Shirts with Benetton labels have been found in the wreckage of a garment factory block in Bangladesh where 376 people died, despite the Italian group denying it used a supplier there. Blue shirts labelled "United Colors of Benetton" were photographed by AFP at the scene where the manufacturer New Wave Bottoms, which lists the group as a client on its website, was based.
The Italian brand did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP Sunday. When asked about its links, the fashion label stated last week that "people involved in the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh were not Benetton Group's suppliers."
AFP also received copies of production documents appearing to show an order by Benetton from September last year for nearly 30,000 items. These documents were submitted for comment to Benetton, which did not reply to repeated emails.
British low-cost retailer Primark has admitted it had a supplier in the building, which collapsed on Wednesday morning in an accident that has sharpened criticism of Western brands using low-cost Bangladeshi factories.
Protesters holding signs reading "Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops" and "Primark's Shame" picketed the group's flagship store on Oxford Street in London on Saturday. Spanish retailer Mango has also admitted that it placed an order for sample items in the Rana Plaza building, while AFP also found clothes in the rubble bearing labels for the US-based women's fashion line Cato.
The Clean Clothes Campaign pressure group said that British label Bon Marche, El Corte Ingles from Spain and Joe Fresh -- a clothing line at Canadian supermarket chain Loblaw's -- had also confirmed recent production.
In November, Walmart admitted that its products were found at a factory were 111 people died in the local industry's worst fire, but it said the work had been sub-contracted without authorisation by one of its official suppliers.
Such unofficial "outsourcing" is common in an industry where manufacturers face immense pressure from retailers to cut prices and deliver on time, say activists.