Spice Girls in sweatshop controversy
Limited edition T-shirts created by the band to raise funds for Comic Relief were reportedly made by Bangladesh factory workers who earn Dh1.65 an hour
It has emerged that Spice Girls T-shirts sold to raise funds for Comic Relief’s Gender Justice campaign were made in a factory in Bangladesh where women are routinely mistreated and overworked.
A report by The Guardian has revealed that the T-shirts, which have the slogan #IWannaBeASpiceGirl emblazoned across the front and the words "gender equality" written on the back, were produced by mainly female machinists who were forced to work up to 16 hours a day, earning the equivalent of $0.45 (Dh1.65) per hour.
The group announced in November that they would be embarking on a reunion tour. One week later, they unveiled a limited edition line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hooded tops in support of British charity Comic Relief’s Gender Justice programme.
The collaboration received support from a range of high-profile stars, with British athlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, singers Jessie J and Sam Smith, and even Blondie seen proudly sporting the t-shirts.
In a message on the website where the merchandise was sold, the Spice Girls wrote: “Equality and the movement of people power has always been at the heart of the band. It is about equality for all, ‘every boy and every girl’. We recently found out that charities focused on issues faced by women don’t get the funding that they desperately need, so launching a campaign to raise funds for these issues is incredibly important to us and an area we want to support.”
The limited edition T-shirts were sold online for $24.99 (Dh92) by Represent, a crowd-selling platform that enables anyone to create and sell custom merchandise with no upfront costs. The website is currently offering #MarchForOurLives t-shifts, limited edition Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation tees (to raise awareness of conservation efforts), and Stephen Amell Fight Cancer apparel.
While both the Spice Girls and Comic Relief say that they checked Represent’s ethical sourcing credentials, the online retailer apparently changed manufacturers without their knowledge. Interstoff Apparels, the company behind the factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, that made the T-shirts, said it would look into the findings but insisted they were “simply not true."
Workers at the factory earn considerably less than a living wage, and said they were routinely subjected to verbal abuse and harassment. One of the machinists who spoke to The Guardian said: “We don’t get paid enough and we work in inhuman conditions.”
A spokesman for the Spice Girls said they were “deeply shocked and appalled” and would personally fund an investigation into the factory’s working conditions. Comic Relief also said it was “shocked and concerned."
Updated: January 21, 2019 04:46 PM