brand.

But the woman [...] receives just €1 from the factory that employs her for each meter of fabric she completes...

The unregulated work she completes in her apartment is outsourced to her from a local factory that also manufactures outerwear for some of the best-known names in the luxury business, including Louis Vuitton and Fendi. The most she has ever earned, she said, was €24 for an entire coat.

Home work — working from home or a small workshop as opposed to in a factory — is a cornerstone of the fast-fashion supply chain...

Increased pressure from globalization and growing competition at all levels of the market mean that the assumption implicit in the luxury promise — that part of the value of such a good is that it is made in the best conditions, by highly skilled workers, who are paid fairly — is at times put under threat...

Puglian factory managers stressed they adhered to union regulations, treated workers fairly and paid them a living wage. Many factory owners added that almost all luxury names — like Gucci, owned by Kering, for example, or Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — regularly sent staff to check on working conditions and quality standards.

When contacted, LVMH declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for MaxMara emailed the following statement: “MaxMara considers an ethical supply chain a key component of the company’s core values reflected in our business practice.” 

He added that the company was unaware of specific allegations of its suppliers using home workers, but had started an investigation this week. [also incl. comments from Tod's & Euroshoes]

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