Kourtney’s new Boohoo job isn’t even greenwashing, it’s just a cash grab
The private jet-flying, water-overusing, fast fashion-touting influencer Kourtney Kardashian Baker has been appointed sustainability ambassador of the contentious brand. Honestly, give us a break
How do you solve a problem like Boohoo? You appoint the private jet-flying, water-overusing, fast fashion-touting influencer Kourtney Kardashian Baker as a sustainability ambassador, apparently.
Even Boohoo’s most avid fans likely know the brand isn’t exactly a bastion of sustainability. Its model doesn’t allow it. It sells low-value, low-quality clothes in high volumes which are designed to be kept for just a short while and, if the sheer amount of Boohoo tags in charity shops is anything to go by, its audience agrees on exactly that.
Nevertheless, the brand continues to feign some semblance of environmental responsibility with this new appointment, likely to address plummeting share prices linked to a 29 per cent increase in Boohoo Group’s market-based carbon emissions. What are Kardashian Baker’s credentials you might wonder? As far as I can tell they’re mainly posting a CO2 tracker to an Instagram story one time and writing captions like: “*earth emoji* love her and take care of her every day” (from Hawaii, where the residents are literally begging people to stop visiting).
The partnership will kick off with a 45-piece capsule collection, due to be unveiled as a see now, buy now presentation on September 13, during New York Fashion Week. The brand says 41 styles will be made with recycled polyester and recycled cotton. It will also feature vintage biker jackets and t-shirts supplied by Glass Onion. As a fashion collection it’s deeply incoherent, careening from silver puffer jackets to black lace minis to sleek white gowns to pink activewear. As a “sustainable” collection, it’s a laughable drop in the ocean. And prices start at just £5, which concretely undermines KKB’s apparent concern for “like, worker welfare”.
How many units of each piece will be made? We don’t know. Where will they be made? No news on that yet. Will Boohoo take any responsibility for the clothes at the end of their life? Doubtful seeing as its accompanying campaign focuses mainly on what its customers can do – “resell them, swap them” – rather than what it can do as a billion-pound industry giant.
“I truly believe that any progress we can make when it comes to sustainability is a step in the right direction,” Kardashian Barker says of the partnership, but how seriously can a brand be taking those steps when sharing the homepage with the partnership announcement is a splash which reads: “Introducing: PU Season, from £8”? Yes, PU as in plastic. A 493-piece virgin plastic collection to be precise.
If you pop your blinkers on and focus only on the new collection, you could very well believe it looks like a genuine effort, but just a quick diversion to literally anywhere else on the website reveals that’s far from the truth.
The second part of Kardashian Baker’s role as sustainability ambassador is her talking to experts within the industry such as Stephanie Shepherd, co-founder of Future Earth, Steven Bethell, co-founder of Beyond Retro, and Patrick Duffy, founder of Global Fashion Exchange.
“Kourtney Kardashian Barker has enormous power to influence her followers and the wider population. Had she embarked upon this journey of discovery and education as an individual or perhaps under the guidance of a fashion NGO, for instance, it would have had a completely different identity as a project”
“She’s able to influence and inspire people to have more sustainable choices and be more conscious with the way that they shop,” says Boohoo brand director Samantha Helligso in a marketing video about the partnership which is masquerading as a documentary. And she’s right.
Kardashian Barker has enormous power to influence her followers and the wider population. Had she embarked upon this journey of discovery and education as an individual or perhaps under the guidance of a fashion NGO, for instance, it would have had a completely different identity as a project. It truly could have been an educational exercise to prompt positive behaviour change. As it is, handcuffed to consumption, it’s nothing more than PR for yet another collection release.
“What’s challenging is trying to figure out how people can still live in this way where it’s simple and easy and fast and fun, but it doesn’t have a negative impact on people and the planet,” says Duffy. That, alongside frequent mentions of ambiguous “stakeholders”, really gets to the heart of what Boohoo is doing here: it wants to keep its core model intact and sell a shit tonne of new clothes while simultaneously tackling tumbling share price, all by making out it’s taking sustainability seriously.
In appointing Kardashian Barker, a move similar to putting an arsonist in charge of a fire station, Boohoo has shown its hand. There’s absolutely no pretending this is about the environment. It’s a cash grab, laid bare for all to see.