Young women, hailing mostly from rural villages in Sri Lanka, are earning just pennies per hour manufacturing clothing for pop star Beyoncé’s new athletic-wear line, a report claims.
According to the UK Sun newspaper, Beyoncé’s “Ivy Park” clothing line is made in sweatshops that pay their workers just £4.30 (approximately $6.17) per day. The mostly female workforce lives in a communal boarding facility, and many reportedly work 60 hours per week in an attempt to get by on their modest salaries.
Beyoncé launched the Ivy Park clothing line earlier this year, with the aim of empowering “women who want to look and feel at the top of their game.”
“My goal with Ivy Park is to push the boundaries of athletic wear and to support and inspire women who understand that beauty is more than your physical appearance. True beauty is in the health of our minds, hearts and bodies,” Beyoncé reportedly said while launching the brand. “I know that when I feel physically strong, I am mentally strong and I wanted to create a brand that made other women feel the same way.”
But one employee at the MAS Holdings factory in Sri Lanka told the Sun that all the talk of female empowerment is “just for the foreigners. They want the foreigners to think everything is OK.”
The women and some men reportedly stitch clothes for the 228-piece clothing line by day and then return at night to live in a 100-room communal dorm with a shared shower block. The facility is reported to have a 10:30 pm curfew each night, mostly for the workers’ own safety.
“The work is hard — it’s just the same, same, same every day,” one machinist earning 18,500 rupees (roughly $125.30) per month told the paper. “We don’t get to go home much because we work all the time. They say if you work you can go up, up, up, but that’s just office workers. For us it stays the same always.”
In a statement, Ivy Park stood by what it called its “rigorous ethical trading programme.”
“We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams worldwide work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance,” a spokesperson for the clothing brand told the Sun. “We expect our suppliers to meet our code of conduct and we support them in achieving these requirements.”
Beyoncé is currently in the middle of her successful Formation world tour. She is next set to perform a sold-out show at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco on Monday, May 16.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum