A co-founder of fashion retailer Boohoo has links to a factory in Leicester accused of paying staff less than the minimum wage, it has been revealed.
The brand has confirmed that the factory in the middle of the ‘human trafficking and slavery’ allegations is run by Morefray Ltd, a Manchester-owned firm with ties to the I Saw It First fashion firm.
I Saw It First was set up by Jalal Kamani, 60, who founded Boohoo with his brother Mahmud, 55.
A director of I Saw It First and Jalal’s business partner owns 50 per cent of Morefray, laying bare the links between Boohoo and the ‘slave’ factory.
The revelation is sure to heap more pressure on £2.6billion business Bohoo, that is currently embroiled in allegations of ‘modern slavery and human trafficking’ and of not providing workers with protection against coronavirus.
Boohoo launched an urgent investigation in to its supply chain this week.
Morefray operates the ‘slave’ factory in Leicester that supplies clothes to Boohoo. Morefray is part-owned by the business enterprise partner of Jalal Kamani, who founded Boohoo along with his brother Mahmud
Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani, pictured right, alongside his son Umar. Mahmud co-found the company along with his brother Jalal Kamani, whose links to a ‘slave’ factory in Leicester have been revealed
Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester – where Boohoo and PLT clothing is allegedly made – operate their sewing machines regardless of the risk of contracting Covid-19
It added it was trying to identify the company at the centre of the allegations and, after being approached by the Guardian, it has confirmed that company was Morefray.
A Companies House filing has linked Morefray to Boohoo founding director Jalal Kamani, who retains a shareholding at the company.
Morefray is 50 percent owned with a Manchester-based firm called I5 Holdings, which is owned by Shahzad Irshad, a director of I Saw It First and Jalal Kamani’s business partner.
Companies House filings also show that Irshad became who owns I5 Holdings on June 10, when he took control from Zogan Limited, a company that shares three current or former directors with I Saw It First.
One of Zogan’s directors is listed as ‘head of tax’ at the Kamani Group on LinkedIn.
The complex web establishes ties between Morefray and I Saw It First, which Jalal Kamani founded in 2017 after helping establish Boohoo.
An undercover reporter working at the Morefray factory was told to expect pay of £3.50 an hour or so.
Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work regardless of the newly reimposed lockdown
Umar Kamani CEO & Founder PrettyLittleThing.com posted this image on his Instagram page of him on his Rolls-Royce Dawn in Beverly Hills
When contacted by the Guardian, Morefray declined to comment.
A spokesman for I Saw It First said: ‘I5 Holdings Limited owns a non-controlling shareholding in Morefray Limited.’
A Boohoo spokesman said: ‘Morefray is just a recognised supplier to Boohoo and we’ve never previously been aware of any allegations of paying below the minimum wage before the media report.
‘As a result of that report and subsequent discovery that it had been Morefray rather than the company in the media report, we have been immediately visiting the Morefray site to investigate further.’
On Wednesday, Boohoo announced an unbiased review of its UK supply chain. The review, light emitting diode by Alison Levitt QC, will be along with a £10m investment in ‘eradicating malpractice’ in its supply chain.
Boohoo’s shares have plunged by £1.3 billion amid allegations that it had been using sweatshops in Leicester to produce cheap clothing during the coronavirus pandemic.
An employee at Faiza Fashion – a factory allegedly producing clothes for Boohoo and Mahmud’s sons’ retailer Pretty Little Thing – told how the factory did not provided its workers with face masks or gloves.
And The Sunday Times reported allegations that workers in a second factory, which makes clothes for Boohoo brand Nasty Gal, were being paid as low as £3.50 an hour and operating without social distancing measures set up.
Umar Kamani, pictured with Tulisa Contostavlos, is regularly seen mixing with celebrities
In covert footage, the undercover reporter recorded himself packing garments plainly labelled as ‘Nasty Gal’.
He was also approached by the factory foreman, who warned: ‘These motherf***ers understand how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.
‘Take me for instance, I’ve been doing work for so a long time in this industry, I’ve been here for five years but never can i take a proper pay packet. I’m still only on just over £5 an hour or so.’
The findings have prompted a study by the National Crime Agency, with the allegations labelled ‘truly appalling’ by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Ms Patel today instructed the National Crime Agency to probe the issues and vowed to clamp down on modern slavery in Britain.
It came as Leicester’s coronavirus cases spiralled in June and claims why these factories were producing items for many of the UK’s biggest fashion brands including Boohoo and Nasty Gal while putting staff vulnerable to contracting Covid-19.
