I talk about fast fashion a fair bit on this blog. I never intended to become a fashion blogger, but the topic came about as one of my most popular posting categories by chance. For over a year I’ve been discussing the ins and outs of fast fashion, and have called out the giants responsible for a lot of the mess.
But the truth is, not all of us can get by without fast fashion completely. Not yet anyway. This is especially true if you’re not included in a straight size category. Short, tall, petite and plus size individuals remain mostly forgotten in sustainable fashion circles. So I’m not going to bully anyone or make anyone feel bad if they still shop from this brand. You’re not the one calling the shots behind the curtain.
Some allegations have recently come to light regarding Boohoo’s Leicester based factories. You’ve probably heard the buzz online somewhere, it’s hard to avoid it. So let’s get into the details shall we?
In short, it means Boohoo are shit. But we already knew this. Because people like myself have been saying it for months, if not years. It’s the reason Fashion Revolution exists. The reason Labour Behind the Label exists. We’ve heard the same stories time and time again, so why do we continue to turn a blind eye?
Maybe it’s because we see modern slavery as something that doesn’t happen here in the UK. It doesn’t quite seem possible that a building just down the road could be filled with poorly treated, barely paid garment workers. I know it doesn’t seem like something I’d believe if I heard it was happening local to me.
We treat these situations as though they’re something to be swept under a rug. They don’t happen here, so why care? Well, it does. Clearly it happens here. So now is the time to address it.
I’m not just talking about Boohoo here either. This also applies to other fast fashion giants such as Pretty Little Thing, Missguided, Shein, Zaful, and Nasty Gal. Just to name a few.
Boohoo have and environment and social responsibility page on their website. On this page, they claim to ‘map out’ their supply chain, measure the scale of their impact, and modify the areas that need it most. All to try and improve their environmental and social impacts.
But clearly this is all false. Undercover reporters experienced their factories first hand, and the reality is far from the empty promises made on their website. After all, how can their workers possibly make a fair wage from a £5 dress? That barely covers the cost of shipping, let alone design and production.
Vidhathri Matety went undercover in a Leicester garment factory under the guise of being a student looking for work. It soon became apparent that the factory working to produce garments for the likes of Boohoo and Nasty Gal were doing so unethically.
“Depending on how you work… we’ll decide your pay.”
“These motherfu**ers know how to exploit people like us… They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.”
“You are not to tell anyone about working here… You are working illegally, so do not discuss or say anything with other people. You have to be discreet.”
“I’ve been here for 5 years and I’m still just on £5 an hour.”
The fast fashion giant came forward and stated they were taking ‘immediate action’ regarding the allegations.
“We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate how our garments were in their hands, will ensure that our suppliers immediately cease working with this company, and we will urgently review our relationship with any suppliers who have sub-contracted work to the manufacturer in question.”
This is exactly the problem fast fashion brands are facing. Hundreds of brands subcontract work to various production companies, many with little to no prior investigation. Which is clearly what happened here. If they really checked out the people they were giving work to, this wouldn’t have happened.
If they didn’t have an unethical business model, this wouldn’t have happened. But it did. They can’t just wash their hands of it with the “we didn’t know” excuse. WHY didn’t they know? Why are they finding out now via an undercover reporter?
They have a LOT to answer for, without trying to bury their heads in the sand.
So far they’ve seen a fall in stocks, and several hundreds vow to never shop their again. But that won’t bring about real change in the long term. Campaigning for better regulations, for legal action, and for laws protecting garment workers will help this situation. A harshly worded tweet or blog post isn’t enough to stop any of this. But it’s a start.
Stop buying from Boohoo and Nasty Gal. The garments are cheap, sure. But they’re poor quality and the sizing is all over the place for starters. If you’re in the position where you have to buy fast fashion, do it second hand if you’re able to. Depop always have a great selection of bargain pieces.
If your only available option is fast fashion, then opt for other brands. A great resource to use is the Good on You app, which gives clothing brands a rating based on their environmental and social impacts. Some of the ratings on there might actually surprise you!
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.