Is Pretty Little Thing ethical and sustainable?

For many, PLT's affordable prices and inclusive sizes are a god send - but are they ethical?
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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.

The brand, which boasts Kylie Jenner, Little Mix, Lil’ Kim, Molly-Mae Hague and Ashanti as ambassadors, has 12.9 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.

READ MORE: How ethical is Zara?

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‘.

READ MORE: How ethical is ASOS?

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.

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.

Pretty Little Thing sold clothes for 4p in their Black Friday sale - but how much do they pay garment workers?

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.

For fashion advice and general chit-chat, join our Facebook group What To Wear Next.

READ MORE: 6 sustainable fashion brands who make beautiful clothes to order

READ MORE: Is Primark ethical and sustainable?