September Exposé: Louis Vuitton

Hey guys! Another exposé and this time it’s slightly different.

Generally, there is a wide assumption that, due to the hugely excessive price tags luxury brands place on their products, more money is invested in fair wages, safe work conditions, ethically sourced materials etc.

NAH B.

This month, I’m going to prove that this is not the case, by exposing a rather well known luxury brand…

LOUIS VUITTON

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We see our faves wearing their attire, the A list models stunting on the catwalk in all LV everything, their over the top blockbuster-esque adverts that make me think wow is it really that deep. But don’t be fooled by the glitz and glam of it all. 

From torturing animals, to poor working conditions, to refusing to disclose any information regarding their supply chain, its time we digged a lil deeper into why we need to be wary of luxury brands such as this one.

P.S. I really struggled to get the line ‘Louis Vuitton under her underarm’ out of my head during this whole process #pray4yisha



ANIMAL CRUELTY

Firstly, I disagree with the murder of animals for the sake of fashion. It literally makes no sense to me, is messed up, and cannot be justified. 

Obviously then, I was absolutely horrified when I read and watched the extent of the torture animals are enduring to provide the materials LV use for their products. I’ve linked the videos, but be warned, they are extremely graphic and hard to watch.

Rabbit farms

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In 2014, the animal welfare campaigning group Last Chance for Animals released research they had been conducting for two years on 70 rabbit farms in Spain, from which high end brands including LV had sourced from. Rabbits were found confined to tiny cages with unstable flooring for their entire two year lives and workers were found “callously bashing sick rabbits to death.” The crippled, diseased and severely wounded rabbits were left to suffer with no medical treatment. Sometimes farmers strangled baby rabbits and left them to die. Honestly, the video is absolutely heartbreaking, I literally cannot understand how such behaviour can be normalised and practiced so carelessly. https://vimeo.com/105515629

Crocodile farms: 

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(I actually made the decision to make a post on LV after reading about this particular case in Tansy Hoskins’ ‘The Anticapitalist Book of Fashion’- a great book!)

Earlier this year, PETA bought a stake in Louis Vuitton’s owner LVMH, to pressure them to stop using crocodile skin, and giving them the right to attend shareholder meetings and question the board. 

This comes after an investigation in crocodile farms in Vietnam, where tens of thousands of them are raised and killed to make ‘luxury’ leather bags. They found crocodiles living in crammed filthy pits, hacked apart and left to die. Workers electroshocked crocodiles then attempted to kill them by cutting into their necks and ramming metal rods down their spines. The animals shake vigorously when this happens, and can still be alive after having been cut open and left to bleed out. Indeed, experts have found that crocodiles remain conscious for over an hour after their spinal cord has been severed and their blood vessels cut. Can you imagine that kind of pain!? The investigators also witnessed the skin being cut off crocodiles, observing one crocodile that continued to move after being skinned, clearly still alive.  In just one farm, 1,500 crocodiles were slaughtered every three months. About 5,000 were kept in concrete enclosures, some narrower than the length of their bodies, and kept in these conditions for 15 months before being killed. https://investigations.peta.org/vietnam-crocodile-skin-farm/

POOR WORKING CONDITIONS IN ITALY

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Researchers have found poor working conditions among workers producing shoes for big brands, including Louis Vuitton, in Italy. For example, while a family requires at least €1600 to afford a decent standard of living, workers at entry level were found receiving wages that wouldn’t go any higher than €1200, with home workers receiving just €850. The illegal industry is also growing, with subcontracting firms secretly hiring workers at lower prices, and workers receiving contracts requiring them to work excessive hours, or work on day rates which severely cut their wages. This move towards insecure and flexible labour and thus the overall reduction of social protection is the result of Italy competing with countries such as Bangladesh to provide cheap labour to brands.

POTENTIAL RIGHTS ABUSES IN BANGLADESH

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In Bangladesh, two mobile telephone systems have been set up, allowing garment workers to anonymously report signs of human trafficking, delayed wages and child labour. From Jan-June 2016, there were responses from 85 factories (about 3% of sector), and Louis Vuitton was found to be among many brands who sourced from these factories. Altogether, 5200 workers dialled into the system, reporting at least 500 incidents of child labour. The data found that 20% of the sample were at an elevated or high risk of child labour, while 60% were at an elevated or high risk of fire safety violations.

