Celebrities distance themselves from Boohoo amid investigation

Celebrities have distanced themselves from Boohoo as the fast fashion giant faces accusations of ‘human trafficking and slavery’.

Influencers including model Jayde Pierce and reality TV star Vas Morgan turned their back on the brand after claims it was using a £3.50 an hour sweatshop in Leicester.

The National Crime Agency is probing whether the factories were operating without social distancing measures and if workers were not wearing masks.

Home Secretary Priti Patel branded the allegations ‘truly appalling’ and vowed to clamp down on modern slavery in Britain.

Boohoo’s share price has plummeted by 35 per cent wiping more than £1billion off the company’s value.

Influencers including model Jayde Pierce (here pictured at a 2018 event sponsored by Boohoo) turned their back on the brand after claims it was using a £3.50-an-hour sweatshop in Leicester

Influencers including model Jayde Pierce (here pictured at a 2018 event sponsored by Boohoo) turned their back on the brand after claims it was using a £3.50-an-hour sweatshop in Leicester

Influencers including model Jayde Pierce (here pictured at a 2018 event sponsored by Boohoo) turned their back on the brand after claims it was using a £3.50-an-hour sweatshop in Leicester

Former TOWIE star Vas Morgan, here shown at a 2019 boohooMan launch in Los Angeles, wrote on Instagram: Slavery is slavery and my heart hurts for the families that have suffered at the hands of companies that fail to do due diligence like this.

Former TOWIE star Vas Morgan, here shown at a 2019 boohooMan launch in Los Angeles, wrote on Instagram: Slavery is slavery and my heart hurts for the families that have suffered at the hands of companies that fail to do due diligence like this.

Former TOWIE star Vas Morgan, here shown at a 2019 boohooMan launch in Los Angeles, wrote on Instagram: Slavery is slavery and my heart hurts for the families that have suffered at the hands of companies that fail to do due diligence like this.

Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work despite the newly reimposed lockdown

Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work despite the newly reimposed lockdown

Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work despite the newly reimposed lockdown

Pierce, who used to date Justin Bieber, wrote on Twitter: ‘So @Boohoo what are you doing about this? You have influencers promoting your sh** constantly, making you millions and THIS is what you’re paying people behind the scenes?!

‘I’m truly disgusted and it needs to change. Speak up about this, people need answers.’

She added: ‘I wouldn’t feel comfortable working with them again knowing that people are getting paid next to nothing to make them millions as a brand.

‘This is way more important and I hope other content creators stand up to this. We have to be the change.’

Pierce, who used to date Justin Bieber, hit out at the fashion label in a series of tweets this morning

Pierce, who used to date Justin Bieber, hit out at the fashion label in a series of tweets this morning

Pierce, who used to date Justin Bieber, hit out at the fashion label in a series of tweets this morning

A Sunday Times investigation aired claims workers in Leicester’s Jaswal Fashions factory were making clothes for Boohoo brand Nasty Gal for just £3.50-an-hour.

The undercover reporter also found no additional hygiene or social distancing measures in place.

This is despite Leicester being in a localised lockdown due to a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The story prompted the probe by the NCA and furious backlash from politicians including the Home Secretary.

Ruched Waist Floral Tea Dress available on Boohoo

Ruched Waist Floral Tea Dress available on Boohoo

Button Through Polka Dot Skater Dress on sale at Boohoo

Button Through Polka Dot Skater Dress on sale at Boohoo

Earlier this week it was revealed that clothes workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour to produce items for some of the UK’s biggest fashion brands including Boohoo. Pictured: Boohoo models (left and right)

Morgan said he was saddened by the claims, adding on Instagram: ‘Having worked with and supported Boohoo both professionally and personally for so many years, I am sure you can understand my sadness when reading these articles this morning.

‘There is no ”modern day” twist on this; Slavery is slavery and my heart hurts for the families that have suffered at the hands of companies that fail to do due diligence like this.

‘Companies that make billions off the back of hard working people trying to feed their family.

‘Although 80 per cent of people working in these factories are women of colour; this is not about race, this is about human rights.

‘Money is always used to silence and oppress us and I understand that not many other influencers will speak up about this.

‘They will continue to post and contribute to the beast that is abusing so many innocent lives but I urge all of you influencers, TV stars etc to spare a thought for the women and men in these companies that were forced to work despite testing positive for Covid 19, forced to risk their lives by working in an unsafe environment for months during lock down all whilst earning £3.50 an hour.’

