Fashion app sells off unwanted stock to aid Bangladeshi workers

Garment workers return from a workplace as factories reopened after the government has eased the restrictions amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2SHG9ONIAP

A British shopping app is raising money to help hard-pressed garment workers in Bangladesh by selling off clothes ditched by global fashion brands as the coronavirus crisis decimated their sales.

Under Mallzee’s Lost Stock initiative, boxes of clothes – with brand labels removed – are sold for 35 pounds ($44), with 37% of the retail price donated to a charity supplying food and other goods to clothing workers hit by layoffs and unpaid wages.

“We had the industry contacts to be in the perfect position to connect consumers with the cancelled stock supporting garment workers and helping avoid the clothes ending up in landfill,” Melanie Gray, a spokeswoman for Edinburgh-based Mallzee, said.

Labour advocates in Bangladesh welcomed Mallzee’s efforts but expressed concern that such initiatives could let big brands off the hook over mass cancelled orders that are putting the livelihoods of thousands of workers at risk.

Millions of Bangladeshi households depend on the garment sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. Exports fell by 84% in the first half of April as $3 billion-worth of orders were cancelled or suspended, according to factory owners.

As the industry reels from the blow, Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh garment manufacturers and exporters association, said schemes like Lost Stock were “imperative.”

Last week, Bangladeshi manufacturers said they would blacklist Western fashion brands that “exploit” them by failing to pay their bills due to the coronavirus crisis, days after threatening to sue a major British retailer over its debts.

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