This article has been long in coming. Today is the day we go into the many, many reasons why when you walk into your closet, there shouldn’t be a single new Zara tag in sight. If you are even somewhat familiar with the fashion industry and its endless issues, Zara being problematic probably isn’t a new concept for you. If it’s a foggy concept, though, let’s clear that up.
Often, we vaguely know that many companies have ethical issues going on in the background, but not knowing the extent of the ugly details and just how many people they affect makes it easier to turn a blind eye long enough to add to cart “just one more time.” If there’s one company (other than Shein) you don’t want to overlook, it’s Zara. Here’s why:
Shocking no one, Zara, with their 3,000 stores across 96 countries, has cut too many corners when it comes to the treatment of the people behind their products. The company has been accused and boycotted by many for the slave-like working conditions in their factories in Myanmar, Brazil, Spain, and Argentina. In their Brazilian factories specifically, workers were found to have been working for up to 16 hours a day in dangerous, cramped spaces. On top of that, it was discovered they had been implementing discriminatory policies, forbidding the employment of legal immigrants altogether.
But here’s the discovery that makes things so much worse and should hit home for a lot of us. After an investigation conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in 2020, Zara’s parent brand Intidex was identified as one of the 82 companies that source their cotton from factories across China responsible for forced Uyghur labor. This led to several NGOs publicly taking a stand and boycotting Zara, demanding that they cut ties with these supply chains.
Then, in March 2021, the Intedix group published a statement mentioning they would “take a zero-tolerance approach towards forced labor of any kind and have stringent policies and actions in place to ensure that it [would] not take place anywhere in [their] supply chain.”A good step, right? Not so much. The statement was taken down on March 25th, 2021 after companies like H&M took a similar stance and ended up facing immense pressure from the Chinese government that threatened the discontinuation of the brand’s supply chains in the region.
But it gets worse. Of all the horror stories Zara has to offer, this might be the most well-known. In 2017, the working conditions got so bad that employees from their Turkish factory started leaving notes in the pockets of garments that translated to “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” among other troubling messages. The messages were a cry for help from workers who wanted to inform the public of the brand’s problematic labor practices and receive payment for their work.
Soon after, Bravo Tekstil, a related third-party manufacturer in Turkey, shut down overnight, leaving their workers without months of pay.
Zara has done almost nothing to acknowledge and take accountability for all of the above. So as consumers, the least we can do in protest is to stop consuming the products of a brand that seems to have no intention of changing its ways.
It might be easier said than done, but our society is gradually beginning to promote conscious consumerism (at least within the fashion industry), and if you do a little searching around, you’ll find that the options are plenty.