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This is what a feminist looks like t-shirt
Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband wearing the t-shirtElle

This feminist t-shirt isn't actually made in a sweatshop

The Fawcett Society says that the controversial ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ tee is made ethically

The Fawcett Society has said that the charity's controversial "This is what a feminist looks like" t-shirts are made in entirely ethically, refuting claims by the Mail on Sunday that the garment was manufactured in "sweatshop conditions".  

"We are pleased to confirm that we have today seen expansive and current evidence from Whistles that the CMT factory in Mauritius they used to produce our ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirt conforms to ethical standards," said Eva Neitzert, deputy chief executive of the women's rights charity.

The t-shirts were designed by Elle magazine and sold by Whistles, with all proceeds going to the Fawcett Society. Deputy PM Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Harriet Harman have been pictured in the shirt. Actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston were also photographed by Elle in the garment.

Whistles launched an urgent inquiry after the Mail on Sunday investigation revealed that migrant workers were paid 62p an hour to make the £45 t-shirts at the CMT factory in Mauritius.

According to the Fawcett Society, the high street retailer has since produced "expansive and current evidence" which "categorically refutes" the claim that the factory is a sweatshop. 

Neitzert said: "We have been particularly pleased to receive evidence that 100% of workers are paid above the government-mandated minimum wage and all workers are paid according to their skills and years of service. The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated (at a higher rate of pay) for any overtime worked."

The workers are also allowed to join a union and there is a strong union presence in the factory. The Fawcett Society also stressed that an audit in October 2014 by an independent not-for-profit organisation also did not reveal any concerns about the working conditions, welfare or health and safety of the factory employees. 

In short, this isn't a sweatshop at all. Maya Forstater, a researcher who blogs on sustainable development, says that CMT certainly doesn't look like the "fly-by-night back-alley operation" implied by the Mail.

"This looks like a well equipped, purpose built factory," she writes. "As the NGO Labour Behind the Label has said the conditions are industry standard. I’d go further and say it looks like one of the world’s better apparel factories."

She adds: "Low wages and communal dorms may be an unpalatable contrast to the t-shirt’s empowerment message, inflated pricetag, and celebrity endorsement, but the reality is that work on this unglamorous side of the fashion industry has been a way out of poverty for many millions of women and men, and a first rung towards industrial development for many countries."

Still, that doesn't quite negate the uneasy feeling you get when you consider the existence of a £45 t-shirt made for less than a pound per hour. (It's called late-stage capitalist guilt.) But if we're going to get worked up over the existence of sweatshops, the least we can do is make sure we know what one actually looks like.