On Tuesday morning, a story hit our inbox that really caught our attention:
According to a detailed report on DNAinfo, back in Sept. 2012, a Saks Fifth Avenue customer found a note in the shopping bag she received with her purchase that was written by a man in a Chinese prison where the bag was made. In the letter, the captive—who signed with the name Tohnain Emmanuel Njong–pled for help, claiming that he was imprisoned unjustly.
Njong, who was serving time on charges of fraud, begged whoever found the note to contact the United Nations Human Rights Department, saying: "We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory."
Stephanie Wilson, who found the letter in New York, got the note into the hands of the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of investigating claims made against American companies that use forced labor to produce goods. Saks was recently acquired by Hudson's Bay Company, which has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to forced labor. At press time, Saks could not be reached for comment.
Now, Njong is a free man, and in an interview with DNAinfo, he admits to writing five different letters in different languages while he was imprisoned, hoping that someone would find him and that justice would be served. Njong was forced to work upwards of 15 hour days in a factory, making various items like paper shopping bags or sewing clothing. He's currently living in Dubai and is gainfully employed.
In the fashion industry, there are plenty of eyes on sweatshop labor when it comes the clothes we wear–just last week was Fashion Revolution Day, which commemorated the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and many labels have focused more attention on responsible clothing—but that's just one small part of the global problem. Have you ever stopped to think about where your shopping bags come from? I'll admit, I haven't.
Head to DNAinfo for the full, enthralling story.