In a new report published by Time, dozens of garment workers are speaking out about abuse and harassment they faced at a factory that makes clothing for Fabletics, the activewear brand co-owned by Kate Hudson. The Taiwanese factory located in the small South African nation Lesotho, Hippo Knitting, was investigated by the outlet in partnership with The Fuller Project, a global nonprofit newsroom reporting on women's issues. What they found was several women who allege graphic gender-based harassment and abuse.
According to the story, 13 of the workers say "their underwear and vulvas are often exposed during routine daily searches by supervisors." Three women say they were sexually assaulted by a male supervisor; others note that they were made to crawl on the floor as a type of punishment for unspecified actions.
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Meera Bhatia, president of expert services at Fabletics, tells InStyle that the brand is taking the report seriously. "The allegations against Hippo Knitting are absolutely horrifying. Immediately after receiving the report, Fabletics suspended all operations at Hippo Knitting. One of our senior leaders is now on the ground in Lesotho and is running a comprehensive investigation in collaboration with an independent investigator," Bhatia said in the statement. "These workers' accounts demand strong action and today we're contacting the organizers of the Lesotho Agreement to discuss the process of joining and expanding the binding, worker-led program that targets gender-based violence and harassment in Lesotho. Fabletics' commitment to the people of this region remains resolute, and we're paying these workers their full wages while we investigate."
Lesotho has been a hotspot for garment worker rights in the last several years. In 2019, the Workers Rights Consortium published a report highlighting gender-based violence (GBV) taking place in factories that make clothing for Levi Strauss, Wrangler, JCPenney, and Walmart. Recently, the brands signed a binding agreement with the worker-led unions in Lesotho (of which there are many) to put a stop to these issues. This was an unprecedented and necessary move if there are going to be changes within garment factories. Speaking up about GBV not only has the potential to lead to job loss, but to be incredibly dangerous. Empowering people to take collective, worker-led action is an important step to unmasking the abuses like the ones alleged at Hippo Knitting.