The finding comes as retailers are put under pressure to label all their clothes with their country of origin and to draw up ethical trading policies.
The GMB general union is writing to all big Britiish store groups today as it launches a campaign for compulsory country of origin labelling and better codes of conduct - in line with this newspaper's Global Sweatshop campaign, launched on Friday.
The survey of 1,400 garments in 15 stores showed that just one-quarter were made in the UK. One-quarter came from other developed countries while just under half came from the developing world. Among the leading suppliers were China - which with Hong Kong accounted for almost 20 per cent of garments - Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia and Romania.
Of 90 garments we examined in the Gap just three - from the United States and Malta - were from developed countries. Others came from places as diverse as Saipan - featured in an Independent investigation on Friday - Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Of 350 garments in Marks & Spencer, 50 per cent came from the UK, 20 per cent from other developed countries such as Belgium, Austria and Germany and 30 per cent from developing countries including Morocco and Indonesia. In Principles, more than half the goods came from developing countries while one-quarter came from the UK and one-fifth from other developed countries.
The GMB is campaigning to save its members' jobs, but it is also calling for better conditions for those making clothing abroad for the UK market.
A Mori poll for the union found that seven out of ten people wanted the right to know in which country clothes were made. Our survey found 5 per cent of items did not say where they came from. Among them were Dolcis shoes, Tommy jeans and Boss shirts.
Des Farrell, the GMB's national secretary for clothing and textiles, is writing to more than 40 retailers today calling for clear labelling and ethical trading. He said the UK clothes manufacturing industry lost 600 jobs a week last year. "Many of these jobs have been exported elsewhere, where conditions are certainly not as good as they are here and perhaps to some countries whose human rights records are very dubious," he said.
Further reports, page 8
Letters, Review, page 2
PLACE OF ORIGIN
Percentage of high street clothes from developing countries found in `Independent' label survey
The Gap 96.5
Miss Selfridge 39.5
M&S 46.3 Morgan 14