Kate Hudson forced to address ‘rampant’ sexual and physical abuses at African factory making her athletic clothing – The Mercury News


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These days, Kate Hudson gets less attention for making movies than for her sunny, happy Instagram posts that give her 13 million followers regular glimpses into her life as a mom, daughter of Hollywood royalty, Goldie Hawn, and life-style entrepreneur.
Hudson is especially proud of Fabletics, the $400 million athletic apparel brand she launched in 2013. The toned, 42-year-old often shares photos of herself, working out in her private gym and modeling Fabletics sports bras and leggings.
Hudson’s association with Fabletics, however, has recently put her in the hot seat. A major investigation by Time and The Fuller Project, a nonprofit news organization, has uncovered “rampant” allegations of physical and sexual abuse, and unsafe working conditions at a factory that predominantly makes clothing for Fabletics.
For a Time report, published May 5, Hudson issued a statement denying knowledge of the alleged abuses at the factory, Hippo Knitting in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru.
“Fabletics management attested to Kate that they maintain the highest ethical and social standards in their factories and workplaces and have commenced a full and comprehensive investigation,” Hudson’s statement read.
At least 38 workers say sexual & physical abuse is taking place at a garment factory in Lesotho.
In recent years, the factory has predominantly supplied one brand: Kate Hudson's @Fabletics
My latest w/@Refjacinta, for @TIME & @FullerProject: https://t.co/U8bB6w8uzl
— Louise Donovan (@louisedonovan) May 5, 2021

More than a dozen female employees at Hippo Knitting, told Time and the Fuller Project that their supervisors routinely searched them, exposing their underwear and vulvas.
“Another woman says a male supervisor tried to pressure her into a sexual relationship, while three women allege male supervisors sexually assaulted them,” according to the Time report.
“Several of those workers added they are often humiliated and verbally abused by management,” the Time report continued. “Workers say they are forced to crawl on the floor by one supervisor as a punishment. In one recent instance, a woman says she urinated on herself because the same supervisor prevented her from accessing the bathroom.”
Fabletics tweeted that the allegations against Hippo Knitting are “horrifying” and said it had suspended its operations there, pending an investigation. A spokesperson told Time and the Fuller Project that the brand vowed to do “everything in [their] power to further remedy the situation.”
— Fabletics (@Fabletics) May 5, 2021

The 1,000 workers there now are concerned they could lose their jobs if Fabletics removes its business from the factory permanently. The workers say they’ve endured these harsh conditions for years, and one worker told reporters: “We are tired, we need help, we work with bleeding hearts.”
The image of impoverished women in Africa, making around $150 per month and enduring harmful conditions, contrasts with the message that Fabletics and Hudson put out about the brand. The Time report describes this uplifting message as a mix of “inclusivity, empowerment and sunny Californian confidence mixed with social justice.”
“When women rise, we all rise,” read the caption for a photo of Hudson, posted by Fabletics on International Women’s Day. Following the police killing of George Floyd, both Fabletics and Hudson shared posts stating their commitment to solidarity with the Black community and to ending racial inequality and injustice.
This International Women's Day, we’re leveraging the power of our incredible and inspiring community. Make a statement with us in our limited-edition tee—our way of showing the world that we’re on a mission to achieve equality. Together. https://t.co/XfqivmhSc2 pic.twitter.com/ZtWtkiyGOk
— Fabletics (@Fabletics) March 6, 2021

The Fabletics spokesperson acknowledged to Time that the abuse allegations “go against everything that we stand for.”
For Hudson, the once up-and-coming star of “Almost Famous” and popular rom-coms, Fabletics has become her prime professional focus as her film opportunities have waned. The mother of three also has authored books on healthy living, hosts a podcast with her brother, and launched lines of nutritional products and of gluten-free craft vodka.
But as she told Forbes about Fabletics in 2018, “I work more on Fabletics now than I do on movies.” She also said she was driven to spread Fabletic’s body-positive messaging “to as many women worldwide as possible,” Forbes said.
Mood: feeling zen🧘‍♀️ #FableticsCoFounderhttps://t.co/S15jmU7NLI pic.twitter.com/42SjPUlouP
— Fabletics (@Fabletics) October 24, 2020

Boosted by Hudson’s star power, Fabletics has “been hailed as a retail success story,” expanding quickly across Europe, Australia and Canada, and into more than 50 U.S. brick-and-mortar stores,” Time reported. It earned more than $400 million in annual sales in 2019.
Like other American clothing brands, Fabletics was drawn to low labor costs in Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, Time said. The garment industry is Lesotho’s second-largest employer, and an estimated 90 percent of the industry’s workers are women.
An earlier investigation by a U.S.-based NGO revealed widespread rape, sexual harassment and assault at other garment factories in Lesotho. The investigation led to the factory owners and brands including Levi’s signing what’s known as the Lesotho Agreement, which seeks to ensure safe working conditions and punish perpetrators of physical and sexual violence.
That agreement doesn’t cover many other factories in the country, Time reported. That includes Hippo Knitting, where workers said they’ve also had to endure substandard safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One hope among unions that represent textile workers is that the Lesotho Agreement will be expanded across the industry. Grace Lin, the owner of Hippo Knitting, told Time she’s talking to the unions to develop a plan of action to “ensure that all these issues are addressed adequately.”
Meanwhile, Hudson’s company is growing. Time reported that Fabletics is expanding into more stores across the United States and launching a new fitness app.
Back in Lesotho, workers hope they won’t lose their jobs, while also hoping that Fabletics will push for meaningful change in working conditions.
“We need to be treated like human beings and not animals,” one female employee told Time.
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