Fashion brand Zara, owned by Spain’s Inditex, was denied permission to extend a French store following concerns over sustainability and alleged exploitation of China’s minority Muslim Uighurs, the local town hall said on Tuesday.
Inditex said in an emailed statement that Zara France would appeal against the decision.
“The company expresses its surprise at the apparent motivation behind this decision made public, which is not founded on any judicial ruling,” it said, replying to a Reuters request for comment.
A spokeswoman for the town hall of Bordeaux in southwest France said the decision to reject Zara’s request to nearly double the size of its store in the city centre was taken on Monday by a local administrative department.
She said the commission that made the decision cited a French investigation into whether Inditex, as well as three other fashion retailers, used forced Uighur labour in China’s Xinjiang region. The commission also expressed concern about the environmental impact of fast fashion.
Three city and regional representatives sitting on the 10-member commission tasked with reviewing the request voted against it, while six abstained, she said.
“This was due to questions on whether the Uighurs are exploited and also because of sustainable development issues,” she said.
French prosecutors opened their investigation linked to accusations involving the treatment of Uighurs in July. Inditex said at the time it rejected the claims in the legal complaint.
On Tuesday it said: “Zara firmly insists on the lack of any basis and rigour to the accusations included in the complaint mentioned by the commission.”
It added it would lodge an appeal with a national commission ruling on planning applications by retailers.
The town hall spokeswoman said two of the three people who voted against the store extension were elected officials from the city of Bordeaux, which has been led since 2020 by the Green Party after more than 70 years of conservative rule.
By Mimosa Spencer and Benoit Van Overstraeten
Fashion brands need to urgently clean up their supply chains as the US and Europe move to legislate against the alleged use of forced Uighur labour in China. Yet some players are still burying their heads in the sand.