Nearly a year into the pandemic, Adidas dropped the new Icy Park line, and needless to say, the internet went wild. While the clothes stun and the branding is on point (we see you, Beyonce), when we ran Adidas through our own Seal of Approval process, both worker well-being and environmental concerns arose from the brand’s lack of transparency — and if there’s one thing we know about fashion, it’s that when a brand isn’t being transparent about its manufacturing process, it’s usually because it has something to hide.
According to Beyonce’s cover story with Elle in 2016, the Ivy Park line was created to be a force driving the “uniting and encouraging [of] women.” Beyonce herself stated: “I called it Ivy Park because park is our commonality. We can all go there; we’re all welcomed […] It’s anywhere we create for ourselves. For me, it’s the place that my drives come from. I think we all have that place we go to when we need to fight through something, set our goals and accomplish them.”
So shouldn’t this message of empowerment extend beyond the clothing line itself and to the women who are stitching the actual garments?
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Here’s what we found when we scored Ivy Park with via our Seal of Approval process, which takes maker well-being and environmental justice into account. (Check out the full report here!) Needless to say, we weren’t impressed.
All workers deserve a living wage, not a minimum wage. A living wage is one that gives makers the ability to meet the needs of their family without the need work overtime or take in a supplemental income. As of yet, Adidas has not published any information regarding the payment of their garment workers — likely implying that this brand comes nowhere near close to paying their makers a living wage.
This insight is particularly disappointing when noting that Adidas can offer multi-million dollar packages to CEOs and celebrity endorsers without so much as raising an eyebrow. (Adidas’ CEO, Kasper Rorsted, has a reported annual compensation of $7.2 million.)
Even in 2021, the presence of sweatshops remains a societal issue that has yet to be addressed. In 2018, a Twitter user was quick to note that the seamstress hands behind Beyoncé’s original Ivy Park collection belonged to underpaid women working in sweatshop like conditions. While it’s unclear where the Icy Park line is being manufactured, we’re hoping that it is not under similar conditions.
I LOVE #Beyonce and her Female Empowerment BUT I need to call her out for paying 64 cents/hour to women making her #IvyPark clothes in sweatshops in Sri Lanka. Lesson here: Having Women rule the world will still bring Exploitation if they hold Capitalistic Values #Diversity pic.twitter.com/3ucUS5e0fn
— Idalin Bobé (@IdalinBobe) August 1, 2018
Many Adidas products are produced in countries like China, Indonesia, and India, as well as in free-trade zones where unionization is illegal or extremely difficult. In these areas, individual workers cannot request better working conditions without fear of retribution.
Twitter user @stanningkorra voiced disappointment in Ivy Park’s supply chain this past February, stating: “Sometimes I think about @Beyonce her Sweatshop allegations for Ivy Park, and it just pisses me off so much because I really admire Bey? If you’re going to countries with lower labor standards to produce your products you can not control whether this is done ethically?”
Sometimes I think about @Beyonce her Sweatshop allegations for Ivy Park, and it just pisses me off so much because I really admire Bey? If you’re going to countries with lower labor standards to produce your products you can not control whether this is done ethically?
— jerusalem bells (@stanningkorra) February 23, 2021
In response to question 3.1.1.i of our Icy Park score report, “Does [Adidas] demonstrate a commitment to intersectional environmental sustainability (through environmental sustainability policies, goals, collections, etc.)?, the answer is, sadly, no. More transparency is needed from the brand, as Adidas does not disclose the amount of CO2 emissions or the amount of water used during the manufacturing process. Additionally, most of the Ivy Park collections are made from virgin oil-based materials.
Adidas can and should commit to a cleaner, more sustainable manufacturing process — one which minimizes both environmental damage and looks at garment workers as more than a point in the supply chain. It’s all intersectional.
Keep workers safe
Adidas has not met PayUp Fashion’s demand that the organization and all its subsidiaries contribute to the Severance Guarantee Fund for laid-off garment workers, as well as contribute 1% of net revenue toward emergency relief for garment workers impacted by the pandemic. Like several other major labels, Adidas has signed the ILO Call to Action, which vowed a year ago to “protect garment workers’ income.” However, the international Call to Action has so far gathered less than $200 million, a radically insufficient amount to help displaced or underemployed garment workers during the pandemic.
While Icy Park’s message of feminism and self-worth continues to inspire, one has to wonder when Adidas’ respect and admiration for Beyonce (and the message behind Ivy Park) will be amplified and extended to the women who sew for them.