Volunteer Label writer Katrina Maria Sweeney discusses the impact of PrettyLittleThing’s infamous ‘Up to 99% Off’ Black Friday sale on both people and the environment.
PrettyLittleThing (PLT) has faced criticism before this Black Friday sale, with its concerning working conditions and low pay to workers at garment factories in Leicester, UK – paying workers a mere £3.50 an hour. PLT also faced further controversy when it was blasted on Twitter that, buried in their terms and conditions, they had a notice sign reading “WARNING: Some Products on our Online Store from time to time may contain chemicals that are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm and may be included on the Proposition 65 chemical list”.
However, the ugly side of PLT that was already apparent has been heightened following their large Black Friday sale and 99% off price slash, as online users were quick to criticise PLT and bring to light the concerning effects of this sale, where coats originally costing £70, were being sold for as little as 7p, and dresses were being sold for 5p. The implications of sales like this on those who make the clothes are vast. It has been said that Mahmud Kamani, the co-founder and joint CEO of Boohoo.com, (the Boohoo plc that owns PLT, Nastygal, etc), is ultimately getting away with running a modern-day sweatshop and is accused of forcing staff to work in poor conditions, even as some were tested positive with coronavirus. Many believe this exposes his company’s extreme negligence and, arguably, slave labour.
On Twitter, author and model Jamie Windust talks about the effect on those who make the clothes and racial exploitations; stating “Pretty Little Thing selling literal clothes for 5p and still being able to make a profit isn’t funny, it’s a reminder that the industry constantly exploits Black, Indigenous, and People of Color through unacceptable pay and poor conditions’’. It has been argued that such low prices show a distinct disregard for environmental and labour standards, whereby these clothes are made in unsafe conditions, which means workers are suffering more by now receiving less money than they were previously being paid. In response, PLT’s spokesman only commented that the 99% discount was being offered on selected lines while stock lasts, and was to offer ‘something competitive and understand people may be spending less in what is usually the festive shopping period’, and declined to comment on the concerns raised on social media.
We as a society are becoming more aware of fast fashion and how it is detrimentally impacting the environment, whereby Joanna Ewart-James, executive director of anti-human trafficking and modern slavery organisation Freedom United, said the PLT’s “extreme promo says everything about fast fashion”. According to Greenpeace, enough textiles to fill a rubbish truck get sent to landfill or burned every second, and so with PLT’s clothing, such as their dresses made of 95% polyester, once it is out of fashion or unwanted, it is likely to go to landfill and pollute the planet. This is worsened by the Black Friday sale, as having 99% off will increase sales and thus increase the plastic content that will end up having detrimental effects on the climate.
PLT has made claims of sustainability by having a recycled section, stating on their website their ‘aim is to rework unwanted, worn-out materials and give them a second chance […] made from recycled fabrics means you can update your new season style and take a small step in making the world a better place. With this season’s best picks formed from recycled fabric off-cuts and plastic bottles – you can look great, feel great, and help make a difference to the world we live in’. Furthermore, PLT promotes a ‘regain’ app that claims to help the environment, yet this app allows customers to turn unwanted clothes into discounts to get cash off their next PLT purchase. And so, the cycle remains – continuously increasing consumption, and the impact on the environment. After all, as calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year.
Thus, the ugly side of fast fashion is evident, and while low prices can be tempting, we should look towards more sustainable independent/local, smaller businesses. Shopping from these businesses reduces carbon footprint and are able to look good without contributing to the exploitation of workers and the damaging environmental impacts on the only world we have to live in. A thought-provoking question from Kerry Bannigan, founder of the Conscious Fashion Campaign, concludes this article: “Is an unfathomable cheaply priced garment truly worth the depletion of our water, soil, and air?”
Header by Christos Alamaniotis – Head of Design
Edited by Izzie Naish – News Editor