Pretty Little Thing is one of the most affordable clothing shops in the world – but how sustainable is it and does it use ethical practises?
It’s the perfect place to shop for those on a budget. The online fast fashion store could fill an entire wardrobe with stylish items for under £100, which goes some way to explain why it’s so popular – as well as the fact Pretty Little Thing caters for nearly every woman, with curve, maternity, petite and tall ranges available.
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The brand, which boasts Kylie Jenner, Little Mix, Lil’ Kim, Molly-Mae Hague and Ashanti as ambassadors, has 17.3 million followers on Instagram at the time of writing and had global net sales of £275.5 million in 2019.
Here, we take a look at the practises behind the brand.
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Is Pretty Little Thing ethical?
Pretty Little Thing is owned by Boohoo Group PLC, which was accused of modern slavery in July 2020.
An investigation by The Sunday Times discovered that the company were paying their garment workers an hourly wage of £3.50 at a factory in Leicester – much lower than the minimum wage of £8.72 for those over 25.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading all over the world at the time, workers’ rights group Labour Behind the Label found that staff were also being ‘forced to come into work while sick’ with the virus. Unsurprisingly, this was later linked to an increase in cases in the city.
Despite their workers being paid very poorly, they were still able to offer 99% off clothing and to give away £10,000 on social media on Black Friday in 2020.
According to Good On You, some of Pretty Little Thing’s supply chain is certified by Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit – SMETA Best Practice Guidance in the final stage of production.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only point that the brand gets when it comes to being ethical, as they scored an appalling 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index. There’s barely any information about the brand’s supplier policies and audits, and they don’t disclose any information about the practises they put in place – if they do at all – to ensure gender equality and regarding forced labour and freedom of association.
The fast-fashion brand also fail to disclose any policies they have in place to protect suppliers and garment workers in their supply chain from COVID-19 and the financial impact it may have.
In April 2021, BBC reported that Boohoo group was found to be selling the same item across its various brands for different prices. The error was discovered in the case of many items, including one coat, which was selling for £34 more on Coast’s website than on Dorothy Perkins’. Boohoo claimed this was a ‘genuine mistake‘.
The brand also recently went under fire for its ‘tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.’ Pretty Little Thing posted a photo of the World Trade Center twin towers in black and white with the words ‘Never Forget’ in pink. Social media users called the fast-fashion company out for ‘branding’ the post.
Pretty Little Thing’s CEO Umar Kumani was also recently called out for posting about his lavish lifestyle as well as the £1.5 million diamond ring he used to propose to his now-fiancee, Nada Adelle. This after reports surfaced that the brand ‘forced’ its workers to come into work despite being sick and not providing living wages.
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Then there’s the fact that the brand’s Creative Director Molly-Mae Hague earns a six-figure salary. The former Love Island star got the job in 2021 and more recently was called out for claiming ‘we all have the same 24 hours in a day‘ during an interview.
In line with the backlash against Molly-Mae’s comments, the brand’s fast-fashion model, and the reported unfair wages of its workers, several protesters gathered at the entrance of The Londoner hotel on 17 February to demand that PLT and its parent company Boohoo “pay their garment workers fair living wages, recognise their unions, and commit to a drastic reduction in output.”
Is Pretty Little Thing sustainable?
Pretty Little Thing don’t use eco-friendly materials, nor have they made much effort to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals or water in their supply chain.
While they do report greenhouse gas emissions from their direct operation, they don’t bother when it comes to their supply chain.
Some of the better practises they have in place include reGAIN, an app which enables shoppers to send the brand their old garments in exchange for a discount.
They have also released a recycled collection, made from 100% recycled materials, and their packaging is now made from 100% recycled material.
In September 2021, the brand released its PLT Renew collection, which they said is ‘made with love from more sustainably sourced and recycled materials, to reduce the environmental impact.’
Early in 2022, PLT announced their “Pretty Little Thing Marketplace” feature (similar to Depop), where customers can sell used clothing — any pre-worn clothing, not just those bought from the fast-fashion brand.
“This platform encourages sustainability and encourages people to shop for pre-loved and recycled pieces,” Molly-Mae said of the project, according to WWD.
The platform is synced with PrettyLittleThing’s order history, so customers who want to put up their old PLT items on sale can automatically pull up the data to their store (images, product info, and more).
Pretty Little Thing Faces Greenwashing Controversy
Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing are also part of a separate investigation conducted by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for their lack of eco-friendly initiatives. Their reselling marketplace has also sparked outrage online for greenwashing PLT brand.
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Another Love Island Star also weighed in on PLT’s sustainability efforts. Former Love Islander Brett Staniland, who refused to wear any fast fashion brand while on the show, has called out Boohoo several times.
“Their products are trend-led and ultra-fast, meaning they’re specifically not designed to be resold or have any longevity whatsoever, so resale is never on the cards for those items,” Brett said about PLT’s resale marketplace, according to the HuffPost.
Pretty Little Thing animal welfare policy
Pretty Little Thing’s sustainable policy information is very limited, while their labour rights and animal welfare policies appear to be missing entirely from their website.
For this reason, it seems there’s no evidence it has a policy against animal cruelty. The brand uses leather and wool, but avoids fur and exotic animal skin and hair.
They do offer a selection of cruelty-free and vegan make-up on the site.
Wear Next Opinion
Wear Next believes it’s important to highlight the negative and unjust practises taking place in the fashion industry. We believe ethics and sustainability are an important talking point to bring about change and we encourage you to contact fashion brands to demand this.
However we understand that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for every body due to various factors, such as budget and the ability to find confidence-boosting clothes that fit. We will continue to offer you fashion inspiration and guidance to suit every body and budget, while also highlighting the unjust systems at play in the fashion industry.
Would you still shop at PLT? Let us know in the comments below.
Slow Fashion Brands
In the past sustainable fashion was synonymous with bamboo, beige and basic garments, but recently slow fashion has started to change.
There are plenty of exciting small fashion brands that don’t compromise on style. If you’re looking for an alternative to PLT, we recommend checking out these made to order fashion brands and this selection of anti-fast fashion brands, which are creative, unique, colourful and stylish.
We also recommend shopping vintage as an alternative to fast fashion. We search the virtual vintage racks every week to bring you exciting retro pieces you can buy instead of fast fashion, while we’ve put together a list of online vintage shops to check out now here.