The controversy over origin of World’s fashion wear shows us the two major factors necessary for a controversy make the leap into public consciousness.
A Spin Off story revealed that although World’s clothes may be assembled in NZ, materials were made in Bangladesh and China. Most New Zealanders can hardly be troubled by this fact, common across most clothes we wear.
The factor that changed everything was a sense of hypocrisy. World co-owner Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet had only recently appeared to say it made its clothes in NZ; “we refuse to make our collections in a third world country”.
What tipped the controversy into the mainstream was a response that appeared to show distain for customers and for accuracy.
L’Estrange-Corbet said the NZ-made claim was correct because “The World clothing tags that say Made in NZ are Made in NZ…”.
Clearly, she was using the label as short hand to say the materials are designed and assembled here. This was joyously misinterpreted into a claim that, as the labels themselves were made in NZ, then the claim about the product was correct.
Controversies are not all worrisome by themselves, but hypocrisy and distain for customers will turn them into matters that affect public attitudes.