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Iconic Australian fashion label Gorman has come under attack for an Instagram post showing a Chinese factory worker with their wool garments.
The Melbourne born label known for its quirky prints moved manufacturing to China several years ago and is now under pressure to reveal how it treats its overseas workers and to be honest about their manufacturing processes. A petition with over 1000 signatures has been started.
In the post, Gorman quoted the employee saying: “Hi, I’m Liao, a knitter at C.Partners factory in China. I have been working here for 6 years. I love gormans knit designs, especially the colours”.
The company is facing backlash on social media with a deluge of negative comments and consumers pledging a boycott and saying the post is ‘disgusting’, ‘shameful’ and ‘unethical’.
For other Australian businesses manufacturing in China or considering to move offshore, Gorman’s experience is telling. While many small and medium sized businesses need to more offshore to survive, owners need to consider conditions and the effect the move will have on their reputation and consumer relationships.
Aussie SMEs should think carefully before deciding to manufacture overseas and consider whether it fits with their future growth plans and if it will adversely affect their Australian operations.
When dealing with an overseas supplier, businesses need to maintain quality and ensuring workers’ rights or they risk damaging their relationship with local markets.
Gorman’s problem highlights how offshoring is far from a quick fix for struggling businesses trying to make it in the manufacturing industry.
When Blundstone shut their Hobart boot factory in 2007 and moved their production to Thailand and India, it too was criticised by consumers, politicians and the media. In similar moves, Bonds clothing and Blackmores vitamins have faced comparable criticism.
Manufacturing in Australia peaked in the 1960’s and has been in steady decline since. Companies have been making the move to India, China, Malaysia and Thailand to improve global competitiveness and save on costs.