Blog: Leonie BarrieDiesel hijacked by shock tactics

Leonie Barrie | 7 February 2012

Efforts to draw attention to the rights of women garment workers have taken a somewhat sinister turn after a hoax website was set up purporting to launch a new campaign by Italian fashion label Diesel.

Slick graphics on Diesel for Women appear to mark the latest instalment in the brand's Successful Living campaign. "Welcome to Misopolis, a brave new world for female factory workers," it says, adding: "To make a free lifestyle possible for young women in emerging markets, [Diesel] will help them conquer a key life challenge: the right to safe abortion."

The bogus site is part of a crusade by non-profit groups Women on Waves and Women on Web, who want women around the world to have access to safe medical abortion. But they also say they are campaigning to expose the violation of workers' rights in the garment industry - and the reluctance of the fashion industry in general and Diesel in particular, in tackling the issue.

Their claims are outlined here and appear to focus on a report that "proved Diesel buys from suppliers that use the 'sumangali scheme,'" where girls are promised a lump sum at the end of a three-year period. This lump sum is actually part of their wage, which is below the legal minimum. The campaigners also note most female workers in the garment industry live in countries where abortion is illegal.

Not surprisingly, Diesel has reacted with fury and is threatening legal action.

Indeed, it's one thing for consumers to drive change, as was the case recently when protestors managed to get Versace and Giorgio Armani to ban sandblasting after bombarding their social networking sites with complaints. But another altogether to hijack a company's image and reputation.

And do shock tactics like this really work - or merely serve to undermine the message? Yes they might be attention-grabbing, but all-in-all they're also a worrying development.


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