It’s not often that I’m massively disappointed with a brand that I know and love. Unfortunately, the past couple of weeks have been rife with disappointment and dismay. First Oatly, now Lucy & Yak. Why can’t we have nice things?!
If you’ve heard of the drama, but don’t actually know what’s going on, this is for you. If you didn’t even know there WAS drama, this is for you too. Because I tried making heads or tails of it for days and got absolutely nowhere.
Whether you’re familiar with my love for Lucy & Yak products or not, just know I loved them as a brand. They were this cool, new kid on the block in the ethical fashion world. They made comfortable but eye-catching trend pieces that can be styled up and down in so many different ways. I even wrote a blog post about them.
Leading a more eco conscious lifestyle often means that you have to be open to criticism of your faves. You can’t have a ride or die attitude about it, because more often than not you’ll end up looking like an idiot. I went into this entire situation with an open mind, and I know which side I’m currently on.
This all began when Aja Barber raised a few points on Instagram regarding Lucy & Yak. I’ve listed them because there’s a few things to get through.
As you can see, there’s a lot to go into here. I’m going to section it all out and make it easier to navigate.
2020 has been the year that people are realising the value of their knowledge. Lucy & Yak approached individuals i.e. sustainable fashion writers (like Aja Barber) and sustainable living influencers in exchange for ‘free labour’. I believe this started when they were first called out for a lack of size inclusivity a couple of years ago.
The basis of this is that they reached out to people and wanted to have phone calls and meetings with people who could do the groundwork for them, often in exchange for nothing but a pair of free dungarees.
The problem with this is that instead of reaching out and utilising people i.e. Aja Barber as a paid consultant, they were simply making it clear that they wanted to do as little of the work as possible and just chuck a few free clothing items in to make it seem as though they didn’t just want something for nothing.
As far as I’m aware there’s quite a few people that they did this to other than Aja. They’re pretty notorious for throwing free clothes at people in order to get a) more exposure as a brand and b) information they need but don’t want to pay for.
About two years ago, I first heard of Lucy & Yak. I was in my first year at university and had just started looking into sustainable living and ethical fashion. I immediately fell in love and dove head first into the world of dungarees. But I do recall seeing a YouTube video from the brand while I was doing my research about them.
It was a rather sombre video of the brands founders, Lucy and Chris. The whole video was very tearful, they made out like they were the victims of bullying and undeserved backlash. At the time, I sided with them. I really felt for them and thought “oh my God why can’t these guys catch a break?!”
Fast forward two years, and there’s almost a carbon copy of this video now on their Instagram feed. Interesting.
Every time the size inclusivity issue crops up, they’ve found some way to avoid it. In the video I remember watching it was “oh we’re just a small brand”, “we haven’t got the capacity to make sizes upwards of xyz”, “it’s a much more complex process than you think”. It’s all stuff that we’ve heard before.
The reality is that it can’t possibly be THAT difficult to size up a pair of dungarees, which is their primary money maker. They are literally known as “THE dungaree brand”. At the end of the day, their clothes are already loose fitting, and they’re practically a pair of trousers with a bib at the front. You’re telling me that it’s on par with rocket science to size them up a few times? Come on now.
It seems to me that for a long time, Lucy & Yak just didn’t want to be size inclusive. They might not admit it, but they just didn’t care to look into that area. Which, honestly, seems absolutely insane to me because in doing so they alienated a HUGE portion of their fan base who sadly couldn’t fit into their products.
You’d think that as a brand, you would want as many people as possible to be able to love and appreciate your products. Sadly, it seems they wanted it to be more of an “exclusive” kind of club. If everyone can have something, it’s not a special and coveted anymore. In doing so, they kind of created a fan base in which people aspired to be the kind of person who COULD wear their products. Kind of an “it girl” situation.
I can’t even begin to tell you how annoying these apology videos are to me. I couldn’t even sit through the duration of one with a straight face.
When you’re the people behind the brand, you have to be open to criticism. If you’re going wrong somewhere, then surely you’d want to be notified and try to do better. It would seem that L&Y just want to sit and cry about it.
In the running of a business, it can’t be that personal. A criticism of your brand is not a personal criticism of YOU.
To sit there and cry to a camera and claim that you had “no idea” that a lot oft his was going on, is just a whole lot of bullshit really. Take a look at the situation and own up to the fact you could’ve done a lot better than you did. Because when you sit there and cry about it you start to lose a lot of legitimacy in your response.
The entire apology almost felt like a guilt trip. Like people should give them a break because they’ve shed a few tears over the situation. A lot of people have used the term “gaslighting” in reference to their response and honestly? I can’t disagree.
The greenwashing issue is something that surprised me the most. Mainly because I was naïve and didn’t question the reality of their means of production and manufacture. Lucy & Yak have always been very vocal about the fact they provide a ‘living wage’ to all their workers.
But what does this mean exactly? Their clothing is produced in a factory in India, then shipped over, packaged, and sold from the UK.
The average salary within the UK is £29,600 per year according to Jobted. This works out to approximately £1,950 per month.
In India, however, the average hourly rate is 180INR. This works out to £1.90 p/h. Let’s say the average garment worker is doing 8 hour shifts, 5 days a week. That leaves them with a monthly wage of 28,800INR. This is equivalent to £307.80 GBP.
It makes you wonder why L&Y brag about this living wage arrangement so much when it works out to be… not the best. I feel as though they’re using the “living wage” front as an excuse for using offshore labour forces that they don’t have to pay out the nose for.
The backlash received by Aja Barber was disgusting at best. L&Y fans flooded her comments and inbox with accusations and personal attacks. It was insinuated that Barber was in it for the money or the fame, when realistically she already had a large following and flourishing career prior to speaking out about the situation.
Comments have been made and many have actually come forward about L&Y ‘fan groups’ online for abusive and manipulative behaviours. While this isn’t reflective of the actual team at L&Y, it does make you wonder how one brand managed to accumulate a fan base who are wiling to defend them no matter what.
In this case, “no matter what” included making racist, derogatory, and outright rude comments not only towards Aja but also to others who spoke out.
The team at Lucy & Yak did make a statement not too long afterwards claiming that these type of comments were problematic and not tolerated on their pages or in association with them as a brand.
I’m willing to give L&Y the benefit of the doubt in this situation. I’m hoping that they’ve realised we’re not going to sit and accept their tearful “woe is me” apologies and not hold them accountable.
Demanding accountability is not cancelling and I don’t necessarily believe in cancel culture whole-heartedly. A part of me really wants to believe that all of this comes from a place of honest mistakes and they’re going to rectify things going forward. But another part of me is like “I’m not buying this bullshit”. It’s a very tricky situation.
I feel as though I don’t know what to do because I really did love L&Y as a brand. I don’t have any of the dungarees anymore but I have a few tops and cropped jumpers from them that I adore. It sucks that a brand you stood behind whole-heartedly turns out to not be who you thought they were.
I’m not here to tell you what to do etc. I’m not going to tell you to shop shopping with Lucy & Yak, I’m just here to give you the information (as I know it), and let you make your own mind up about the whole situation.
I know I’ve referenced her a bunch in this post but Aja Barber made a really interesting point about L&Y trying to emulate fast fashion brands.
How? Through doing a LOT of product gifting, multiple product launches etc. While it’s amazing that they appeal to the mass market, it is worrying to me if they are trying to emulate the fast fashion business model. That’s not what they were about when they began and it would suck to see them go down the same sort of path as a lot of mainstream fast fashion brands.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post… wow. Props to you! Thanks so much for reading.
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.