He added: ‘This is not an attack on Boohoo this is a wake up call for ALL fashion companies that fail to investigative and rectify the disgraceful conditions in which their garments are made. WE DEMAND CHANGE.’

Boohoo also sponsors a number of Love Island stars and MailOnline has asked ITV if the programme will turn its back on the brand.

Morgan said on his Instagram account that he was saddened by the claims swirling around Boohoo

Morgan said on his Instagram account that he was saddened by the claims swirling around Boohoo

Morgan said on his Instagram account that he was saddened by the claims swirling around Boohoo

The Indian-born billionaire and his playboy son who began the Boohoo fast fashion brand from a Manchester market stall

Mahmud Kamani, pictured right, alongside his son, didn't want to spoil his children, but helped them set up Pretty Little Thing

Mahmud Kamani, pictured right, alongside his son, didn't want to spoil his children, but helped them set up Pretty Little Thing

Mahmud Kamani, pictured right, alongside his son, didn’t want to spoil his children, but helped them set up Pretty Little Thing

Mahmud Kamani, 55, started out running a Manchester market stall and launched Boohoo in 2006, now worth £2.6 billion, with his son Adam on board.

Mahmud’s other son Umar, 32, is CEO of clothes retailer PrettyLittleThing, which his father’s Boohoo Group bought a 34 per cent stake in for £269.8 million in May. 

The billionaire clothes retailer’s own father Abdullah Kamani went to school in Gujurat, India. He moved the family to Kenya, where many Indian families had prospered in the British Empire.

Mahmud was born there in 1964, but four years later the Kamanis were forced to flee to Britain by increasing unrest and draconian employment laws that favoured native Kenyans.

They settled in Manchester, where the entrepreneurial Abdullah sold handbags on a market stall to feed his family, before investing in property and founding the wholesale textile business Pinstripe, where Mahmud worked, using family connections in India to source garments. 

By the early 2000s, the firm was selling nearly £50 million of clothing a year to High Street names such as New Look, Primark and Philip Green’s Topshop.

Umar Kamani CEO & Founder PrettyLittleThing.com posted this image on his instagram page of him on his Rolls-Royce Dawn in Beverly Hills

Umar Kamani CEO & Founder PrettyLittleThing.com posted this image on his instagram page of him on his Rolls-Royce Dawn in Beverly Hills

Umar Kamani CEO & Founder PrettyLittleThing.com posted this image on his instagram page of him on his Rolls-Royce Dawn in Beverly Hills

Umar Kamani, pictured with Tulisa Contostavlos, is regularly seen mixing with celebrities

Umar Kamani, pictured with Tulisa Contostavlos, is regularly seen mixing with celebrities

Umar Kamani, pictured with Tulisa Contostavlos, is regularly seen mixing with celebrities

Spotting the potential in the growth of the internet, Mahmud set up his online retailer in 2006 that would deliver their own-branded fashion at rock bottom prices, starting out with just three staff and operating out of a Manchester warehouse.

Today it has a workforce of over 1,000, and celebrity advocates including everyone from Little Mix to Tallia Storm.

Tatler named Umar Kamani its eighth most eligible bachelor for 2019, alongside the Duke of Roxburghe and former One Direction star Harry Styles.

His lifestyle is decidedly jet-set, with his contacts book brimming with A-list stars such as Jennifer Lopez, rapper P Diddy and actor Denzel Washington. Such is his self-belief that when he wanted to launch PLT in the US three years ago, he offered a six-figure sum to reality TV star Kylie Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, to appear in one of his £15 orange dresses.

‘It’s all about the hustle,’ he says, with a shrug. ‘I knew I wanted to be in those circles because I’m obsessed with power.’

Power duly followed. The Kylie Jenner coup led to sales increasing ten-fold and allowed him to buy a seven-bedroom mansion in the Hollywood Hills, complete with basketball court.

His Instagram account reveals the very caricature of a playboy – lunching at Nobu in Malibu wearing Gucci slippers, hanging out with P Diddy at the Grammys and Kylie Jenner at Coachella music festival, and posing at the wheel of a yacht on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

‘A lot of these people are my friends,’ he says. ‘Will.I.Am is a really good mate – we FaceTime nearly every day – as is P Diddy. I was at the LA Lakers game with Denzel Washington a few weeks ago too.’ Love Island stars such as Molly-Mae Hague and girl band Little Mix are among the celebrities to have publicly endorsed the Pretty Little Thing brand in recent years, with other celebrities including Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Nicole Scherzinger and Paris Hilton also seen wearing the label.

