FASHION TELL THE TRUTH
The fashion industry is lying to us and we say, enough is enough...
This year XR Fashion Action is launching a campaign to ban a number of greenwashed advertisements in a bid to force the fashion industry into telling the truth about its dirty practices. Research shows that an increasingly concerned public is willing to pay premium prices for ethical and sustainable clothing. Companies have been quick to capitalise on our anxiety, slapping the words ‘eco’, ‘conscious’ and ‘recycled’ on their labels without making any meaningful changes to their practices. Unfortunately, their tactics are working and consumers are being misled into purchasing clothing that they believe is better for people and the planet. Shockingly a recent consumer poll found H&M and Primark named as two of the most sustainable retailers accordingly to public opinion. It is no coincidence that H&M and Primark two of the worst greenwashing offenders on the high street.
Sustainable marketing is currently a hugely under-researched and under-regulated area which means that brands are free to use terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘low-impact’, ‘eco’ or ‘green’ without great risk of anyone asking them to provide evidence of supply chain improvements. Retailers continually release ranges of sustainably labeled clothing whilst avoiding the radical structural changes and lowered rate of production required for true sustainability progress. For something to be sustainable, it must prevent and avoid depletion or harm to natural resources such as energy, oil and the environment. It must also have been produced without any exploitation of people within the supply chain.
Not only does greenwashing take advantage of the conscious consumer, it is also has a negative impact on independent businesses that are making genuine progress towards ethical and sustainable production. This capitalisation of the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced MUST STOP NOW.
WHAT IS GREENWASHING?
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies and brands to mislead consumers into believing that a product is more eco-friendly than it actually is. The fashion industry has cottoned on to the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly climate conscious but instead of making any real efforts to make their products more sustainable, brands are simply using a variety of different greenwashing methods in order to appeal the eco-aware. There are currently no regulations in place to monitor the use of buzz words like 'green', 'eco' or 'sustainable' in marketing, which means that brands are able to label garments with these terms without providing any certification that proves their claims.
You may have noticed that many high street stores now offer a clothes recycling scheme where you can drop off your unwanted garments, sometimes in exchange for a retail voucher. Sounds great, right? In reality this is little more than another greenwashing tactic, encouraging shoppers to continue to buy clothes at an unsustainable rate by offering a seemingly guilt-free recycling 'solution' to overconsumption.
WHAT IS WOKE-WASHING?
Woke-washing is a similar marketing tactic used by ethically problematic companies to increase sales and profits by aligning themselves with social movements. Whereas greenwashing targets consumers' climate and sustainability concerns, woke-washing focuses on social concerns such as exploitation, racism, LGBTQ+ rights and gender politics. A classic example of this is the feminist slogan t-shirt, which suggests to the consumer that the brand empowers women and supports feminism. However, the t-shirt was produced in a factory where women are working in unsafe conditions, subject to gender violence in the workplace whilst being paid less than the living wage.
It has become commonplace for brands to post on social media in support of social movements, such as feminism or Black Lives Matter but if the brand is doing nothing to support or empower women or people of colour in their own supply chains, then this is woke-washing and is a fundamentally dishonest and purposely misleading practice.
PRETTY LITTLE LIES...
On International Women's Day (IWD) 2022, XR Fashion Action targeted Pretty Little Thing as part of an anti-woke-washing digital action. Pretty Little Thing is an online fast fashion brand owned by parent company Boohoo Group, which in 2020 was exposed in a report by Labour Behind the Label for failing to ensure fair wages for garment workers in its UK supply chains. Despite the media backlash following the 2020 exposé, Pretty Little Thing's PR team jumped back on the International Women's Day bandwagon this year and released an anti-rape campaign introduced by the slogan 'here’s to building your fellow dolls up and never tearing them down'. This attempt to boost sales on IWD using a campaign against sexual violence to sell cheap dresses, whilst at the same time failing to provide any evidence that female garment workers in its supply chains are protected was a stunning display of woke-washing hypocrisy that we just couldn't ignore.
XR Fashion Action and other individuals took to Pretty Little Thing's instagram comments to remind the brand of how it is failing women within its very own supply chain. However, the brand decided to remove the comments and post a statement describing them as 'grossly inaccurate and wholly untrue'. This immediate attempt to silence us and shut down any public criticism of the brand only made PLT seem guiltier and made us more determined to call out their woke-washing tactics, so days later we delivered a letter to Pretty Little Thing detailing our concerns directly to their headquarters. We received a response from Corporate Affairs Manager Frank Egleton which did not convince us that Pretty Little Thing is taking sufficient steps to ensure fair wages and safe working conditions in their supply chains. We will continue a dialogue with Pretty Little Thing until we feel we have received an satisfactory response to our demands. Read the full letters below.