Don’t Ignore the Alexander Wang x H&M Child Labor Video
Another day, another frenzy-inducing H&M designer collaboration. Last week, the long anticipated Alexander Wang x H&M collection hit stores and online. Shoppers lined up nearly 24 hours beforehand, merchandise was immediately posted on Ebay–you know, the usual.
But amid all the excitement for the coveted sportswear with the word “Wang” emblazoned across the chest, a controversial video was released, as well. German website Dandy Diary created what it called a “promotional video” in which they went to India to see how the collection was made. In the video, child laborers are sewing Alexander Wang x H&M logos onto apparel. Even though the video is meant to be an “art piece” it still raises a lot of questions considering the fact that both Wang and H&M have been accused of using sweatshop labor in the past.
Back in 2012, Wang settled a lawsuit filed by 30 workers who claimed they were forced to work in poor conditions for 16 hours at a time without breaks. Never mind the countless child labor accusations that Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M has received over the years.
H&M has since responded claiming that the collection was not made in Indian factories but rather in China, Turkey, and Italy, and that the company does not support child labor; however, we still don’t know whether or not this is exactly true. Just because this video is supposed to be an “art piece” doesn’t mean that we should laugh it off and move on. Despite the fact that thousands of people died last year alone when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, Bangladeshi factories still continue to breed poor working conditions. Obviously major retailers such as H&M are not pulling through on making sure that such a tragedy never happens again. While it may be difficult for both the companies and any U.S. law enforcement to keep track of what’s happening overseas, these retailers need to start taking responsibility for any third-party labor that they employ. Perhaps they could send corporate employees to serve as a liaison between the two.
It’s also worth noting the hype surrounding these coveted limited edition collaborations. Twenty-four hours after the collection was released, only some of the items were sold out online (though whether a full size range was available, I’m not sure). Even the items posted on Ebay were not extraordinarily marked up. If anything, it’s more about being the first one to get your hands on the collections first; kind of like when people wait in line for the new iPhone when they could just as easily get it shipped to their house that day.
What better way to further feed into the hype than to release a controversial video shining a spotlight on something that’s been speculated about in the past? Such a video serves as a way to get both Wang’s and H&M’s names in people’s mouths, ensuring sales not only for this current capsule collection, but for any of either label’s future business as well.
Political correctness be damned, apparently.
Ed. Note: The original version of this article included an embed of Dandy Diary’s blog, which has since been removed by the creator. Read a Dandy Diary’s comment on the video’s removal here.