It has helped 32-year-old Umar Kamani, regularly seen enjoying a luxurious lifestyle on Instagram, develop a personal wealth of more than £1 billion. His wealth has allowed him to buy a fleet of cars, including two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a £300,000 Lamborghini Aventador, a £92,000 customised G-Class Mercedes and a high-end Range Rover.   

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The Mayor of Leicester had been warned some companies were breaching Covid-19 social distancing guidelines three months ago, a former minister claimed.

Sir Peter Soulsby, 71, and his Labour councillors received a letter from Tory politicians warning them of ‘shuttered premises’ where textile workers were working.

Baroness Verma went on to claim it was an ‘open secret’ factories were open and were risking the health of their workers and the local population in Leicester.

The former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘It was an open secret that the factories were open.

‘The concerns were about the conditions in which some of them were operating.’

In an email sent to Labour councillors in Leicester on April 18, Tory politicians questioned if the party was ensuring the activities inside factories were being reported to the police and trading standards.

The letter read: ‘We have had a number of people contacting us in fear that factory owners are flouting the law by appearing closed but with employees still working behind shuttered premises.

‘This is not only dangerous to the workers in the factories but also to the families and wider communities at large.’

Leicester’s deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clark said: ‘We are told that Public Health England have found no evidence to suggest that the rise in cases in the city is linked to the textile industry.

‘Significant community testing is now under way in Leicester and workplaces and factory settings will be an important part of this in helping us to track and prevent the further transmission of the virus.

‘Complaints about textile factories operating during the lockdown in April were referred to the Health and Safety Executive for investigation. Last week we were made aware of other allegations.

‘These factories were visited by HSE and the police last week. Verbal advice was given, but no notices were served and none of the factories were required to close.’ 

Earlier, Matt Hancock said he had ‘quite significant concerns’ about employment practices at clothing factories in Leicester.

The Health Secretary also told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday there had been virus outbreaks at food and clothing producers in the city.

Mr Hancock said: ‘Well we’ve seen outbreaks in food factories and in clothing factories.

‘There are some quite significant concerns about some of the employment practices in some of the clothing factories in Leicester.

‘They are important problems to deal with, but the number one problem that we’ve got to deal with is getting this virus under control.’

In covert footage, the Sunday Times undercover reporter recorded himself packing garments clearly labelled ‘Nasty Gal’.

He was also approached by the factory foreman, who warned: ‘These motherf***ers know how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.

‘Take me for instance, I’ve been working for so many years in this industry, I’ve been here for five years but never could I take a proper pay packet. I’m still only on just over £5 an hour.’ 

Reacting to the clip, the NCA said in a statement: ‘Within the last few days NCA officers, along with Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking.’

This week manager of Faiza Fashion in Leicester, Asim Ali, told MailOnline all the garments they manufacture are for Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing (PLT).

He said: ‘All our work is for these two companies and it is the same for all the other garment manufacturers in Leicester.

‘We do not deal directly with them but are given the orders by middle companies who liaise with them.

‘We opened earlier than expected during the first lockdown because there was such an increase in online clothes shopping.

‘Since then, work has not stopped. We are inundated with orders because so many people are buying online.’

Mr Ali added: ‘In the old days we used to get orders for high street shops but all of that has now stopped.

‘The fashion industry has now changed, there are constant demands for new lines which means we have to work even harder to make clothes.’ 

Meanwhile Mohamed Talati, 55, who runs 21 F.C. Ltd, a cloth cutting company that provides cloth to the factories, told MailOnline: ‘The whole industry is very busy at the moment because there are so many orders to complete.

‘Most of them need to do be done within a week and since the coronavirus pandemic, online clothes shopping has increased, which is good for us.

‘Factories around here simply cannot afford to close. Many did during the first lockdown but reopened early because there was such a huge demand for clothing.

‘There are only two companies keeping the Leicester garment industry going and that is Boohoo and PLT. Without them there would not be any business.’ 

Boohoo, whose CEO Mahmud Kamani is reported to be worth £1billion, has already come under fire for allegedly risking the spread of coronavirus in Leicester after claims that factories supplying the online retailer told staff to come into work during lockdown despite being sick.

North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen raised the alarm about clothes factories in Leicester in January after being approached by whistleblowers.

Home Secretary Ms Patel asked the National Crime Agency to investigate modern slavery in Leicester’s clothing factories.

