National Consumers League

Just in Time for Fashion Week: ‘Made in Italy’ Label Questioned


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By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Celebrities, journalists, and buyers alike are captivated by the latest colors, textures, and trends revealed in designers’ collections during Milan Fashion Week.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the illustrious “Made in Italy” label on name brand designer goods may not mean what consumers think it does. The article draws attention to the reality that many of these designer goods are produced by sweatshop workers – in this case, many of them, Chinese immigrants – who are being subjected to horrendous working conditions.

In the last year, police raids of these Italian sweatshops have shut down various factories and workshops. Clearly more needs to be done to end the sweatshop conditions that workers across the globe are facing. Particularly troubling is that these goods are marketed as being “Made in Italy.” That’s technically true, but nowhere will consumers, who pay top dollar for these luxury items on the strength of the Made in Italy label, learn that sweatshop labor was involved in making these goods.

NCL has long championed consumer rights and worker protections and both are at stake here.  The League created the “White Label” at the turn of the 20th Century to designate factories that abided by fair labor standards. The League is also an active member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a group whose mission it is to protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions in the apparel industry worldwide by promoting adherence to international labor standards. We believe in the importance of knowing not only where the products we use are from, but also that they are made under the fair labor standards that we support. NCL has called upon clothing designers and manufacturers who employ workers under sweatshop conditions to pay workers a fair wage and provide decent working conditions for all in their employ. In the meantime, the League will continue to let consumers know the conditions under which the products they buy are made.