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Filmmakers Condemn Guess Ads, Labor Practices

June 03, 1997|ELAINE DUTKA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eight independent filmmakers, whose works had been part of a nationwide college tour sponsored by Los Angeles-based Guess Inc., on Monday condemned the apparel company's "sweatshop labor" practices and ads "that are demeaning to women."

The attack came in an open letter signed by tour participants Wayne Wang ("Smoke"), Jim McKay ("Girls Town"), James Mangold ("Heavy"), Doug Pray ("Hype"), Peter Cohn ("Drunks"), Iara Lee ("Synthetic Pleasures") and Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky ("Half-Cocked").

"Through the association of our films with Guess in advertisements, promotions, Web sites and on the screen, it appears that we are giving tacit approval to . . . the labor practices of this particular company," the filmmakers said, alluding to allegations of violations in minimum-wage and overtime laws, unfair business practices and negligence leveled at Guess contractors by apparel union UNITE. "This impression is misleading."

"I have a problem with companies profiting from the trendiness and integrity of independent films without practicing that integrity themselves," said McKay, who researched the topic and wrote the letter after protests on the campuses alerted him to the issue.

In a response to the filmmakers, Guess issued a statement saying, "We feel that our firm commitment to workers' rights and our leadership role in this area has set the standard for the industry, and we are proud to stand behind our program 100%."

Rejecting charges of sexist ads, a Guess spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, said: "We've always projected strong, sensuous, beautiful women. But, since there are no [words], what someone takes from the images is one's own perception."

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