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DISPATCHES: Britain’s Cheap Clothes Part 1


As a social enterprise specialising in the fashion training and production sector we are keen to fly that ‘Made in Britain’ flag high and proud but as we reported last week, Made in the UK does not always equate to good working practices…

As part 1 of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigative documentry revealed last night (Monday 23rd January) the demand for fast British fashion is on the increase but, it seems, at a cost.

(Reporter Tazeen Ahmad, pictured right, fronts the Dispatches programme, image courtesy of Channel 4)

Reporter Belal went undercover and worked at a few British suppliers marking up zip placements, labeling, pressing and packing. For the most part he was unsure of what his hourly wage would be until he was actually paid. Once his hours were tallied up Belal earned between £3.00 – £3.50 per hour, less than half of the national minimum wage (NMW), the legal minimum for over-25s in Britain. And when he spoke to other long term employees the story was the same, not one being paid more than £3.50 per hour despite NMW guidelines pinned to the factory wall.

When Belal told one factory boss that he would normally get at least £7.20, he replied: “You won’t get that here. That’s what I’m telling you. We don’t get paid much for our clothes, we have to compete with China and Bangladesh. If we pay everyone this then we will make a loss.”

When the investigation took their findings to the likes of River IslandNew Look and fast fashion e-tailers Boohoo and Missguided they replied that the majority of the factories concerned were unauthorized sub-contractors and that stringent audits were in place to ensure the company’s terms and conditions were adhered to. Some contracts were then terminated while others are now undergoing thorough investigation.

Jenny Holloway CEO of FashionCapital and sister company Fashion Enter comments:

“Dispatches asked us to be involved in the programme to reflect best practices but we declined. Yet again our British garment industry is shown in a poor light but the reason why we declined was because we believe the suppliers need to be held to account.  The retailers are actually very stringent on their supplier set-ups and compliance but it’s the suppliers who then subcontract out.  Why aren’t they called to task?  Fashion Enter is different because we are a supplier and we own our own factory. It’s taken us eight-years of constantly upgrading our work ethics and now we produce excellent quality with a stable happy workforce. When is the supplier going to step up and take responsibility – you can’t keep placing the blame on retailers.”

The investigation also questioned health and safety with one boss openly chain smoking on the factory floor and boxes of textiles and equipment blocking fire exits. Health and safety expert Professor Richard Booth said: “What people don’t appreciate is that fires happen very, very rapidly.” On the smoking he added: “This is an absolute disgrace, he was walking around dropping ash in the main area where all the fabrics were being retained.”

Reporter Tazeen Ahmad then asked if consumers really care about where and in what conditions their clothes are made? And questioned the true cost of making a garment. The investigation continues next Monday 30th January Channel 4 at 8pm.

(Image left, Ana shows off her machining skills at the Fashion Enter Factory open day.)

Want to see how our 7,500 m2 SMETA approved factory works? Then watch out for our next Factory Uncovered Open Day as advertised in our free weekly newsletter.

Or come along to our Trunk Show, the first one will take place Thursday 30th March 2017 in Manchester, many have entered our factory doors and floors for our highly regarded CPPD courses and open days, and now, we bring them to you!

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