Major New Zealand clothing retailers score poorly in ethical production report

A report into the ethical production of clothes has given only two New Zealand companies an A rating.

Tearfund's Ethical Fashion Report awarded Kowtow and Liminal Apparel A ratings for their ethical supply and production chains.

The lowest scoring New Zealand companies, Icebreaker and Farmers, were given D- and F ratings respectively for failing to provide the report with any information about their production practices, Tearfund said.

The report aims to highlight companies that avoid forced labour and worker exploitation.

Karen Walker and Macpac were awarded "most improved" for their efforts to better workers' right in their supply chain.

The Tearfund report was started in 2013 following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh that killed 1129 workers.

Kowtow founder Gosia Piatek said the high ranking her company received showed fashion brands could be both ethical and successful.

"Conscious fashion is not a trend anymore - it's a fact and the only way forward. We're happy to be on top," she said.

"To be given the highest grade of all New Zealand fashion businesses shows that we really are who we say we are, no green washing."

Ms Piatek said consumers often forgot their clothes were handmade.

“There’s a person operating that machine, or tucking that seam under with his or her finger.”

Jeff Ward, co-director of Liminal Apparel, the other New Zealand company that was given an A rating, said ethical clothes did not necessarily have to be more expensive.

He said his company's clothes retailed for around the same price as big-name chain stores, while giving workers a living wage, healthcare and counselling services.

He said his company was in fact able to sell clothes for cheaper than many brands.

"Just because you're paying a premium for a product doesn’t mean it's produced for a different price, they're often produced in the same factories," he said.

"It's just an insatiable profit market."

Mr Ward said being an ethical retailer was a financially sustainable business.

"It's what we've been doing for ten years."

A report into the ethical production of clothes has given only two New Zealand companies an A rating. Source: Breakfast