Forever 21, H&M, Mango, and Zara top the list of fashion labels that regularly fail China’s quality and safety trials, say officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine. Xinhua, China’s news authority, reported Wednesday that a total of 12,305 cases of imported clothing, worth $47.67 million, failed quality tests in the first half of 2014 alone. More than 97 percent of failures, the newspaper says, were the result of insufficient instructions in Chinese. Of those, 396 cases fell short of safety tests, with the aforementioned labels accounting for 107 cases, or 27 percent of the failures.
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China requires testing on all imported clothing before it enters the domestic market.
While it’s unclear what the precise shortcomings of the four labels were, apparel generally fails safety tests if it presents potential hazards—skin irritants, for example—to consumers or the environment.
Zara’s been in the hot seat for substandard workmanship before. In 2011, a Beijing watchdog group called the retailer out for ignoring the “rights and interests of domestic consumers.” More so than any of the 20 brands being tested, garments from Zara misrepresented their fiber content or flopped in color-fastness trials. At least one pair of trousers bearing the Zara label also exceeded legal limits of formaldehyde and alkalinity.
Another indictment of Zara comes from Greenpeace, which in 2012 detected cancer-causing amines from the use of AZO dyes, among other toxic chemicals, in some of the company’s samples.
As the world’s No. 1 clothing retailer, Zara’s actions are particularly troubling.
“Zara alone churns out 850 million clothing items a year,” Li Yifang, a toxics campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said at the time. “You can imagine the size of the toxic footprint it has left on this planet, particularly in developing countries like China where many of its products are made.”