Exploitative labour practices are pervasive within the fashion industry, and luxury brands are no exception. Contrary to popular belief, the higher price tags attached to luxury brands do not guarantee more ethical or sustainable practices. In fact, the hidden costs of luxury fashion can be steep, with many brands still not doing enough to protect workers in the supply chain.
Throughout the world, workers at the lower end of the supply chain—from garment factories to raw material producers—often endure deplorable conditions. Adding to the complexity is the lack of transparency within the fashion industry. This opacity shields luxury brands from accountability, allowing human rights violations to persist unchecked. The intricate and convoluted supply chains of luxury brands further compound the issue. With numerous subcontractors and outsourced manufacturing, monitoring and regulating labour conditions becomes increasingly challenging.
There are signs that things are moving in the right direction, though.
Despite enormous revenues, luxury brands have been found to be among the poorest performers in terms of addressing risks of forced labour within garment supply chains. Data from the Clean Clothes Campaign also showed that the living wage gap for workers linked to luxury brands assessed by Walk Free and WikiRate was significantly higher (53%) than for non-luxury brands (38%),” reports Walk Free in its latest Global Slavery Index. Good On You found similar numbers with 111 out of 174 (63%) large luxury brands in their database being flagged as not paying a living wage at any stage in the supply chain.
One of the three core pillars of the Good On You rating system is labour conditions. This includes policies and practices on child labour, forced labour, worker safety, freedom of association (ie the right to join a union), gender equality, diversity, and payment of a living wage. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Their directory can be used to search thousands of rated brands.
Luxury brands that score ‘Very Poor’ or ‘Not Good Enough’ for people:
Christopher John Rogers
Brands like Fay and Ralph Lauren receive a “Not Good Enough” score for people and have been linked to human rights issues in recent years. In 2022, the BBC revealed that workers in Indian factories working for Ralph Lauren were routinely exploited.