Such is Umar’s self-belief that when that he wanted to launch PLT in the US 36 months ago, that he offered a six-figure sum to reality TV star Kylie Jenner (pictured), half-sister of Kim Kardashian, to appear in one of his true £15 orange dresses
Umar poses with Little Mix at the launch of the girl band’s Pretty Little Thing collection at a special party at Aynhoe Park House in Banbury last year
An NCA spokesman said: ‘Within the previous few days NCA officers, alongside Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking’.
Faiza Fashion manager Asim Ali, told MailOnline that the garments they manufacture are for Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing (PLT).
He said: ‘All our work is for these two organizations and it is the exact same for all the other garment manufacturers in Leicester. We don’t deal directly with them but are given the orders by middle organizations who liaise with them.
‘We opened earlier than expected during the first lockdown because there was this kind of increase in on the web clothes shopping. Since then, work have not stopped. We are overwhelmed with orders because a lot of people are buying online.’
Umar shared a look inside PLT’s 650,000 sq ft warehouse. PLT has helped 32-year-old Umar, create a personal wealth of more than £1 billion
Mr Ali added: ‘In the past we used to get orders for high street shops but all that has stopped. The fashion industry has now changed, you can find constant demands for new lines meaning we have to work even harder to make clothes.’
PLT was founded by Mahmud’s sons Adam and Umar in 2012 following the enormous success of the father’s business and reported a turnover of £374million in 2018.
By 2022, the business is forecast to be worth around £2.1billion.
The Boohoo Group bought a 34 percent stake in PLT for £269.8 million in May.
In 2018, the company was called by MPs – alongside Boohoo, Amazon, Asos, PrettyLittleThing and Missguided – to give evidence within an inquiry to the fast fashion industry, The Mirror reports.
Mahmud’s parents, who have been originally from India, found its way to Manchester from Kenya in 1969 when his father was just two years old.
The Kamanis were forced to flee to Britain by increasing unrest and draconian employment laws that favoured indigenous Kenyans.
Entrepreneurial Mahmud sold handbags on an industry stall. He invested his money wisely in property and began a wholesale business, Pinstripe, sourcing garments from India.
By the early 2000s, the company was selling £50 million-worth annually to traditional brands such as for instance Topshop and Primark, which led to Mahmud creating the Boohoo brand in 2006. The company’s growth quickly skyrocketed.
According to a written report by ethicalconsumer.org, Boohoo’s CEO John Lyttle is set to get a £1.04million fee and – if they can increase the value of their shares – a £50million share of their own.
Boohoo’s share value increased by 22 percent during lockdown as more folks turned to at-home on the web shopping, the report stated.
Furthermore, senior executives could see increases in salaries between 18 and 30 percent.
Tatler named PLT co-founder Umar Kamani its eighth most eligible bachelor for 2019, alongside the Duke of Roxburghe and former One Direction star Harry Styles.
His lifestyle is decidedly jet-set, with his contacts book filled with A-list stars such as Jennifer Lopez, rapper P Diddy and actor Denzel Washington.
Such is his self-belief that after he wanted to launch PLT in america three years ago, he offered a six-figure sum to reality TELEVISION star Kylie Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, to appear in one of his true £15 orange dresses.
‘It’s about the hustle,’ that he says, with a shrug. ‘I knew I wanted to be in those circles because I’m enthusiastic about power.’
Power duly followed. The Kylie Jenner coup light emitting diode to sales increasing ten-fold and allowed him to buy a seven-bedroom mansion in the Hollywood Hills, detailed with basketball court.
His Instagram account reveals ab muscles caricature of a playboy – lunching at Nobu in Malibu wearing Gucci slippers, getting together with P Diddy at the Grammys and Kylie Jenner at Coachella music festival, and posing at the wheel of a yacht on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
‘A lot of this type of person my friends,’ that he says. ‘Will.I.Am is a great mate – we FaceTime nearly every day – as is P Diddy. I was at the LA Lakers game with Denzel Washington a couple weeks ago too.’
Love Island stars such as Molly-Mae Hague and girl band Little Mix are on the list of a-listers to have publicly endorsed the Pretty Little Thing brand in recent years, with other celebrities including Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Nicole Scherzinger and Paris Hilton also seen wearing the label.
It has helped 32-year-old Umar, create a personal wealth of more than £1 billion.
His wealth has allowed him to buy a fleet of cars, including two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a £300,000 Lamborghini Aventador, a £92,000 customised G-Class Mercedes and a high-end Range Rover.
Umar hit the news headlines in May after it had been revealed he furloughed 86 members of staff at his Manchester-based company – while he enjoyed a spa in Dubai.
He took your choice shortly after the lockdown to be able to make use of the Government’s scheme, which used taxpayers’ money to pay workers 80 percent of their usual income up to no more than £2,500 per month.