At least 11 US and European brands are under fire and facing boycotts in China for criticizing alleged forced labor cotton practices in Xinjiang

H&M Shanghai
People walk by a H&M store on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street in Shanghai, China

  • Chinese consumers are boycotting international brands including H&M and Nike.
  • The boycotted brands pledged not to use cotton from the Xinjiang region in China.
  • Earlier this week, the US and other Western countries sanctioned China over forced labor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

At least 11 brands are facing boycotts in China over pledges not to use cotton from the Xinjiang region, which is reportedly produced with forced labor.

On Monday the US, EU, Canada, and UK placed sanctions on China for “repressive practices against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” Following the sanctions, past statements on human rights violations in Xinjiang from retailers including H&M and Nike surfaced on the social media platform Weibo, with users pledging to boycott H&M and other brands that signed a pledge to stop using Xinjiang cotton.

Read more: While Big Retail took a hit, some local boutiques have benefited from offering ‘retail therapy’ to customers eager to invest in quality items

Insider reached out to each of the brands, and have included statements from those who were immediately available to comment.

Here are the affected brands so far.

H&M

H&M
The H&M clothing store in Times Square in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 15, 2019.

Swedish brand H&M said in a statement that it would no longer use cotton from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and ended its relationship with a yarn company in the region. In the statement, the retailer said it was “deeply concerned by reports from civil society organizations and media that include accusations of forced labor.”

H&M’s statement was circulated on Chinese social media platform Weibo. H&M products were removed from shopping sites including Alibaba and JD.com, and Baidu Maps removed geolocations of the retailer. Social media posts showed that at least 50 H&M stores were closed across China over fears of protests.

Nike

Nike Beijing
Customers lined up outside the Nike flagship store on the opening day at Wangfujing Street on January 20, 2021 in Beijing, China.

Nike released its own statement about using cotton from the region, saying “We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”

People posted videos of burning Air Jordans and Air Force 1s on Weibo in protest. Chinese actor Wang Yibo ended his contract with Nike as a result of the statement.

Adidas

Adidas store

Adidas also stated that it would not use cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Three big stars, Yang Mi, Jackson Yee, and Dilraba Dilmurat, all severed relationships with Adidas as a result, Vice reported.

Converse

converse all stars
Converse shoes.

Celebrities Zhang Yixing, Ouyang Nana, and Bai Jingting ended relationships with Converse over the pledge, The South China Morning Post reported.

Burberry

GettyImages 1229771391
Burberry flagship store in Bond Street London with British flags.

The People’s Daily, which is controlled by China’s Communist party, named Burberry as a company that would not use Xinjiang cotton.

Calvin Klein

calvin klein store
A Calvin Klein store in Mexico City in May 2017.

Chinese celebrity Zhang Yixing stopped promoting Calvin Klein over the pledge.

Under Armour

under armour

Under Armour’s statement echoed many other brands, saying “Under Armour is deeply concerned by credible reports of forced labor and other abuses in, and outside, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).” The athleticwear brand is on the list of brands to boycott.

Tommy Hilfiger

preppy clothing tommy hilfiger

Celebrities have said they will stop promoting clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger over Xinjiang cotton, Vice reported.

New Balance

New Balance military
n this photo taken Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the New Balance proposed 950v2 sneaker, that has passed military testing, is displayed at one of company’s manufacturing facilities in Boston.

The People’s Daily also named New Balance as a company that would not use Xinjiang cotton.

Gap

Gap
People pass by the GAP clothing retail store in Manhattan.

Gap made a statement stating that “We can confirm that we do not source any garments from Xinjiang,” and that the company has “strict policies against the use of involuntary labor.” As a result, Gap was added to the list of brands to boycott on Weibo.

Zara

zara store

Zara’s website had a statement online that called reports of forced labor in Xinjiang “highly concerning,” which has since been removed. Zara was added to the Weibo list of brands to boycott.

