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Kardashian Sweatshop Scandal: The Facts Behind ShoeDazzle Factory Conditions

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Dec. 21 2011, Updated 8:00 a.m. ET

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By Radar Staff

In a world exclusive exposé Star magazine revealed that several of the brands sold and endorsed by the Kardashian family are manufactured in China under sweatshop conditions, sometimes by employees as young as 16 years old.

The allegations about Kardashian products in this post have nothing to do with their products sold at Sears.

One of the brands, ShoeDazzle, has denied all allegations, insisting they have a full time employee living in the Chinese region of Guangdong that checks on working conditions daily, and that, "Factories are routinely inspected and always pass inspection."

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Furthermore, ShoeDazzle COO Deborah Benton, who has visited the region herself, says,  "This issue of child labor is of paramount importance to us. We've been very focused on this from the very beginning." Benton insists she's never received a report of "slave labor" conditions.

However, Star magazine can take you inside the Guandong factories to decide for yourself on whether the working conditions constitute slave labor or not.

ShoeDazzle has built its empire from cheap Chinese labor, amassing three million registered customers in the United States at a $39.95 per month subscription — all to receive a pair of shoes or purse every 30 days.

Of the company’s 85 suppliers, 75 are in China -- with more than half, 48, originating from the Guangdong Province.

More specifically, Star has traced six of ShoeDazzle's manufacturers -- Grey Tabby Co. Ltd., Fortune B. Development Group Ltd., Trade Talent Promotion Ltd., Jian Kun Shoes Factory, Long Yuan Shoes Co., Ltd., and Shantou Rising Enterprise Ltd.  -- to 21 of their most popular shoe styles including the Toula, Winter, Vena, Nadra, Cross, Siobhan, Roberta, Mirage, Vida, Carrington, Amour, Maura, Zaza, Anona, Mariska, Skyler, Alexa, Marla, Minka, The Bombshell, and Mel B, the latter two are stilettos guest-designed by glamour model Carmen Electra and ‘Scary Spice’ Mel B.

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In the Guangdong factories, women — including some as young as 16 years — are working unspeakably grueling work weeks — up to seven days and 84 hours.  All for a pitiful $1.00 an hour, in true sweatshop conditions where the temperature often soars above 100 degrees.

They barely subsist in overcrowded and squalid dormitories riddled with the stench of sewage — and pay rent to their employers, for the right to live there. Workers in the region can come out with as little as $15 a month once rent and food debts have been paid to their bosses.

"They are like minimum security prisons," says Charles Kernaghan, the executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, whose 15,000-member nonprofit human rights organization fights sweatshops worldwide, and has launched an investigation into the Kardashians.

Guangdong, says Kernaghan, is a "scary place" where the peak summer season is "brutal, with factories' temperature soaring over 100F" -- and with no air-conditioning and almost 100 percent humidity.

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He adds, "You can’t talk during working hours. You can’t listen to music you can’t stand up and stretch. You can’t even put your head up and look around -- or you will be screamed at.

"If you get permission to use the toilet, you get four minutes. If you're not highly specialized, you cannot even go to bathroom.

"Security guards watch over the workers and they are stripped searched every time they leave the factory, while cameras watch over the workers every move.

"Most Americans wouldn’t last two or three days in these conditions."

Not content with their sweatshop millions, ShoeDazzle has reportedly said it could move production to Vietnam, if labor costs keep rising in Guangdong, because of pressure from activists.

Kim Kardashian is the public face and co-founder of ShoeDazzle, which is owned by Robert Shapiro -- the famous lawyer-turned-entrepreneur.

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