Arcadia, which owns Evans, has been named as a participant in the UK government's Workfare programme.
Workfare is a generic term for programmes which force people to work for benefits. The fantasy is that a placement will lead to a job, but the reality is that corporations are now being propped up with free labour from people who will lose benefits if they do not comply. In theory, volunteering somewhere where you will make contacts and develop skills is a good idea. In practise people on Workfare placements find themselves forced to do the work that nobody else wants to do. When the placement ends, there is no guarantee of paid work, the company can simply 'employ' someone else, and the government picks up the bill. Workfare people are likely to be people who are already marginalised in terms of education or prospects, the scheme ensures that they will stay that way.
Evans is the UK's most visible plus-size clothing brand. Like most high street retailers in the West, Evans' company's clothes are produced cheaply in developing countries. The conditions in Arcadia's factories are unlikely to be swanky, and although the company has an ethical standard of allowing unions, many of its clothes are produced in places where there are no unions, as well as in China where independent trades unions are illegal. Evans' ethical trading standards look good on their corporate website, but reading between the lines shows that the company is anything but ethical.
Maybe this is not so surprising when you take a look at the boss of the company. Evans is owned by Sir Philip Green, a man so rich that he has someone follow him around holding his wine glass at a party so that he doesn't have to tire his own delicate hands. Green does not pay income tax on his £1.2bn salary. Nevertheless, he has been employed by the government to support its destruction of services which ensure, for example, that the very poorest people can survive.
I know that Evans' use of exploited labour in the UK and the rest of the world is unlikely to stop fatshionistas from promoting the company's products. It is galling that the original Fatshionista LiveJournal community was intended to be a place where companies like Evans could be interrogated, but that fatshionista has often come to mean a kind of vacuous and pathetically grateful consumerism that ignores the ethical implications of fat fashion. This is not to say that there are no excellent and critical fatshion resources out there, I only wish there were more. Evans' use of Workfare, the latest in a line of appalling business practises, should be a call for a boycott. This could be an amazing opportunity to flex some consumer power to force the company to behave differently. Other companies have dropped Workfare following vociferous public criticism. But the question is, do fatshionistas have it in them?
Edited to add: I can't believe I neglected to mention the gorgeous Make It Work zine by Kirsty. It's just been published and is everything Evans isn't. Snaffle a copy today.