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Kanye West is now reportedly worth $6.6 billion thanks to his Yeezy brand’s apparel and footwear deals, making him the richest Black American in history

Kanye West
  • Kanye West is the wealthiest Black person in US history with a reported net worth of $6.6 billion.
  • USB values West’s Yeezy collaboration with Gap at $3.2 to $4.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.
  • That valuation brings the mogul’s net worth to a historic new high.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Kanye West just became the wealthiest Black person US history.

The multifaceted star’s new net worth tops out at $6.6 billion, thanks to a new valuation of West’s Yeezy collaborations with Gap and Adidas, according to a report from Bloomberg. The publication reviewed a document from UBS Group AG outlining economic predictions for the rapper-turned-fashion mogul.

The bank estimated the Yeezy shoe collaboration with Adidas and the upcoming Yeezy clothing collaboration with Gap Inc. are worth about $3.2 to $4.7 billion, according to the report. About $970 million of that is attributable to the Gap deal, Bloomberg reports. The collection for the retailer will feature men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and is expected to drop sometime this summer.

West’s net worth is also boosted by $1.7 billion invested across a number of assets, including Kim Kardashian West’s Skims brand, according to Bloomberg, which viewed unaudited documents provided by West’s attorney. The rapper holds around $122 million in stocks and liquid assets, the report said, and his music catalog has reportedly been valued at more than $110 million.

Forbes claims West is likely “worth less than a third” of that $6.6 billion – $1.8 billion – calling the “sky-high estimate” only “the latest of West’s attempts to inflate his net worth.” The outlet said it would not speculate any value for the Gap collaboration “until the products start to sell.”

The Yeezy clothing partnership with Gap Inc. was announced in June of last year, sending the retailer’s stock soaring, but analysts at the time were skeptical.

“For the deal to truly change Gap’s outlook, it has to increase Gap’s relevance with consumers so the rest of its business stops shrinking,” UBS analyst Jay Sole wrote in a note sent to clients following the announcement. “We don’t think this will happen.”

In September of last year West appeared on an episode of Nick Cannon’s podcast “Cannons Class” and said that his net worth rose to $5 billion after announcing his partnership with Gap earlier that year.

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Gap’s CEO says people will emerge from pandemic isolation and start ‘peacocking,’ in what could be a boon for retailers

CEO of Gap Inc. Sonia Syngal
CEO of Gap Inc. Sonia Syngal

Gap has high hopes for the country to soon return to normalcy as vaccinations pick up.

Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal said she expects sales to grow as consumers dress to impress others after months of decreased socializing.

“We’re quite optimistic,” Syngal said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We do think there’s going to be this peacocking effect that happens, as people emerge from Covid.”

Gap appointed Syngal as chief executive in March 2020, months after former CEO Art Peck’s sudden departure. Peck left the company after sales slumped in 2019 due to declining foot traffic from shopping malls. 

Syngal, the former CEO of Old Navy, said she planned to grow Gap Inc. by investing in the firm’s 60 million-person customer base to capitalize on a captive audience. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic upended retail shortly after Syngal took over. As Americans avoided malls and spent more time shopping online, Gap Inc. announced it would close 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America – or 30% of its total locations – by the end of 2023.

Syngal told The Journal that online holiday shopping helped offset some losses. The firm reported online sales increased to 45% of total sales in 2020, up from 25% the year prior.

The chief executive added the firm will cut back on costs spent on making stores “safer” during the pandemic as vaccines become more widely available. 

President Joe Biden said he expects vaccines to become available for all Americans by May shortly after the Food nad Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s shot. The Centers for Disease Control plans to release guidelines on activities vaccinated people can safely do, which include some indoor gatherings.

Some retailers are banking on consumers spending money on new clothes as they going out after getting vaccinated. The menswear brand Suitsupply released an ad titled “The new normal is coming” with a photo of naked models kissing.

“Post-pandemic life is on the horizon,” Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply’s founder and CEO, told Insider’s Kate Taylor. “The campaign is simply a positive outlook on our future where people can get back to gathering and getting close.” 

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