World's Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet 'incorrect' over t-shirt industry - Kiwi manufacturer

  • 08/05/2018

Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet's claim that she could not find any New Zealand-based T-shirt manufacturers has been rubbished by a Kiwi T-shirt manufacturer.

The under-fire World co-founder 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 told RadioLIVE on Monday.

"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 sources them from Bangladesh.

But with a simple Google search for 'clothing manufacturer' in New Zealand, Newshub was able to track down a 100 percent New Zealand owned and operated clothing company which makes its clothing here.

Seabreeze Apparel has been open since 1984, and says it's likely the only operation in the country to offer a complete manufacturing service for New Zealand-made apparel.

Managing director Malcolm Walkinshaw told Newshub it's "incorrect" to say you can't make T-shirts in New Zealand.

"We do make a lot of production for fashion brands in New Zealand... we make all sorts of fashion," he says.

The only items New Zealand can't make are "some very special types of garments that have to be made overseas because there may not be the technology in New Zealand to make them".

Mr Walkinshaw says Seabreeze has never considered moving manufacturing overseas.

"There's still demand for New Zealand-made garments and we're able to fulfil that," he told Newshub.

"That customer that we have doesn't want things made overseas."

Last year Dame Denise wrote an editorial for Apparel magazine, talking about how moving production overseas destroys the image of a brand.

"The day any of these brands decides to manufacture in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh is the day they sign their own death warrants," she wrote, "and are no longer considered luxury or even desirable".

Seabreeze employs 50 people - and keeping these jobs in New Zealand comes at a price.

"It's a lot more expensive than overseas because in New Zealand you have to comply with the legality of the social and environmental laws," Mr Walkinshaw told Newshub.

"Labour rates are also higher than overseas."

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.

World was contacted for comment, but says Dame Denise is travelling and is unavailable for comment due to previous commitments.