Responding to the investigation, she said: ‘These allegations are truly appalling and I commend the Sunday Times and local MP Andrew Bridgen for their roles in uncovering such abhorrent practices. 

Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester operate their sewing machines despite the risk of contracting Covid-19

Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester operate their sewing machines despite the risk of contracting Covid-19

Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester operate their sewing machines despite the risk of contracting Covid-19 

Asim Ali, 34, manager of Fazia Fashion, said his company had not received any guidance from local authorities

Asim Ali, 34, manager of Fazia Fashion, said his company had not received any guidance from local authorities

Mohmed Talati, 55, also complained about the lack of official guidance

Mohmed Talati, 55, also complained about the lack of official guidance

Asim Ali (left), 34, who is manager of Faiza Fashion in Leicester, said he had not received any guidance from the government while Mohmed Talati (right), 55, who runs 21 F.C. Ltd, a cloth cutting company, also complained about the lack of official guidance 

Dot On Our Watch Satin Crop Top. Sale price: £4 (down from £35)

Dot On Our Watch Satin Crop Top. Sale price: £4 (down from £35)

Lace Celebrate Bandeau Midi Dress. Sale price: £8 (down from £35)

Lace Celebrate Bandeau Midi Dress. Sale price: £8 (down from £35)

Nasty Gal and Boohoo.com are renowned for affordable fashion, with crop top (left, example) going for as little as £4 in a sale, and dresses (right, example) as low as £8

At a factory named as Jaswal Fashions, where clothes at bound for online giant Boohoo and Nasty Gal, employees are said to work for less than half the national minimum wage without health and safety protections against coronavirus

At a factory named as Jaswal Fashions, where clothes at bound for online giant Boohoo and Nasty Gal, employees are said to work for less than half the national minimum wage without health and safety protections against coronavirus

At a factory named as Jaswal Fashions, where clothes at bound for online giant Boohoo and Nasty Gal, employees are said to work for less than half the national minimum wage without health and safety protections against coronavirus

Responding to the investigation, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: 'These allegations are truly appalling and I commend the Sunday Times and local MP Andrew Bridgen for their roles in uncovering such abhorrent practices'

Responding to the investigation, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: 'These allegations are truly appalling and I commend the Sunday Times and local MP Andrew Bridgen for their roles in uncovering such abhorrent practices'

Responding to the investigation, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘These allegations are truly appalling and I commend the Sunday Times and local MP Andrew Bridgen for their roles in uncovering such abhorrent practices’

‘I will not tolerate sick criminals forcing innocent people into slave labour and a life of exploitation.

‘Let this be a warning to those who are exploiting people in sweatshops like these for their own commercial gain. 

‘This is just the start. What you are doing is illegal, it will not be tolerated and we are coming after you.’

A statement from Nasty Gal seen said the company would investigate the claims, but insisted Jaswal Fashions was not a ‘direct supplier’.

It said: ‘Nasty Gal does not allow any of its suppliers to pay less than the minimum wage and has a zero-tolerance approach to incidences of modern slavery,’ it said.

‘We have terminated relationships with suppliers where evidence of non-compliance with our strict code of conduct is found.’

MailOnline have contacted Boohoo.com for comment.

Boohoo previously told the BBC it was maintaining closer ties with its suppliers and would be investigating the allegations.

A statement said: ‘The Boohoo group will not tolerate any incidence of non-compliance especially in relation to the treatment of workers within our supply chain.

‘We have terminated relationships with suppliers where evidence of this is found.’

On Friday, Leicestershire Police said they had carried out routine visits at nine workplaces in the city to ensure health and safety.

No closure orders were issued and no enforcement was used, the force said.

Detective Inspector Jenni Heggs added: ‘We are aware of recent reports in the media of factories in Leicester continuing their operational work despite being in a period of lockdown.

‘We have been working with partners sharing information to carry out these visits which we will continue to do going forward.’

The shocking claims come in the same week it was revealed the Leicester mayor flouted the coronavirus lockdown to go and see his partner Lesley Summerland, 64, and carry out maintenance on her home throughout April and May.

Neighbours filmed the Labour Mayor at Ms Summerland’s home on several occasions as he arrived ‘carrying overnight bags and shirts.’   

On Monday, Leicester and parts of the surrounding area were placed back into a local lockdown following a spike of Covid-19 cases.

People are also banned from staying overnight at another household and those in the restricted area can no longer visit people in private gardens or indoors, and could face fines if they flout rules.

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