Senior Editor
Workers cutting fabric for Rip Curl jackets in a factory about 100 kilometres south of Pyongyang in North Korea.

Workers cutting fabric for Rip Curl jackets in a factory about 100 kilometres south of Pyongyang in North Korea. Photo: Anjaly Thomas/Sydney Morning Herald

The Inertia

A few months ago, some pretty shocking information hit the news: Rip Curl used workers in North Korea to manufacture some of their clothing. Dubbed “slave labor” by many, Rip Curl quickly placed most of the blame on sub-contractors, and by default exposed a major issue not only at Rip Curl, but at many clothing companies around the world. When massive companies are so far removed from their own products, it’s far too easy for sub-contractors to cut costs by using cheap labor.

Now, though, Rip Curl has released exactly what they’re doing to remedy the situation. In a press release, they promised to “clean up the mess made by the production of some Rip Curl mountainwear in an unauthorized factory in North Korea.”

According to the release, the supplier they used initially tried to mitigate the damage by not coming completely clean. As it turns out, seven styles of mountain wear were either fully produced or partially produced using North Korean labor. “The extent of the issue was wider than we had been led to believe,” Rip Curl explained.

Around 4000 pieces of clothing were shipped all over the world–to Europe, Australia, Canada, Argentina, and Chile–before anyone caught on.

So what, exactly are they doing about it? Well, here’s the list straight from the horse’s mouth:

  1. We have stopped working with the supplier.
  2. We are removing any remaining stocks of all seven styles from our stores, and will either destroy or donate the jackets to an appropriate charity as long as they are not sold. They are (as pictured): SGJAM4, SGJAQ4, SGJBL4, SGJBE4, SGJBI4, SGJBM4, SGPAI4.
  3. We are offering a full refund or replacement to any customer who has purchased one of the unauthorized styles and they should take it to the Rip Curl store nearest to them to do so or contact their local Rip Curl office.
  4. We are strongly reinforcing to our suppliers that they may not outsource production without our approval.
  5. To ensure our suppliers comply with our requirements we are significantly increasing our inspections of goods as they are being produced to ensure they are made in an approved factory.
  6. We are still calculating the exact profit on the sale of the product concerned. We are going to get our staff in the regions where this product was offered for sale to nominate appropriate charities to which this money can be put to good use and will announce that here shortly.

According to some reports, the action wear giant recently decided to donate the profits from the affected line to Amnesty International.

Rip Curl ended the release with an apology. “We don’t like the abuse of people in their jobs in any country either,” they wrote, “and apologize wholeheartedly for letting this happen in the first place.”


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.