DEAR PRETTY LITTLE THING, STOP EXPLOITING WOMEN
On International Women's Day, we took to social media for a digital action calling out fashion brands for co-opting feminism with woke-washing. One of the brands we targeted was Pretty Little Thing. Pretty Little Thing and their parent company, the Boohoo family, have been under fire for the exploitation of workers in their supply chains, most recently they were linked to a dark factory in Leicester where garment workers were being paid £3 and forced to work during COVID-19 lockdowns. Activists recently took action outside their runway show. On International Women's Day, they posted that they were donating a percentage of profits from certain dresses to support survivors of sexual violence. We told them #WeDontBuyIt and they started to delete comments on Instagram, making it look like the only call-outs were coming from the XR Fashion Action UK main account — which was definitely not the case. PRETTY LITTLE THING, YOU CAN'T DELETE THE TRUTH.
They also responded to our comments saying 'You may see comments in our thread about the pay of garment workers that make our clothes. These comments are grossly inaccurate and wholly untrue. For those interested in that facts we would signpost you to the latest report, written by Sir Brian Leveson, on the action we have taken and the reality of how we manage our relationship with our suppliers which you can read here. WE CALL BS, so we wrote them this open letter and delivered it to their door.
Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action
10 March 2022
Dear PLT and the BooHoo family,
In the interest of giving everyone a voice, we have thoroughly read Brian Leveson’s 2022 report that you referenced in response to the backlash against your International Women’s Day campaign. We feel it is incredibly misleading to refer to this as evidence of fair pay throughout your supply chains.
You have continued to avoid publishing solid proof of how you ensure living wages and avoid human and labour rights abuses throughout your supply chains, particularly in regard to your overseas suppliers.
We acknowledge that you have published a list of over 1000 of your suppliers. However you still fail to disclose any solid information about forced labour, gender equality or freedom of association in your supply chains. Further, you claim to have eliminated subcontracting, yet provide no evidence of how beyond vague references to whistle-blowers. You also provide no evidence of ensuring a living wage.
Further, we recognise you are now supposedly conducting audits in your overseas factories (a process ethicalconsumer.org found you to previously fail to carry out). However, in Leveson’s report only a very standard auditing process is referred to. As we are sure you are aware, auditing processes involving supplier visits, RAG statuses (or equivalent) and follow-ups have been common practice with overseas suppliers in fashion supply chains for many years, yet have repeatedly failed to eliminate labour and human rights abuses. We do not see that this report suggests your practices with overseas suppliers to be any more thorough. The auditing process outlined is not enough, especially for a company that has been complicit in such shocking malpractice in the past.
The report acknowledges that maintenance of standards is more challenging outside the UK, yet no solid explanation of how you will ensure such standards are maintained in light of these challenges is given. We are asking you to respond with a detailed explanation as to how you are ensuring a living wage, right to freedom of association and gender equality throughout your supply chain, and how you are ensuring your garment workers are safe from labour and human rights abuses including modern-day slavery, gender-based violence and harassment, and dangerous working conditions both in the UK and overseas.
Further, you claim to be actively engaging with suppliers in detailed open costing exercises. We find it hard to believe this is more than lip service when you have previously sold garments for as little as 8p, and you currently have 9539 items on sale for under £10, with the cheapest being only £1.50. Previously these prices have been achieved through wage theft and exploitation. We would also like you to address in your response how you continue to sell at such low prices whilst paying your suppliers fairly.
We are also keen to highlight that garment workers are not the only people in your supply chains. For example, you have no policy against sourcing cotton in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan despite it being known that the majority of such cotton is grown using forced labour. We would like to see concrete plans detailing how you will expand transparency to encompass your whole supply chain.
We are keen to engage in dialogue with you about the referenced issues. Please respond detailing a time-frame in which we can expect you to address our queries.
We look forward to hearing from you,
XR Fashion Action