In particular, one article has reported on workers toiling in leather tanneries in Bangladesh, which provide the leather used to make products for brands including Louis Vuitton. Those working in these tanneries in Bangladesh take high health risks and frequently fall ill, due to the chemicals they are required to use without protective equipment and the laborious tasks required of them. Workers are found suffering from chronic skin diseases, respiratory illnesses and gastric problems, however continue to work in these conditions, due to their desperate financial situation. There is also concerns regarding the number of young people found working in these tanneries, including a 13 year old who was found working 10-hour days.

“Every month I am ill. Any time I can get sick because this environment is so bad, but I don’t have any other employment options.” Mohammed Belal- a 30 year old tannery worker who has worked in leather tanneries since he was 10, he suffers from gastric problems and headaches


HIDING THEIR ABUSE

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You may notice that this exposé is shorter than previous ones. That’s because Louis Vuitton is hiding pretty much EVERYTHING. They refuse to disclose information regarding their supplies, their main production countries, nor do they disclose the names and addresses of their supplier factories. Indeed, Louis Vuitton and many other luxury brands are rated very low in terms of transparency, at just 15%.  This allows them to get away with much more than is probably mentioned in this post. We are even told to assume the worst, considering there is literally no information on their website regarding sourcing or labour standards policies.

In fact, this was highlighted in an attempted investigation by The Guardian. They found that many of LV’s shoes that were stamped as ‘Made in Italy’ were actually made in Transylvania, in secret, hidden factories. Management apparently make great efforts to avoid LV factories turning up on a Google Search. The factory they attempted to investigate had no mention of LV, just a shadow of the Louis Vuitton checkerboard print on the factory walls. 

While these shoes were made in Transylvania, they were ‘finished’ in France and Italy (soles are added). This is because, according to European parliament laws,  the country of origin for a product is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing”.This means that, by having the soles added in Italy or France, LV can have that prestige ‘made in Italy/France’ title on their products, while exploiting the low-wage labour in Romania, where a worker’s earnings for six months is equal to a single pair of mid-priced Louis Vuitton leather court shoes (idk what they are either).

As the Guardian researchers came across a big glass window overlooking the factory floor, with hundreds of workers inside, they were quickly ushered away from the glass and the factory visit was then abruptly ended.


So there you go. It’s important to note that most of these criticisms apply to the majority of luxury brands, so please don’t exempt them from criticism because they are equally as clapped.

 What pisses me off the most about these luxury brands is that they continue to exploit workers and torture animals, while being held in high esteem by society and the media, as though to possess anything by these criminals, or be associated with them in anyway is a sign that you have ‘made it’ or have safely secured a spot in the upper echelons of life. There is nothing prestige or distinguished about skinning crocodiles alive or hiding your workers so no one knows about the abuses you’re committing just for you to become one of the most profitable brands in the world.

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Once again, we need to get our voices heard and call them out on their bullshit. Below are ways in which you can contact Louis Vuitton and let them know we are fully aware of their corruption.

Twitter: @LouisVuitton_UK @LouisVuitton

https://www.lvmh.com/contact/

Insta: @lmvh


Sources:

https://www.fashionunited.com/fashion-news/fashion/fashion-labels-deny-sourcing-from-horror-fur-farms-in-spain-20141709497081

https://investigations.peta.org/vietnam-crocodile-skin-farm/

http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/10/early-warning-systems-reveals-child-labor-bangladeshs-garment-industry/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/17/revealed-the-romanian-site-where-louis-vuitton-makes-its-italian-shoes

https://issuu.com/fashionrevolution/docs/fr_fashiontransparencyindex2017

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/peta-buys-louis-vuitton-fashion-moet-hennessey-shares-stocks-lvmh-crocodile-skin-products-exotic-a7525631.html

https://cleanclothes.org/news/2015/01/23/italian-factory-conditions-deteriorate

http://www.ucanews.com/news/the-extremely-unhealthy-life-of-the-bangladesh-tannery-worker/70421

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