People are calling out online fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing for contributing to the harmful fast-fashion cycle after the site offered a 100 per cent discount on certain items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
On Monday, the UK-based company tweeted: “100 PER CENT DISCOUNT DROP,” and urged followers to follow a link for “direct access” to the sale.
On the company’s US website, it also announced that it was celebrating the day of cyber sales with up to 80 per cent off of everything, while customers could receive an additional 20 per cent off in their carts using a promo code.
While many customers were appreciative of the deal and the opportunity to buy the retailer’s clothes at such extremely low prices, others have accused the company of promoting fast fashion and “exploiting” workers.
The negative environmental impacts of fast fashion are well-known, with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) previously naming the fashion industry the second-biggest consumer of water and “responsible for eight-10 per cent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined”.
In addition to releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually, according to the UNEP, fast fashion sees consumers and brands discard clothes more frequently, with the BBC reporting that the Global Fashion Agenda estimates 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created each year.
Speaking to the BBC in 2020, Chetna Prajapati, who studies ways of making sustainable textiles at Loughborough University, said: “The current fashion system uses high volumes of non-renewable resources, including petroleum, extracted to produce clothes that are often used only for a short period of time, after which the materials are largely lost to landfill or incineration.
“This system puts pressure on valuable resources such as water, pollutes the environment and degrades ecosystems in addition to creating societal impacts on a global scale.”
On social media, many people have shared their concerns over the company’s sale, with one person tweeting: “This #BlackFriday, @OfficialPLT are literally giving away their clothes for free. What does this tell us about how they treat their garment makers? Fast fashion is costing the earth,” along with a screenshot of a shirt for sale for $0 on the site.
Another said: “We’ve now officially hit rock bottom. @OfficialPLT - the bottom of the barrel when it comes to fast fashion - are ‘selling’ things for £0.00 on Black Friday. How is this possible without the exploitation of both workers and the planet? Answer, it [isn’t]. Shameful.”
“The Pretty Little Thing 100 per cent off sale does not sit right with me at all, just promoting fast fashion on another level,” someone else tweeted.
On 26 November, Pretty Little Thing appeared to address some of the concerns about alleged exploitation of workers, with the brand claiming on Twitter that its sales are a “marketing investment” and that they don’t “in any way impact or reduce the cost price we pay to suppliers”.
“We create our offers to give our customers access to trending products, no matter what their budget,” the company said. “This offer is a marketing investment that we’ve made, and it doesn’t in any way impact or reduce the cost price we pay to suppliers.”
Despite the company’s statement, many were still critical of the brand’s choice to discount its items so steeply, with one person accusing Pretty Little Thing of being “disingenuous”.
“What this fails to mention is that by selling clothes for 99 per cent off @OfficialPLT is encouraging mass consumption and mass waste, which usually ends up rotting in landfills in the global south. To market this as widening accessibility without impact on supply chain is so disingenuous,” they tweeted.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, Venetia La Manna, a fair fashion campaigner, also shared her concerns about the sale, noting that “every single week we’re uncovering new clothing waste sites” before questioning what it says about the brand that it is willing to give away its clothes “for free”.
This is not the first time that Pretty Little Thing has promoted large discounts, as BuzzFeed reported that the company’s Black Friday sale last year included offers of stilettos for 33 cents and dresses for 10 cents.
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for Pretty Little Thing said: “Unique Black Friday offers are much anticipated by our customers and a planned part of our marketing strategy. The items on sale are carefully selected and discounting is a marketing investment that we make and is incorporated into our costing model, it does not in any way impact the cost price we pay to suppliers, or the way we value the work that goes into creating the garments. We use our discounting strategies to give our customers access to on trend items no matter what their budget.”
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