Putting the ‘con’ in bodycon

Free clothes – but at what cost? Fast fashion label Pretty Little Thing, which is owned by the behemoth Boohoo group, announced its Black Friday celebrations today with an unprecedented 100 per cent off sale. While most items on the brand’s website saw at least a partial discount, many garments, including a slinky tie-front shirt, black bunny mask, and an off-the-shoulder playsuit cost absolutely nothing to buy. 

Limited to one order per customer, PLT’s 100 per cent discount has been met with excitement by many. Even a cursory scroll through its Twitter or Instagram accounts will bring up reams of comments from fans celebrating their steals or bemoaning that products sold out too quickly.

However, these purchases come laden with hefty environmental and ethical price tags. In order for these companies to quite literally give away their stock, they have to have made significant financial trade-offs within their supply chain. When the price of clothing is so low, it often comes from a cycle of exploitation, where the human cost of making the garment is just as unfathomable. Simply put, it’s impossible to sell something for £0.00 and pay factory workers anything which remotely resembles a fair wage. The two concepts are mutually exclusive.

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Yet this is endemic to the proposal of fast fashion and the way its juggernauts feed a poisonous culture of overconsumption and disposability. Sustainability campaigners attest that overproduction contributes substantially to environmental degradation and the fashion industry’s contribution to the climate crisis is well documented. Every week, 15 million items of clothing arrive at a municipal dump in Accra, Ghana while almost half of fast fashion produce is made from virgin plastic. What’s more, according to a 2020 report on Black Friday, online deliveries churn out approximately 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK alone. The more companies slash their pricing, the greater the demand from the general public, and thus the vicious cycle takes another dangerous loop.

Brands like Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo often claim that they simply produce as much as their customers desire – see the godforsaken Missguided documentary for direct quotes on that – but a 100 per cent discount makes that notion an impossible one to reckon with. With going any lower now physically impossible when it comes to its prices, perhaps next year PLT will be paying you to buy its product.