Under-fire designer Alexander Wang denies claims of 'sweatshop-like conditions' at Chinatown factory
Designer sweatshop Alexander Wang is being sued for $450million over his Chinatown factory
Better known for winning the admiration of the sartorially inclined than serious labour law infringements, Alexander Wang was today forced to defend itself against explosive claims that it ran a 'sweatshop' in Manhattan's Chinatown.
Speaking with WWD, the high-end design house has vowed to fight the $450million lawsuit filed against the company by an ex-factory worker and more than two dozen others.
The brand – favoured by celebrities and hankered after by fashionistas who flock to Mr Wang's showy 4,000-square-foot flagship store in SoHo – said that it will challenge the claims that it flaunted a host of New York State labour laws and forced workers to operate in 'unfair conditions'.
A company spokesman told the fashion newspaper: 'The company takes its obligations to comply with the law very seriously, including the relevant wage and hour regulations, the payment of overtime to eligible employees and having a safe working environment for all of our employees. We will vehemently defend any allegations to the contrary.'
The lawsuit was filed against Mr Wang last month. The fashion newspaper reports that it included nine charges, each totalling claims of $50million.
The successful designer, 28, who last year netted a staggering $25million for his tomboyish handbag and casual clothing designs, has been accused of running a sweatshop and violating labour laws.
Popular: Some designs, modelled by names
including Gisele Bundchen (right), are made in Chinatown where labourers
claim they are not paid overtime
According to the New York Post, the design mogul and his brother Dennis have allegedly been operating a factory under shocking conditions in Manhattan's Chinatown neighbourhood.
In the suit, filed at Queens Supreme Court by a collective of thirty Chinese garment workers, it is claimed that the designer flaunted a host of New York state labour laws.
Workers in the 200-square-foot space on Broadway say they were forced to work for stints of up to 25 hours at a time, while conditions were unsafe.
'Bad labor conditions are everywhere in the Asian garment community. It’s horrible'
Not only do the high-end garment makers – whose work has been spotted on the arms of a host of A-listers, including Jessica Gomes, and has wowed Anna Wintour on the front row at New York Fashion Week – claim to have not been paid overtime, but they say they were threatened with losing their jobs if work in the 'windowless' room was not completed
The charges against Mr Wang are led by worker Wenyu Lu, 56. The Post reports that the man claims to have been fired on February 16 after complaining about the conditions and asking for workers' compensation following a stay in hospital brought on by a 25-hour shift with no break.
The group report a lack of sleep,
illnesses, injuries and missed days were brought on by the hard labour
making the expensive clothes – a utility coat on the Alexander Wang
website is currently listed as costing $1,175.
If bags could talk: Supermodel Jessica Gomes was spotted last week with her primrose yellow Alexander Wang creation in LA
While the Post reports that the designer's team was unable to comment as it had not yet seen the suit, Mr Lu and the aggrieved labourers say 16-hour shifts and abuse are the norm, despite plans in place for the luxury label to open a further 15 stores this year.
Mr Lu's lawyer, Ming Hai, has seen many such trials before and told WWD than most factory owners would rather settles than be dragged through the negativity of a full legal battle.
He told the newspaper that there are around 20 garment factories in Chinatown – and that the conditions reported at Alexander Wang are far from unique: 'Bad labor conditions are everywhere in the Asian garment community. It’s horrible.'
He said that 'a new kind of slavery' exists whereby the area's workers are made to work long hours because they 'are new immigrants and they don’t speak English.'
It is, of course, not the first fashion brand to have been tainted by an eye-wateringly large legal challenge.
The Kardashians' range for QVC, Forever 21 and American Apparel have all been under legal scrutiny in recent months.
Designer Marc Jacobs has in the last few days been accused of not paying the models he employed to walk his New York Fashion Week runways, and tweeted in reaction: 'If they don't want to work w/us, they don't have to.'