A report from the Sydney Morning Herald revealed the surf-wear brand had its 2015 line of ski clothing manufactured under “slave-like conditions” at a North Korean factory named Taedonggang Clothing Factory near the country’s capital Pyongyang.
The clothes were shipped to retail outlets with the “made in China” tag.
“Australians would be shocked to hear that an iconic Australian brand with roots on the surf coast of Victoria has been manufacturing its surf wear in North Korea,” said Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr. Helen Szoke.
Szoke said Australians care about where their clothes are made and how. “We have seen this time and time again by responses to events such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers and injured 2,500 more.”
In reply to the accusation, Rip Curl pointed a finger at one of its subcontractors for the practice, adding they were aware of the issue “but only became aware of it after the production was complete and had been shipped to our retail customers.”
“This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorised subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorised factory, in an unauthorised country, without our knowledge or consent, in clear breach of our supplier terms and policies,” Rip Curl’s chief financial officer Tony Roberts said in a statement.
But Szoke said the responsibility lies solely on the company. “Rip Curl has no excuse for not tracking clothing produced within its own supplier factories.”
“Companies are responsible for human rights abuses within their businesses – not only morally but also within United Nations guidelines on the responsibilities of businesses when it comes to human rights,” she said.
Szoke said other Australian brands, including Kmart, Target and Coles, have taken steps towards providing transparency by publishing, the exact names and locations of supplier factories.
She added companies such as Cotton On and Forever New are moving in this direction and it’s high time that Rip Curl and other surf brands caught up with the pack.
Want more Inside Retail? Subscribe to Inside Retail Weekly now and get our premium print publication delivered to your door every week.