A women's rights charity behind a t-shirt campaign is now caught up in controversy over claims the products were made in "sweatshop" conditions has said it will order the clothes be withdrawn from sale if the reports are proven.
The 'This Is What A Feminist Looks Like' T-shirts were proudly worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman proclaiming their feminist credentials but David Cameron refused, prompting anger at the prime minister for not joining in.
Now, the Mail On Sunday has reported that the t-shirts are made by women workers being paid just 62p an hour and sleeping 16 to a room. Its front page shows a picture of Miliband and Harman in their t-shirts with a photo of the sweatshop worker wearing the same.
The tabloid said its investigation had found the t-shirts were being produced on a factory on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius where the women machinists sleep 16 to a room.
Fashion retailer Whistles, which sells the garments for £45 each, described the allegations as "extremely serious" and said it would be mounting an urgent investigation.
The t-shirts hit the headlines last week when Miliband and Clegg posed in them for photographs for Elle magazine as part of a campaign by the Fawcett Society - which receives all the profits - to promote women's rights.
After David Cameron refused repeated requests to join them, Harman, the Labour deputy leader, then wore one at Prime Minister's Questions in an attempt to embarrass him.
The Mail on Sunday, which toured one of six factories on the island owned by Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile, (CMT) which produces the garments, reported the workers were earning just 6,000 rupees a month - equivalent to £120.
The paper said the figure was just a quarter of the country's average monthly wage, and around half of what a waiter earns.
Fayzal Ally Beegun, president of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Union, told the paper: "The workers in this factory are treated very poorly and the fact that politicians in England are making a statement using these sweatshop t-shirts is appalling."
Dr Eva Neitzert, deputy chief executive at the Fawcett Society, said they had been assured by Whistles that the t-shirts were produced to "ethical standards".
She said they had originally been assured the garments would be produced ethically in the UK, and when they received samples in early October they noted they had in fact been made in Mauritius.
They were assured by Whistles that the factory was "a fully audited, socially and ethical compliant factory" and decided to continue with the collaboration.
"We have been very disappointed to hear the allegations that conditions in the Mauritius factory may not adhere to the ethical standards that we, as the Fawcett Society, would require of any product that bears our name," she said.
"At this stage, we require evidence to back up the claims being made by a journalist at the Mail on Sunday. However, as a charity that campaigns on issues of women's economic equality, we take these allegations extremely seriously and will do our utmost to investigate them.
"If any concrete and verifiable evidence of mistreatment of the garment producers emerges, we will require Whistles to withdraw the range with immediate effect and donate part of the profits to an ethical trading campaigning body.
"Whilst we wish to apologise to all those concerned who may have experienced adverse conditions, we remain confident that we took every practicable and reasonable step to ensure that the range would be ethically produced and await a fuller understanding of the circumstances under which the garments were produced."
A spokesman for Whistles told the Mail: "We place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues. The allegations regarding the production of t-shirts in the CMT factory in Mauritius are extremely serious and we are investigating them as a matter of urgency.
"CMT has Oekotex accreditation (an independent certificate for the supply chain) ,which fully conforms to the highest standards in quality and environmental policy, while having world-class policies for sustainable development, social, ethical and environmental compliance.
"We carry out regular audits of our suppliers in line with our high corporate social responsibility standards and can share the following information regarding the CMT factory in Mauritius."
But these quotes were not enough to cross the fault lines of Britain's culture war, with many attacking the tabloid for its right-wing position on social issues.
And presumably the Mail on Sunday will also be reversing their campaign to demonise poor people by portraying them as scroungers.— Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) November 2, 2014
Mail on Sunday's sweatshop story should be put in context of its anti Miliband propaganda. And therefore that it used to be pro Hitler #marr— Gideonomics (@davessidekick) November 2, 2014
As if the Mail On Sunday cares about feminist t-shirts, poorly paid workers, worker conditions, life, the universe, or anything...— Davℹ️d (@destroeye) November 2, 2014
Other journalists congratulated the reporter, Ben Ellery, for a "terrific scoop".
Good Mail on Sunday splash - 'This is what a feminist looks like' shirts made in sweatshop.— Carl Dinnen (@carldinnen) November 1, 2014
A spokesman for the deputy prime minister said: "Nick Clegg had no idea where these t-shirts were being made and can only assume that the Fawcett Society were unaware of the origins, or they would not have asked him to wear it.
"He remains entirely supportive of efforts to ensure all women are treated as equals in this country and the world over."
A Labour Party spokesman said: "This was a campaign run by Elle and the Fawcett Society to promote feminism and we were happy to support it. Anything else is a matter for Elle magazine and the Fawcett Society."Suggest a correction