While looking for a washing instructions label in her new dress, a woman in Wales discovered a disturbing message: an extra tag had been sewn in, bearing the message "Forced to work exhausting hours."
"To be honest I've never really thought much about how the clothes are made," she told the South Wales Evening Post. "But this really made me think about how we get our cheap fashion... I dread to think that my summer top may be made by some exhausted person toiling away for hours in some sweatshop abroad."
As Véronique Hyland notes at The Cut, the dress in question — which cost around $10 — comes from Primark, a company that previously admitted to producing some of its garments in Bangladesh's Rana Plaza factory. In 2013, 1,135 garment workers died in an entirely-preventable collapse there, igniting protests over the abysmal working conditions in which much of our inexpensive clothing is created.
A Primark spokesperson says that there "have been no other incidents of that kind" relating to the dress in question, adding, "We would be grateful if the customer would give us the dress, so we can investigate how the additional label became attached and whether there are issues which need to be looked into."
However, it's not really necessary to verify the authenticity of the label in order to recognize that it's simply not feasible to mass-produce extremely cheap goods while paying workers a living wage and having them work reasonable hours. For instance: in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest apparel exporter, it's standard for workers to do 12 hours of overtime in addition to a 48-hour workweek. The minimum wage there is about $66 a month.
It seems that people are becoming increasingly unaware of the ubiquity and abuses of sweat shop labor, so, at the very least, this story serves as a good reminder that our cheap fashion costs other people dearly.
Image via Getty.