With allegations of slavery and unsafe working conditions, is Boohoo the unacceptable face of fast fashion?
Boohoo, owner of brands such as Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, found himself embroiled in even more controversy when he claimed he would pay workers as little as £ 3.50 an hour according to one secret. Sunday opening hours investigation.
And it comes just days after it was revealed that a likely source of the increase in Covid-19 in the Leicester area, leading to a full lockdown imposed last week, is from the city’s garment factories. . It is believed that up to 75% to 80% of the clothing produced in the Leicester factories is destined for Boohoo.
Even before these revelations, investors were revolting against a planned compensation plan that would see his management team gross a total of £ 150million between them if Boohoo’s market cap reached £ 6bn. It currently stands at £ 4.9 billion, more than double that of Marks and Spencer.
It’s hard not to admire Boohoo in some ways, as theirs has been a meteoric rise, fueled by supreme agility and a total commitment to engage with their customers. They understand the power of social media better than most and know what their customers want. Fast, affordable, trendy.
And that agility is paying off, with last month’s first quarter business report showing a 45% increase in group revenue for the three months through May 31, which is remarkable considering it was at the time. where we were all stranded and unable to get out.
But what Boohoo has done so skillfully is to go from Instagrammable Saturday night outfit to couch outfit. And they did it at lightning speed.
Fast fashion comes at a price
And of course, they rely on their customers who don’t really care to confuse their collective consciousness with where and especially how their new clothes are made. Face it, how many of us bother to check the label to see where our clothes were made and to learn about working conditions before we buy? I thought no.
Because affordability and speed to market are key, and in any case, what could possibly go wrong with buying British? Well it now seems the answer is, a lot.
According to a Sunday opening hours undercover journalist, the same factory supplying the Nasty Gal brand, which paid its workers £ 3.50 an hour (UK minimum wage is £ 8.72 an hour for those over 25) was also still in business during the coronavirus lockdown in Leicester last week.
And it looks like it went through. Just last week Home Secretary Priti Patel called on the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate allegations of modern slavery at Leicester’s garment factories, calling the allegations “truly appalling “. Adding this, “I will not tolerate sick criminals forcing innocent people to work as slaves and lead a life of exploitation.
“Let this be a warning to those who exploit people in sweatshops like these for their own commercial gain. This is just the start. What you are doing is illegal, it will not be tolerated and we are chasing you. “
A statement from Nasty Gal said they would investigate the claims and said they “do not allow any of our suppliers to pay less than minimum wage.”
Until then, the disreputable face of fast fashion had been embodied by the terrible disaster at Rana Plaza when the factory collapsed in April 2013, killing 1,134 workers. However, it looks like Boohoo and the Leicester factories that supply them are now quickly taking on this role.
However, Boohoo is in good shape in this regard. Back in 2017, Channel Four Dispatches discovered that workers at a Boohoo factory were getting “strikes” to, for example, smile or check their cell phones.
And according to The daily mail, in October 2018, Boohoo was appointed and humiliated in Parliament for producing £ 5 dresses which one expert said were of such poor quality that charity shops would snub them.
But try telling a teenager that there will be no more Nasty Gal jumpsuits or Pretty Little Thing beer garden outfits? Because the sad truth is that while we like to display our outrage publicly, in private it is pretty much business as usual.
Marks and Spencer may have a market cap of “only” £ 1.9bn, half that of Boohoo, however, if you had to pick one that will still be around by the time we see this decade, which one would you pick- you ?