Benetton is an Italian fashion line known for its social activism, including its creation of The UNHATE Foundation, which, according to its website, “seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture against hate, building on Benetton’s underpinning values.”

Those “underpinning values”, however, are being questioned in light of the company’s denial that it had any ties to the garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh, that collapsed last week, tragically killing at least 377 people. The company tweeted on April 24: “In reference to the tragic news on the collapse of the building in Bangladesh, Benetton Group wants to clarify that none of the companies involved are suppliers to Benetton Group or any of its brands.” .

Since then, however, strong evidence suggesting Benetton clothing was being manufactured at the factory (known as Rana Plaza) has been uncovered. Photos taken of the rubble by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse clearly show shirts with “United Colors of Benetton” labels. Also, one of the manufacturers that had been based at the factory, New Wave Bottoms, lists Benetton as a client, and labor rights activists said they found documents linking Benetton to the factory while they were digging through the debris.

In light of this hard-to-ignore evidence, the company released a statement on April 29, which said: “A one-time order was completed and shipped out of one of the manufacturers involved several weeks prior to the accident. Since then, this subcontractor has been removed from our supplier list.”

While Benetton is far from the only big-name company connected to Rana Plaza (Wal-Mart, Ireland’s Primark, and Canada’s Joe Fresh all made clothing there), the company’s dedication to social activism — coupled with its initial denial — seem to be making it a prime target for public ire. Read more