Stella McCartney Team GB Sweatshop Scandal

Allegations that the GB kits designed by Stella McCartney are being manufactured by exploited Indonesian workforce

 The implications of such accusations made in relation to the factories contracted by Adidas have broad implications, deeply undermining the rhetoric of Olympics bosses that London 2012 will be the most ethical ever.

These allegations spring from the results of an investigation by The Independent newspaper. Adidas has promised to investigate the validity of the claims while London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games has also announced that it is taking the news ‘extremely seriously’: ‘We place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when securing goods and services’; ‘We have spoken to Adidas and they have assured us that they are investigating these allegations, the conclusions of which will be made public’; ‘We regularly remind all of our licensees of the importance we place on the sustainable sourcing code they have each signed up to.’

The Independent claimed that the GB kit ‘is being manufactured for Adidas in sweatshop conditions in Indonesia’. Working up to 65-hour weeks, the mostly female workers apparently earn as little as 34p an hour, with workers unions being banned! They are furthermore subjected to physical and verbal abuse: ‘They call you a dog, brainless, uneducated’, said one.

The new kit designed by McCartney deploys the motif of the Union flag, with a dark indigo colour scheme offset with red shoes. 

McCartney, Team GB creative director at Adidas, said the new kit was designed to bring the athletes under one look and feel, with all British competitors in the 26 Olympic and 20 Paralympic sports wearing part of the same 590-piece collection. She has described the design as ‘untraditionally British’, and, in relation to the use of the Union flag, explained how it ‘was very important to me was to try and use that very iconic image but to dismantle it and try to soften it, break it down and make it more fashionable in a sense.”

Responding to the onslaught of criticism about the notable lack of GB red, McCartney  said; ‘I wanted to start with the union flag, but I’m really aware the reds, whites and blues are in other nations’ flags and sometimes you can feel quite confused when you are watching the Games… is that American, is that French?’. ‘I wanted to make it slightly more delicate and have more texture’, she added: ‘It’s very recognisable still, I’ve represented all the parts of Great Britain. There’s a lot of red in there, but in a non-traditional way.’

Speaking about the real relevance of the design – i.e. whether it will help Team GB take gold – McCartney explained how the aim was to ‘make the athletes feel like they are in the height of their performance – that they are wearing technical gear that is absolutely going to shave off the tiniest part of a second.’ ‘When I talked to the athletes I asked them: ‘Do you feel different when you look good, do you think it enhances your performance?’ and they all said ‘yes’’, she continued: ‘You shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for sport.’

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