By Amy Townsend
Missguided are finally getting it with size inclusivity, but their ethics still need work.
(Image taken from Missguided Blog/Channel 4 doc)
Like many other fashion fanatics I spent last week catching up on the first four episodes of Inside Missguided, Channel 4’s insider look at the operations of one of the UK’s biggest and best known fast fashion retailers. The documentary has been widely panned by critics both in newspaper articles and on Twitter, who question the ethical and environmental controversies surrounding the brand. It’s also narrated by a Missguided employee, and clearly lacks objectivity.
Unlike the BBC’s documentary following fast fashion rival In The Style, the programme does begin to address the sustainability issues surrounding the brand, but there’s some clever distraction techniques employed. For example, we feel we’re finally getting somewhere with a factory audit scene, but it’s carefully cut up around head buyer Victoria’s gender reveal party. Equally, the cost price of the fabrics and garment worker pay is kept under wraps, unlike In The Style’s mistake of letting the BBC reveal that they were selling a £5 dress for £35.
We’re then taken on a tour of a Leicester factory with CEO Nitin, but the series let slip that the brand also sources from China and Pakistan in a previous episode. Whilst this isn’t particularly shocking for a fast fashion company it does beg the question as to what the overseas factories might look like if the cameras were let loose. It’s no secret that the fashion industry is terrible for the environment in all of its forms; from pollution created by dyeing processes and fabric manufacturing, transport emissions as the garments travel from wholesaler to warehouse to customer and then plastic waste from packaging, the list goes on. Missguided is listed as one of the worst offenders on Good On You’s report into ethical fashion and sustainability- a PR nightmare.
However, the brand is not completely tone deaf when it comes to size inclusivity. Here Missguided has clearly listened to its demographic; a high point of the documentary is a campaign featuring eight influencers of different races and body types, managed by 28-year-old Treasure, Missguided’s senior creative and visual merchandiser. This could be a nice niche for Missguided to take against their fast fashion counterparts. The plus size clothing market is set to hit £9 billion by 2022 and its consumers are increasingly fed up with unflattering tent dresses.
The documentary also shows a plus sized dress with a huge 72% return rate. This is perhaps a brave move on behalf of the PR team but it does demonstrate that the brand is learning that you can’t just take a size 8 mannequin and scale it up. Missguided is also one of the few fast fashion retailers to feature product reviews on their website.
Compared to its competitors such as Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo, Missguided’s branding and advertising is sleek and clearly effective. Missguided itself returned to profit in 2019 after its £26m loss the previous year, but it seems that competition from other fast fashion brands was the main reason and not that consumers are becoming more ethical and environmentally conscious. The fast fashion industry only seems to be growing, with rival Boohoo reporting a 45% increase in sales year on year. Some fast fashion brands have taken steps towards a more sustainable future by providing recycling programmes for their packaging and launching ranges made from recycled fabrics, but these initiatives only scratch the surface of the crisis that the industry faces. It will be interesting to see if backlash to this documentary and others actually starts to effects consumer behaviour, or if the industry will continue to push the planet into an increasingly depressing future.