PARETS DEL VALLÈS, Spain — From a sleek gray distribution center near Barcelona, the global fashion brand Mango ships 60 million garments in a year. Automated conveyor belts whir through the building like subway lines, sorting and organizing blouses, sweaters and other items to be shipped around the world. Human hands barely touch the clothes.
Five thousand miles away in Bangladesh, the Phantom Tac factory in the industrial suburb of Savar was a hive of human hands. Hundreds of men and women hunched over sewing machines to produce garments in an assembly line system unchanged for years. Speed was also essential, but that just meant people had to work faster.
Last spring, as it pushed forward with global expansion plans, Mango turned to Phantom Tac to produce a sample order of polo shirts and other items. Then, on April 24, the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people in the deadliest disaster in garment industry history, and destroying Phantom Tac and other operations in the building.
Now, eight months later, the question is what responsibility Mango and other brands should bear toward the victims of Rana Plaza, a disaster that exposed the murkiness and lack of accountability in the global supply chain for clothes. Under intense international pressure, four brands agreed last week to help finance a landmark $40 million compensation fund for the victims.
But many other brands, including Mango, have so far refused to contribute to the...