Italian Prosecutors Probe Supply Chain of Around a Dozen Fashion Brands

This photograph shows Milan's skyline with the Unicredit Tower (CL) next to "Bosco Verticale" (Vertical Forest) residential tower (C), Unipol Tower (2R) at Porta Nuova district,  Milan, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
This photograph shows Milan's skyline with the Unicredit Tower (CL) next to "Bosco Verticale" (Vertical Forest) residential tower (C), Unipol Tower (2R) at Porta Nuova district, Milan, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
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Italian Prosecutors Probe Supply Chain of Around a Dozen Fashion Brands

This photograph shows Milan's skyline with the Unicredit Tower (CL) next to "Bosco Verticale" (Vertical Forest) residential tower (C), Unipol Tower (2R) at Porta Nuova district,  Milan, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
This photograph shows Milan's skyline with the Unicredit Tower (CL) next to "Bosco Verticale" (Vertical Forest) residential tower (C), Unipol Tower (2R) at Porta Nuova district, Milan, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Prosecutors in Milan are investigating the supply chain of around a dozen more fashion brands, a person with knowledge of the matter said, after a unit of France's LVMH in Italy was placed under court administration in a worker exploitation probe.
On Monday, a Milan court appointed a commissioner to run an LVMH-owned maker of Dior-branded handbags after an investigation into four of its suppliers based in the surroundings of Italy's fashion capital uncovered illegal working conditions for staff.
On-site inspections and checks on electricity usage data led prosecutors to allege workers were employed for extended hours, working often into the night and during holidays. Some of the staff slept where they worked, had no regular contracts, with two having illegally immigrated into Italy.
This is the third such decision this year by the Milan court in charge of pre-emptive measures, which in April took similar steps in relation to a company owned by Giorgio Armani due to accusations the fashion group was "culpably failing" to properly oversee its suppliers. Armani Group said at the time it had always sought to "minimize abuses in the supply chain".
LVMH on Monday declined to comment on the court's decision.
Milan prosecutors and Italian police are investigating further small manufacturers that supply around a dozen other brands, the person told Reuters, declining to provide additional details because the information is confidential.
The appointment of a special commissioner is intended to give the fashion brands' subsidiaries time to fix problems in their supply chain while continuing to operate.
Neither LVMH nor Armani are under investigation, while the suppliers targeted by the probe face accusations of worker exploitation, copies of the court decisions seen by Reuters showed.
'MADE IN ITALY'
Milan prosecutors have been investigating for the past decade recruitment firms that allegedly illegally employed workers, evading taxes, as well as welfare and pension contributions, to slash the cost of the services they supplied.
The probes traditionally targeted sectors such as logistics, transportation and cleaning services, where workers were supplied by firms that sprung up and were wound down every couple of years.
The focus then shifted onto the fashion sector, where probes have highlighted similar problems this year.
Italy accounts for 50% to 55% of the global luxury goods production, consultancy Bain calculated, with thousands of small manufacturers supplying big brands and allowing them to sport the prized 'Made in Italy' label on their goods.
The latest Milan investigation has shown a small manufacturer was able to charge Dior as little as 53 euros ($57) to make a handbag, which the fashion house then sold in shops at 2,600 euros.
Under Italian law, brands outsourcing production are responsible for carrying out adequate checks on suppliers.
In the past, the measures taken by Italian magistrates in relation to worker exploitation probes concerned only the suppliers who mistreated workers.
However, Milan prosecutors have been able to make use of a provision in the law that was originally designed to deal with companies infiltrated by the Mob.
These companies would be placed under court, or judicial, administration through the appointment of special commissioners to run them.



80-year-old LL Bean Staple Finds New Audience as Trendy Bag

Gracie Wiener poses with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)
Gracie Wiener poses with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)
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80-year-old LL Bean Staple Finds New Audience as Trendy Bag

Gracie Wiener poses with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)
Gracie Wiener poses with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

L.L. Bean created it 80 years ago to haul heavy blocks of ice. Now it's a must-have summer fashion accessory, The Associated Press reported.

The simple, sturdy canvas bag called the Boat and Tote is having an extended moment 80 years after its introduction, thanks to a social media trend in which they're monogrammed with ironic or flashy phrases.

New Yorker Gracie Wiener helped get it started by ordering her humble bags from L.L. Bean monogrammed with “Psycho” and then “Prada,” the pricey Italian luxury brand, instead of just her name or initials, and posting about them on Instagram. Then others began showcasing their own unique bags on TikTok.

Soon, it wasn’t enough to have a bag monogrammed with “Schlepper,” “HOT MESS,” “slayyyy” or “cool mom.” Customers began testing the limits of the human censors in L.L. Bean’s monogram department, which bans profanity “or other objectionable words or phrases,” with more provocative wording like “Bite me,” “Dum Blonde” and “Ambitchous.”

Social media fueled the surge, just as it did for Stanley’s tumblers and Trader Joe’s $2.99 canvas bags, which were once selling on eBay for $200, said Beth Goldstein, an analyst at Circana, which tracks consumer spending and trends.
The tote’s revival came at a time when price-conscious consumers were forgoing expensive handbags, sales of which have weakened, and L.L. Bean’s bag fit the bill as a functional item that’s trendy precisely because it’s not trendy, she said. L.L. Bean's regular bags top out at about $55, though some fancier versions cost upward of $100.
“There’s a trend toward the utilitarian, the simple things and more accessible price points,” she said, and the customization added to the appeal: “Status items don’t have to be designer price points.”

L.L. Bean’s tote was first advertised in a catalog as Bean’s Ice Carrier in 1944 during World War II, when ice chests were common. Then they disappeared before being reintroduced in 1965 as the Boat and Tote.

These days, they’re still made in Maine and are still capable of hauling 500 pounds of ice, but they are far more likely to carry laptops, headphones, groceries, books, beach gear, travel essentials and other common items.

Those snarky, pop-oriented phrases transformed them into a sassy essential and helped them spread beyond Maine, Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and other New England enclaves to places like Los Angeles and New York City, where fashionistas like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker are toting them — but not necessarily brandished with ironic phrases.

“It’s just one of those things that makes people smile and makes people laugh, and it’s unexpected,” said Wiener, who got it all started with her @ironicboatandtote Instagram page, which she started as a fun side hustle from her job as social media manager for Air Mail, a digital publication launched by former Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter.

The folks at L.L. Bean were both stunned and pleased by the continuing growth. For the past two years, the Boat and Tote has been L.L. Bean’s No. 1 contributor to luring in new customers, and sales grew 64% from fiscal years 2021 to 2023, spokesperson Amanda Hannah said.

The surge in popularity is reminiscent of L.L. Bean’s traditional hunting shoe, the iconic staple for trudging through rain and muck, which enjoyed its own moment a few years back, driven by college students.