Earlier this year, a New York woman found an alarming note inside a Saks Fifth Avenue bag. "HELP HELP HELP [...] We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory... Thanks and sorry to bother you” the message read.
The discovery made news headlines and forced the nation to address factory conditions, use of labor camps, and consumer-conscious purchases. But it seems this incident was just the beginning of a slew of SOS messages.
This month, another cry for help was found stitched into a dress that was purchased at European department store Primark in Wales. And earlier this week, an additional note surfaced when Belfast shopper Karen Wisinska discovered a handwritten note of distress inside a pair of pants that were also purchased at Primark.
The note read:
"SOS! SOS! SOS! We are prisoners in the Xiang Nan prison of the Hubei province in China. Our job inside the prison is to produce fashion clothes for export. We work 15 hours per day and the food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs. We work as hard as oxen in the field. We call on the international community to condemn the Chinese government for the violation of our human rights!"
"I was shocked to find this note and card inside the trousers from Primark and even more shocked to discover that it appears to have been made under slave labor conditions in a Chinese prison," Wisinska told The Guardian. "I am only sorry that I did not discover the note when I first purchased the clothing – then I could have brought this scandal to light much earlier."
Upon the report, Primark executives released a statement insisting the aforementioned trousers were made about five years ago, and the company’s “ethical standards team” has inspected the Chinese factory conditions nine times and has not found any indication of forced labor.
"Despite growing suspicions in relation to the origin of the labels and the considerable time delay since the garments were bought, Primark knows its responsibilities to the workers in its supply chain and has already started detailed investigations," said a spokesperson for Primark.
Here’s hoping the investigation gets to the bottom of these claims.