What Beyoncé’s ‘Ivy Park’ Sweatshop Scandal Tells Us About the Fashion Industry

Image: Beyoncé in her ‘Where is your Park’ video

[April Wilson | TV Director]

Beyoncé’s highly anticipated ‘Ivy Park’ clothing range that was created in collaboration with Topshop’s parent company Arcadia (CEO, Sir Philip Green) has been in the news recently. It has been reported that the range is the product of sweatshop labour, with workers paid as little as £4.30 a day. Is this information really a surprise to the British public?

Beyoncé’s Ivy Park range has mainly come under fire due to its connection with the MAS Holdings Group. Despite the seemingly low pay of the employees, MAS is actually not breaking any rules and pays even its poorest workers more than the legal requirement of 13,500 rupees a month. However, many campaigners have argued that the living wage is closer to 43,000 rupees.

It should also be considered how much the workers are being paid in comparison to how much the Ivy Park range retails for. The lowest price item in the range is the Ivy Park Logo Trainer Socks that costs £4.00 – almost a day’s worth of pay, according to what the workers reportedly earn. The highest price item in the range is the Full Length Colour Block Body, which costs £160. If the workers do receive as little as £4.30 a day, even if they worked for a month (30 days) they still would not be able to afford to buy the most expensive item in the Ivy Park collection.

Beyoncé has spoken about how she wants her range to support and empower women, and hints of this can be seen in the ‘Where is Your Park’ video. In the video, Beyoncé suggests that her inspiration behind the collection is the ‘park’ she has in her mind. It is her special place where she went to give birth and tackle the major obstacles she has had in her life.

“I know that when I feel physically strong, I am mentally strong and I wanted to create a brand that made other women feel the same way.” –Beyoncé on Ivy Park.

However, despite Beyoncé’s cry for the empowerment of women, something which I think she helps a lot of women achieve, her Ivy Park line, unfortunately, does not enable this for some women. One machinist told The Sun on Sunday: “When they talk about women and empowerment this is just for the foreigners. They want the foreigners to think everything is OK.”

Jakub Sobik, from the charity Anti-Slavery International, has said:

“[Ivy Park] is a form of sweatshop slavery…companies like Topshop have a duty to find out if these things are happening, and it has long been shown that ethical inspections by these companies are failing. They should be replaced by independent inspections.”

Topshop, part of the Arcadia group, claims that its mission statement is to “produce fashionable products in an ethical way” according to information on their website. The group stresses: “When customers buy our goods, we want them to be confident that they have been produced under acceptable conditions”.

In response to these sweatshop claims, the Arcadia group told Vogue:

“Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme. We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams worldwide work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance. We expect our suppliers to meet our code of conduct and we support them in achieving these requirements.”
Beyoncé in her 'Where is your Park' video

Beyoncé in her ‘Where is your Park’ video

However, does the Ivy Park range deserve so much criticism? How does it compare with other shops on the High Street?

Primark has become notorious for allegedly not sticking to ethical trading standards. Numerous incidents may come to mind, one of the most the famous incidents is the ‘Cry for Help’ that was stitched into the label of one of their £10 dresses in 2014. The ‘Cry for Help’ phrase on the label read “forced to work exhausting hours”, highlighting the desperate conditions sweatshop workers find themselves in.

Primark stress on its website how they are trying to work towards better working conditions for their workers:

“Since 2011 we have partnered with… HERhealth (Health Enables Returns) initiative. HERhealth provides – health education and access to healthcare to women working in the factories that make Primark’s product.”

Despite all the accusations Primark has faced, it is not classified as the worst high street fashion store in terms of ethics according to thegoodshoppingguide.com. But it is not the most ethical either.

People Tree, Sea Salt and Fat Face are the stores that are labelled as the most ethical stor