This Is What Happens When a Fashion Company's 'Ethical' Instagram Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong

April 28th 2016

Looking at Australian fashion label Gorman’s Instagram, you’ll find fun patterns, bright colors, and of course, clothes. With approximately 115,000 followers on the photo-based social media platform, the company is doing something right.

But people on Instagram are outraged over the first post in Gorman’s new social media campaign to show who is manufacturing the clothes.

Riffing off the popular hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes, Gorman posted an image of one of their factory workers in China, a dimly lit portrait that stands out amongst the stylized photos of models on their Instagram account.

The caption reads:

"Hi, I'm Liao, a knitter at C.Partners factory in China. I have been working here for 6 years. I love gormans knit designs, especially the colours." We are particularly proud of the ethically sourced non-mulesed merino knits Liao and his team have produced for Gorman for the last 4 years. Thanks guys.!! #ethicallwool#merino #australianfashion #fash_rev

In the two days since the image was posted, it has received more than 695 comments, including some of these scathing ones:

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Gorman IG commentInstagram

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Why the hate?

While Gorman prides itself as an ethically sourced fashion company, their manufacturing practices aren’t what they seem.

As Distractify reported, Factory X, the company that owns Gorman, received an F rating from Baptist World Aid Australian 2016 Fashion Report last week. Gorman has denied the report, claiming that the only reason they received the lowest possible grade is because they didn't respond to the organization's request to see what they're doing to fight employee exploitation as well as child and forced labor.

A spokesperson for Gorman issued the following statement:

As a company we have decided to join the fashion revolution campaign #WhoMadeMyClothes. It is geared to providing more transparency in the fashion industry. Our commitment to participate in this was made weeks ago.

Regarding the Baptist Aid survey, we elected not to be affiliated with the Baptist World Aid organisation, not knowing their real process.

The F grading was a failure to reply, not a failure to comply. Our customers have been misled.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, the founder of Gorman, Lisa Gorman, said that her company would be posting its audits online "in the coming months."

The company has also edited the original post to include the following: “In response to your many comments below, we have a social and ethical policy in place which must be adhered to by the factories manufacturing for Gorman. In the coming months our audits will be published online. Thank you.”

It seems that people are upset over Gorman presenting itself as an ethical company when its actions reflect the exact opposite, and the campaign has even spurred an online petition to ensure the company is using ethical manufacturing processes. The “fakeness” of Instagram has been examined, discussed and debated when it comes to Instagram celebrities, models and lifestyle bloggers, but this is hitting a different nerve in the Insta-world.


The topic of outsourcing jobs has been a hot-button topic during the presidential campaign in the U.S. for two candidates in particular. Bernie Sanders has criticized Hillary Clinton’s stance on trade based on her loyalty to her husband Bill Clinton, who pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement, and President Barack Obama, in whose administration she served, who has pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Sanders has blamed these trade deals for outsourcing once-bountiful manufacturing jobs.

On the other side, Donald Trump has decried outsourcing and declared: "I'll bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I'll bring back our jobs, and I'll bring back our money."

This is a particularly important issue in states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, since blue-collar jobs that comprised a large part of their economy have been shipped overseas. So it’s no surprise that a fashion label’s Instagram campaign glorifying overseas workers taps into the general resentment Americans feel when it comes to outsourced jobs.

With the intense backlash against Gorman, we’re left wondering the same thing as this person on Instagram:

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[h/t Distractify]

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