'That's not me': Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet comes out swinging at 'misleading label' claims

Long Lunch 07/05/2018

Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet has responded to claims that WORLD garments with labels saying 'Made in New Zealand' were actually manufactured overseas.

In an article that was later re-published by Newshub, The Spinoff on Monday accused the designer label of selling T-shirts purchased from AS Colour, which are manufactured in Bangladesh.

Speaking to Wendyl Nissen on RadioLIVE, Dame Denise denied misleading customers and launched a scathing attack against Madeleine Chapman, who wrote the original Spinoff article.

"To try and make out that WORLD has done these things I think is absolutely gutter journalism," she says.

"There's no garments in any of my stores that state that they're made somewhere where they're not made, which is what she's been trying to say for this beat-up story."

In April, Dame Denise criticised fellow Kiwi label Trelise Cooper for scoring badly on the Tearfund and World Baptist Aid Australia report, which grades companies on the ethics of their clothing production.

WORLD weren't included in the report because the label claims to have always manufactured all their clothing in New Zealand.

Dame Denise says every garment was made in New Zealand until seven years ago, when the country's last T-shirt factory closed because "all the designers were going offshore".

"We were unable to find a factory that had the machinery we needed for the T-shirts," she says.

"If there was a factory in New Zealand that still made T-shirts, we would use them."

WORLD then began purchasing T-shirts wholesale from AS Colour, which is based in New Zealand but whose clothing is manufactured in Bangladesh.

Dame Denise denies that it's misleading to sell the T-shirts with a label saying 'Made in New Zealand'.

"We never sell them as is - we embellish them, we print on them. And we don't say that they're made in New Zealand. The label is quite clear about that."

She says the factories which make the T-shirts are "gold-accredited with WRAP" - Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production - which means that workers have "all the things that our New Zealand employees have", including holidays, lunch breaks and 40-hour work weeks.

She also says the CEO of Child Labour Free has praised AS Colour for not using children to make their garments, despite the fact that AS Colour received a C+ rating in the Tearfund report.

The T-shirts make up just 1 percent of WORLD's annual turnover, claims Dame Denise.

"Ninety-nine percent of our garments are made in New Zealand by New Zealanders. Instead of applauding that fact, [Ms Chapman] just decided she wanted to rip us to shreds with the 1 percent that isn't."

Dame Denise denies that the brand has hidden where the clothing is made, and that the t-shirts "absolutely" say that they're made in Bangladesh.

"The WORLD clothing tags that say Made in NZ are made in New Zealand, so there's nothing misleading about this," she told The Spinoff.

"The T-shirts do not state this."

She told RadioLIVE that Ms Chapman had accused WORLD of cutting off the original garment tags saying where the shirts had been manufactured, which she vehemently denies.

"We have never done that, we have never cut out garments and put different labels in."

She says that claim has been retracted from the Spinoff article.

The article also said that some T-shirts were embroidered with a sequinned strawberry appliqué patch which is available on AliExpress from a Chinese online store.

Dame Denise says the sequinned strawberries are manufactured in Hong Kong and that Francis Hooper, her husband and co-owner of WORLD, regularly travels to the Hong Kong factories to pick up the sequinning so he knows how ethically they are run.

She also criticised Ms Chapman for seemingly not knowing that Hong Kong is a separate country to China, and that the article's headline says the sequins come from China.

"I was so offended at her lack of knowledge, and how uninformed and blatantly untrue this comment was. She still went ahead and printed it, which is absolute lies."

She claimed that The Spinoff had pulled Ms Chapman's original article from their website, which is not the case. They have, however, published Dame Denise's response to the accusations.

"I just feel it's tall poppy syndrome and she hasn't read my answers or she didn't want to believe them," she says of Ms Chapman.

"I'm not going to come out and say I don't use child labour if I do, I'm not going to come out and say things I didn't do.

"That's just not me. Everyone knows that I'm really up-front and I call a spade a spade."

Listen to the full interview with Dame Denise above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

RadioLIVE/Newshub.