Made in Kolkata: Zambesi caught up in 'NZ made' saga

Kiwi fashion label Zambesi has changed the synopsis on its website to spell out that some of its garments are made overseas following a report published yesterday.

Radio New Zealand yesterday found a black beaded dress with a Zambesi label on it in its Ponsonby store with a "Made in Kolkuta" label despite the brand claiming on its website all of its clothing was "proudly made in New Zealand".

The synopsis on its website now reads, "Zambesi garments are proudly made in New Zealand at their dedicated Auckland workroom, with the exception of hand-crafted artisanal beaded and sequin items, and select accessories which are produced offshore", compared to yesterday when it said, "All Zambesi garments are proudly made in New Zealand at their dedicated Auckland workroom".

Zambesi co-founder Liz Findlay told the Herald the brand ordered the fabric from India and designed the garment in New Zealand but admitted it wasn't made here.

"Because the fabric is beaded fully, to make it in New Zealand would require hand cutting, removing the beading at the seams and re-beading after construction which [would have been] labour intensive for our small workroom," Findlay said.

Zambesi fashion designers Liz Findlay, also co-owner, and Dane Johnston. Photo: NZ Herald
Zambesi fashion designers Liz Findlay, also co-owner, and Dane Johnston. Photo: NZ Herald

She said it would not have been able to produce the beaded design in New Zealand.

"It was never our intention to mislead anyone and we humbly apologise for our error," Findlay said. "Our garments have always been labelled correctly and we have changed any incorrect wording on our site."

Findlay said the company's manufacturer in India was child labour-free and met ethical industry standards.

Two percent of its clothing collection was manufactured in India and China last season.

"Last summer 2017/18 the percentage handcrafted offshore in India, beaded garments, and China, embroidered caps and canvas bags, was 2% of the season's production," she said. "The current Zambesi winter collection now instore is 100% all made in New Zealand."

The Commerce Commission said it had not received any complaints about Zambesi on this issue.

Simon Lendrum, managing director of advertising agency JWT, said the made-in-New Zealand marketing tagline was not ambiguous and should not be used to leverage sales if the claim was not 100% correct.

"If something is stated to be NZ-made then that is the consumer expectation without qualification," Lendrum said.

"Made is about manufacturing and therefore it needs to be manufactured locally."

Claiming there were not enough local resources to produce 100% NZ-made apparel did not justify using the phrase if a brand was not, he said.

"If there are resource limitations that make it impossible for something to be made in New Zealand then it can't be a competitive claim," he said.

"Being true to what you stand for 90% of the time isn't enough."

Using an alternative marketing tagline such as "Designed in New Zealand" could be just as compelling for consumers, Lendrum said.

"For fashion designers I would have thought that the power of local brand and local presence and being a New Zealand designer is first and foremost in consumers' minds. The manufacturing process behind that comes secondarily, I think," he said.

"In NZ Fashion Week, we look to the designers and we champion our local stories from a design perspective not from a manufacturing perspective, so arguably in that particular world, designed in New Zealand is just as compelling."


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