A Breakdown of BBC’s Breaking Fashion

Earlier this year, BBC iPlayer began streaming ‘Breaking Fashion’. It gives an insider look into life at the In the Style offices. Based in Manchester, the brand are at the forefront of the influencer sphere. Emily Atack, Charlotte Crosby, and Lorna Luxe just to name a few. Since it began, I’ve been hooked. For all the wrong reasons…

If you remember my Missguided £1 bikini post, you’ll know where I’m going with this. In the current climate crisis, how can we still be promoting and supporting this nature of business?

The beginning of each episode shows Adam Frisby, CEO of In the Style states, “oh it’s fast fashion, that’s unsustainable, it means they don’t care. I like to challenge that.” But I want to ask how exactly? Because from the very first episode, it’s made all too apparent that no thought is given to sustainability in the running of this business.

“In the Style will be launching a new collection every two weeks.”

Ah yes, the hallmark of sustainability. Brand new collections, made from brand new materials, more than likely through the use of cheap labour in unsafe conditions.

According to Fashion Revolution, the average garment is worn just 7 times before going to landfill. Not only that, but an estimated 40% of clothing items are simply never worn.

What does that tell you about the fashion industry as a whole? Or our shopping habits, for that matter?

Read more – 5 Reasons Sustainable Collections Aren’t The Answer

Breaking Fashion Fashion Selection

Photo credit: BBC Three’s Breaking Fashion

“This IS fast fashion. It’s FAST fast fashion.”

This is mentioned almost every episode, and spoken like a statement of pride. But where is this sense of pride coming from? It’s difficult to not be at least somewhat aware of the connotations that comes with the term ‘fast fashion’.

Their Lorna Luxe episode saw them source a missing collection item from China in just 48 hours. Then in a later episode the team scrambles to recreate a Kylie Jenner knitted bodysuit before rival fast fashion brands get their foot in the door.

As a company who are supposedly trying to “challenge” that idea of their brand, they’re not doing too great of a job.

Attitude. And lots of it.

The most uncomfortable part to watch for me was Adam Frisby’s meltdowns. As if demanding low prices and seemingly impossible deadlines wasn’t enough already.

The slightest inconvenience sees Adam throwing childlike temper tantrums with his staff. Be it over an underwhelming photoshoot, or something completely out of their control i.e. stock production not maintaining schedule. The show sees him hiding out in his office, ignoring staff members, and reeling off swearwords angrily over the phone.

Sure, running a business is stressful. Things don’t always go your way and it can throw a real spanner in the works. But where is the sense of professionalism? Why does it feel like I’m sat watching a Year 9 cat fight?

This has only been reinforced by Frisby’s reaction to online critics. He’s been quick to tear people down, branding them as ‘trolls’ simply trying to discredit his achievements. Yes, it’s impressive that he’s built a multi million pound business. But the business model is, quite frankly, outdated. Fast fashion is losing it’s edge.

Emily Atack In the Style Campaign Shoot

Photo credit: BBC Three’s Breaking Fashion

Online Backlash

In addition to the Twitter spats between Adam Frisby and the general public, there have been people taking their concerns to the BBC. Writer and climate activist Bel Jacobs posted a screenshot of the reply sent to her by the BBC in regards to her complaints about Breaking Fashion.

Bel Jacobs Email BBC

Photo credit: @bel_jacobs on Twitter

The email states that the docuseries provides an “honest and impartial portrayal” of the fast fashion industry. It doesn’t take a fool to see this is far from true. Each of the six episodes glorifies the entire business model. It whisks you through the glamourous press trips, photoshoots, collaborative collections and so on.

Sure, there are bumps in the road, but the entire series is a bit of a “Devil Wears Prada” moment. As for “challenging” the sustainability of In the Style, the show barely scratches the surface.

Healing wounds.

Seemingly in response to the onslaught of backlash to Breaking Fashion, In the Style have partnered with the Marine Conservation Society. They pledge to donate 1p per item sold to MCS, and also list a series of tips on their website for extending the life of your In the Style items.

Much like H&M, they’re also going down the ‘recycle your clothes for vouchers’ route. Which only enhances the issue of their business model even more. The problem is the mindset that we need to be out with the old and in with the new. Our wardrobes should be seeing us through years of our lives, not mere weeks.

Read more – Recycling; The Reality of Our Waste

Make of it what you will, but it just feels like they’re trying to cover their tracks. They’ve highlighted themselves as the definition of fast fashion, and suddenly realised it’s no longer a reputation to be proud of.

Chessie King Breaking Fashion

Photo credit: BBC Three’s Breaking Fashion

What Could Have Been vs. What Was

The BBC had so much opportunity with this documentary. It could’ve taken a more educational angle on the inner workings of the fast fashion industry. Think design process, collection turnover, waste management and regulation of unsold stock. Along with the more obvious factory conditions and treatment of garment workers.

But no.

Instead, we have a 6 episode long advertisement for In the Style. Complete with celebrity cameos and TOWIE-level drama. Casually promoting more and more fast fashion. Not to mention the influencer trips and campaign shoot in Ibiza. I can only imagine the carbon footprint associated with them at this point.

The Fast Facts About Fast Fashion

Let’s put all of this into perspective shall we?

It takes approximately 2720 litres of water to produce one t-shirt.

99.2% of garment workers in India (out of 1,452 home workers) are subjected to forced labour.

Clothing accounts for 34.8% of ocean microplastic globally.

Over 60% of garment workers in Bangladesh report working illegal overtime hours.

Clothes consumption accounts for 6000 cars worth of CO2 per year.

It’s estimated 170 million children are working illegally within the fashion supply chain.

Each year, £140 million worth of clothing ends up in landfill. That’s just the UK alone.

Have you seen the Breaking Fashion docuseries? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

4 comments so far.

4 responses to “A Breakdown of BBC’s Breaking Fashion”

  1. Im says:

    This is such an interesting post! I’ve watched the episodes & was hooked on seeing the behind the scenes of a fast fashion company, but found the overall process frustrating, from both the company & their suppliers. Mistakes can be made in production but surely there must needs to be some checks before everything is made & sent? Tbh I do have ‘fast fashion’ items that have lasted years so can agree there, but I feel there was too much focus on talking about sustainability rather than showing how they do so or discussing how some practices could be improved! Im // theimlife.co.uk

  2. Teresa says:

    Gah, frustration is what I got out of this. Not because of you, hell no, I love this post and your blog <3 Just the idea of this series, which I haven't watched (yet!) Such hypocrisy, it makes my skin itch.
    I recently attended a start-up event where one of the talkers was a founder of a sustainable fashion brand that uses leftover fabrics from the factories used by H&M, Zara, etc. And the amount of leftover fabric per factory was 70-80% of all the fabric. And what happens to those "leftover" rolls of fabric? They go straight to landfill. You could make dozens, maybe hundreds of T-shirts per leftover roll, but these fast fashion companies have such idiotic requirements that only 30% of a roll can be used. I mean WHAT?? How is this not illegal?? I don't understand…

    • It’s really crazy. The fact that such a large platform would allow a fast fashion company of this size gloss over issues regarding sustainability when we know the truth behind fast fashion is incredibly frustrating.
      That’s so interesting! I’m so glad that there are brands out there giving a new lease of life to the materials wasted by fast fashion on a regular basis. All of this and the UK government also refused to put a 1p charge on fast fashion garments this year. Ridiculous.
      Thanks so much for reading Teresa!
      El xx

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I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.

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