Feminist T-Shirt Caught Up In Sweatshop Controversy

A Mail On Sunday investigation claims the popular "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirts are produced in a Mauritian sweatshop.
Posted at 1:59 PM, Nov 03, 2014

A U.K. women's rights charity behind a popular pro-feminism T-shirt has vowed to investigate claims the shirts are produced in sweatshop conditions.

The shirts, which are a collaboration between the Fawcett Society and Elle magazine, sell for £45, or more than $70 each, with all the profits going to the charity.

But a Mail On Sunday investigation revealed the shirts are produced on the island of Mauritius by migrant women. They are allegedly forced to sleep 16 to a room and paid just $1 per hour — around a quarter of the country’s average wage.

The factory produces 40 million shirts a year for clients including Topshop and Urban Outfitters.

The feminist shirts gained publicity after celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and politicians Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg were photographed wearing them. Prime Minister David Cameron controversially refused to join the campaign.

Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman drew even more attention to the issue after wearing the shirt in the House of Commons during the prime minister's questions.

The shirts are produced by high-street fashion chain Whistles, though the chain has taken the item down from its website.

The Fawcett Society responded to the allegations in a statement saying Whistles assured the charity the shirts were produced to "ethical standards." It added if there is evidence the workers were mistreated, "We will require Whistles to withdraw the range with immediate effect and donate part of the profits to an ethical trading campaigning body."

A Labour party spokesman refused to address the issue, only saying the party is happy to support a campaign to promote feminism.