Roman Originals, the company that sold #TheDress, faced a child labour scandal

An investigation alleged that that the company used child labour in India

Hazel Sheffield
Wednesday 04 March 2015 15:41
The company behind #TheDress, Romans Originals, saw a 560 per cent increase in global sales Friday
The company behind #TheDress, Romans Originals, saw a 560 per cent increase in global sales Friday

The company that made #TheDress is cashing in on its newfound success with the launch of a new white and gold dress later in the year. But Roman Originals is now receiving attention for another, less glamorous, side to its business: its child labour record.

The dress sent the internet into spasms last week after it emerged some saw it as blue and black and others white and gold. The company behind it, Romans Originals, broke their record with a 560 per cent increase in global sales Friday, according to the Boston Globe.

The black and blue version is already back on sale on its website, priced at £50 ($77). Roman Originals plans to produce a white and gold version later in the year.

According to Dan McDougall, sudden demand for the dress could put pressure on Roman Originals to mass produce the garment very quickly. He told Mother Jones: "Ordering huge amounts of garments on quick turnaround can place enormous pressure on supply chains. So I hope Roman Originals make a guarantee to everyone interested in ordering the dress that it will be produced in an ethical way."

In a 2007 investigation for The Observer, McDougall and fellow Observer colleague Jamie Doward visited sweatshops in New Dehli, India, where children as young as nine were found sewing on sequins and embroidering.

The investigators found one child with wounds on the backs of his legs even though a supervisor denied beating the children.

The child told investigators that he was sold to the sweatshop by his family. “I want to work here. I have somewhere to sleep at night,” the child told The Observer. “The work is hard and my back hurts from crouching over the material but I am learning.”

At the time, Roman Originals issued a statement to the Observer saying that it hadn't previously been aware of the child workers and that it immediately canceled its contract with the supplier:

”We were horrified to see these pictures and immediately launched an investigation into our suppliers,“ Roman Originals said in the statement, adding it had canceled its contract immediately. ”We had visited the suppliers and were presented with an adult-only workforce and practices that satisfied our standards. It appears that our supplier sub-contracted a portion of the business and this is where the problem occurred.“

McDougall called for Roman Originals to be transparent about its manufacturing process."Rather than make it a poster child for color blindness, why don't they make the most famous dress in the world…the poster child for fair trade or sustainable production?” he told Mother Jones.

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