Abercrombie & Fitch’s advertising has been raising eyebrows for years. Their glossy spreads in magazines usually feature muscular, tanned men and women playing sports and enjoying the good life, often while wearing a surprisingly small amount of clothes for a clothing advertisement.
But behind the pretty pictures lie many questions about the conditions under which Abercrombie’s clothes are produced. Unlike a large number of major companies, A&F does not have a vendor code of conduct to ensure that its suppliers respect workers and the company does not publicly report on its labor practices globally. Shareholders at the upcoming A&F shareholder meeting on June 9, 2010 will be requesting that the company implement all of these missing elements.
The vacuum of labor rights protections has led to some specific problems for A&F in the past. For example, in 2002, the company settled a lawsuit with workers in Northern Mariana Islands who claimed to have been exploited by an A&F supplier.
More recently, readers of this blog may remember that A&F is one of the few clothing companies that has refused to speak out against forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry. In Uzbekistan, the government removes thousands of children from their schools every harvest season and forces them to pick cotton to enrich the ruling regime. The egregious abuses of children in the production of Uzbek cotton have led a large number of the biggest global clothing brands to speak out publicly and to commit to eliminating cotton from Uzbekistan in their supply chains until they can be assured that the government ends the forced labor of children.