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Is it all just a beautiful appearance? Victoria's Secret, a dark secret

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Every top fashion magazine presents Victoria's Secret fashion. Women love the swimwear and lingerie collections. There is even a “Fairtrade” cotton line. It is precisely this that is now under attack. The US Homeland Security Agency has even started an investigation. The suspicion: child labor.


Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2011 Photo: © Victoria's Secret

Bloomberg News, a highly reputable global player in the news scene, already has the beginning of December gloomy working conditions in one of the world's most important growing areas for organic and fairtrade cotton, in Burkina Faso in West Africa. A camera team there followed a 13-year-old girl who reported hair-raising living and working conditions. The girl describes with a sad look that she has to toil countless hours a day in the cotton fields for organic and fairtrade cotton. Only if their foster parents, the operators of the cotton farm, are gracious, there is at least one warm meal made from maize porridge. But often nothing at all. Beats are not uncommon.

Does Victoria`s Secret only buy supposedly "clean" goods?

A proven buyer is Victoria`s Secret, a brand of the Limited Brands company, which uses supposedly Fairtrade cotton to produce a "fair" high-end lingerie collection. Limited Brands Vice President, External Communications, Tammy Roberts Myers said in a December 15 article by Bloombergthat the behavior described in the film is contrary to the corporate philosophy, contrary to the code of conduct regarding working methods and origin, which Limited Brands, thus also Victoria`s Secret, expect from all their suppliers. And Meyers was also quoted as saying that investigations are sought in order to uncover the facts presented as meticulously as possible

Fairtrade: are logos and certificates patient?

Investigative reporting on supposed Fairtrade cotton and the child labor forbidden for this in a Victoria's Secret collection by Bloomberg News drew and is widespread. It even went so far that the US American "Homeland Security", the homeland security agency, beginning of January announced that it would investigate. There are even plans that if there is the slightest suspicion of child labor in cotton production, an import ban will be issued in the USA.

Shaken by the story and the allegations, Fairtrade International sent a commission of inquiry to Burkina Faso in late December 2011 to investigate the allegations. Since then it has been going back and forth. Fairtrade International announced in a press release on January 4ththat the girl would not be a minor based on a birth certificate and that she was persuaded to take the pictures for flimsy reasons. She is not employed at all on this cotton farm, reporting is made up. Bloomberg, however, countered that the birth certificate was that of an older, deceased sister. Is there a back and forth that the truth will never be revealed?


Super model Rosie Huntington- Whiteley made her international breakthrough as Secret Angel © zimbio.com

2008 study already shows child labor

Bloomberg reported in December of a study from 2008. This clearly shows that child labor in organic cotton and Fairtrade production in Burkina Faso «identified certain risks»* Be. Fairtrade replied that it never received this study. Interestingly, this study was carried out by the UNPCB, the national association of cotton producers in Burkina Faso. And this study was also carried out on behalf of Fairtrade International.

Fairtrade scandal or not: movement on the subject of child labor

Is the collection for Victoria's Secret now over? Fairtrade cotton created through child labor or not. Right now, all sides are searching for the truth. Yes, the story also has its good points. Fairtrade International announced in its statement on January 4th that it would screen even more certified producers for child labor and that the investigating homeland security authority is planning to do so Cotton import ban in the US to be introduced if there is a suspicion that this was caused by child labor.

Is child labor protection feasible in reality?

As the Bloomberg article shows, the Fairtrade cotton from West Africa is first sent to India for further processing, then to Sri Lanka for production and then sent to the company's headquarters in the USA.

Use against child labor or not, 100 percent security can be achieved at all at the various stations. Especially since a study says that the cotton production, besides gold mining, is the one that produces the most slave labor and the largest proportion of child labor.

UNICEF estimates that more than 158 million children between the ages of five and 14 forced into child labor become. Many under unhealthy conditions.

Our tips: This is how the consumer is off the hook

Fairtrade cotton at Victoria's Secret or not. There is another way. This is proven by the European manufacturers of sexy lingerie from guaranteed sustainable production.

Manomama fashion is guaranteed to be fairly produced. Read the interview with the founder of the fashion label, Sina Trinkwalder. And the label Schmidttakahashi shows how chic even recycling fashion is.

And, last but not least, it says: ask and rely on quality. Where do the products I buy come from? Anyone can inquire about this in the supermarket, in the fashion department store or from the companies themselves. As public pressure increases, change is more likely.

Sources: Fair Trade International, Bloomberg News, Terres des Hommes

* Quotation from a statement by Helvetas, one of the largest Swiss development aid organizations involved in the study.

Text: Jürgen Rösemeier