The death toll from the building that collapsed last Wednesday in Bangladesh has risen to 377. Rescue efforts are continuing, and around 2,500 people — mostly women under the age of 20 who were garment workers at one of the four factories housed in the building — have been pulled from the wreckage alive. But 900 workers are still missing.
Women's Wear Daily reports that some workers tried to draw their bosses' attention to cracks in the building in the days leading up to the collapse, but were rebuffed:
The building collapsed quickly around the more than 3,000 garment workers, trapping many of them in the debris. Survivors have said they told their employers several days before the building collapsed Wednesday that there were massive cracks in the walls but were told to ignore them and continue working.
And, according to Reuters, the building's owner selected an unsafe site, built there illegally, and added extra floors without authorization:
Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority (CDA), said on Friday that the owner of the building had not received the proper construction consent, obtaining a permit for a five-storey building from the local municipality, which did not have the authority to grant it.
Furthermore, three other storeys had been added illegally, he said...Islam said the building had been erected on the site of a pond filled in with sand and earth, weakening the foundations.
The owner, Sohel Rana, has been arrested.
Meanwhile, this weekend garment workers demonstrated in favor of a higher minimum wage — Bangladesh's is one of the lowest in the world, at $37/month — and stricter safety standards. Most of the country's textile and apparel factories remained closed.
WWD notes that brands that have either admitted they sourced production to one of the factories in the building, or whose labels or other documentation were found in the wreckage, include Joe Fresh, Mango, Primark, Bon Marché, El Corte Ingles, Benetton, Children's Place, Carrefour, and Cato Fashions. There have been conflicting reports on whether Wal-Mart sourced production there. [WWD, Reuters]
Reuters offers a reminder that companies, namely Wal-Mart, have failed to take opportunities to improve safety standards throughout their supply chains, or even stood in the way of stricter safety standards, because they fear such actions might cost them money:
About 18 months before the previous big tragedy in Bangladesh — a fire in November in a textile factory that killed 112 people — shareholders at Wal-Mart Stores Inc had the opportunity to weigh in on the safety question. By a nearly 50-to-1 margin, they rejected a proposal to require suppliers to report annually on safety issues at their factories.
Rihanna would like you all to know she is WERKing on her next collection for U.K. retailer River Island. [@BadGalRiri]
Karl Lagerfeld is shooting a short Chanel ad where Keira Knightley plays the designer in 1913, when she opened her first boutique in the resort town of Deauville, France. The video is stuffed with famous models and fashion personalities, including Lindsey Wixson, Amanda Harlech, Stella Tennant, Brad Kroenig, Saskia de Brauw, and Baptiste Giabiconi (of course). De Brauw plays Vita Sackville-West, apparently. [WWD]
• In his first major interview since leaving Balenciaga, former creative director Nicolas Ghesquière blames the brand and its parent company's inability to provide the house with adequate direction on the business side for his resignation:
"I never had a [business] partner, and I ended up feeling too alone. I had a marvellous studio and design team who were close to me, but it started becoming a bureaucracy and gradually became more corporate, until it was no longer even linked to fashion. In the end, it felt as though they just wanted to be like any other house."
Specifically, he says he felt the people on the business side at Balenciaga lacked an understanding of merchandizing:
"The strongest pieces that we made for the catwalk got ignored by the business people. They forgot that in order to get to that easily sellable biker jacket, it had to go via a technically mastered piece that had been shown on the catwalk. I started to become unhappy when I realised that there was no esteem, interest, or recognition for the research that I’d done; they only cared about what the merchandisable result would look like. This accelerated desire meant they ignored the fact that all the pieces that remain the most popular today are from collections we made ten years ago. They have become classics and will carry on being so. Although the catwalk was extremely rich in ideas and products, there was no follow-up merchandising. With just one jacket we could have triggered whole commercial strategies. It’s what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t do everything."
Ghesquière, who took over the storied house when it was basically just a near-moribund collection of licenses, says, "the thing that I’m most proud of is that Balenciaga has become a big financial entity and will continue to exist. But I began to feel as though I was being sucked dry." [BoF]
• Now that Marc Lasry, the billionaire hedge-fund manager and Democratic donor who was a frontrunner to become the U.S. Ambassador to France has had to withdraw, the hoary old Anna Wintour ambassador rumors are back again. Wintour just got a big promotion at Condé Nast, so the likelihood she would actually take the job seems small. Her boss, Condé Nast C.E.O. Charles Townsend, said in March that he told Wintour when he offered her the gig as Condé's new artistic director, "If you accept it, you can’t then come and tell me you’ve accepted at a later date a job as an ambassador." [WWD]
• Victoria Beckham says of her design process, "I normally get naked and make clothes on myself." [Telegraph]
• Were you curious to know Lanvin's Alber Elbaz's thoughts on Hedi Slimane's vexed position at Saint Laurent? Well:
When you come into a house like Saint Laurent, or Chanel, or Lanvin, and you go into a place that existed before you were born and will exist after you die, it takes some time to get in, to get to people, and to get the energy of the place. Hedi is a very, very, very talented designer. It's not that I say that because I know him, but I know his work, and both of us worked at Saint Laurent at the same time. I think he's a very, very talented guy, and we just have to give him time to really build a story. We're living in a time where everything we are doing needs to be better, bigger, faster and cheaper. And we don’t give the time, because everything is instant. But not everything is coffee."
He added, "You know, to be a fashion critic is easy, because you just say, 'I love it, I hate it,' but life is more than love and hate. Already I hear that it's selling very well, and a lot of people are wearing it, so I think he's doing a good job and I wish him all the best, really from the bottom of my heart.
• Struggling J.C. Penney just got a $1.75 billion loan from Goldman Sachs. [WWD]
• Meanwhile, Penney's brief flirtation with cool is over. New/old C.E.O. Myron Ullman III is reversing everything that former C.E.O. Ron Johnson did, according to Women's Wear Daily:
• Slowing down the aggressive and costly shop rollout;
• Reviving private brands that were downsized;
• Cutting back on the tighter, contemporary fits in apparel in favor of a more classic, traditional balance for customers over 35;
• Bringing back big one-day sales and steeper markdowns and value deals while reducing everyday low pricing.
We're guessing this means no more selvedge denim. R.I.P., cool J.C. Penney. [WWD]
• The New York Times dares to pose the question, "Is Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s a film or an ad?" [NYTimes]
• Moda Operandi is working with Vogue to sell a handful of looks — no words on whose — that will be worn by celebrities on the Met Ball red carpet. The designer gowns will be available for purchase the next day, and they will cost eleventy billion dollars each. [Fashionista]
• And now a moment with Catherine Martin, the costume designer for The Great Gatsby. Catherine, how did you even start with a project like this?
"The first thing is to read the book, and to analyze what people are wearing, what Fitzgerald says they are wearing. And then you go like a detective, and you go to the Met library and you go to FIT and you look in books, and you go to libraries, and you look online, and you look on museum websites and you read as much as you possibly can. And you try and work out what the landscape of the clothes were, and what the references in the book actually mean. You know like, what’s a tricorn hat? Why is Daisy wearing one? You just start piecing all those references together and getting all the images, so you know what the landscape actually is."