The fast fashion fightback: How giants like Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Primark are boosting sales, cutting waste and becoming major players in Fashion Week calendars as they collaborate with celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Rita Ora and Kardashians
- This week Rita Ora and Amanda Holden both announced new lines with brands
Fast fashion giants from Pretty Little Thing to Boohoo and Primark have been hit with a barrage of criticism over the years from poor working conditions, to creating piles of waste and contributing to harmful fashion cycles.
But now they are fighting back, throwing money at A-list stars from supermodels like Naomi Campbell to reality star Kourtney Kardashian.
Yesterday Rita Ora revealed she was pairing up with Primark to launch a new collection of sustainable fashionwear with the high street brand and hailing the store, claiming: ‘I have always wanted to look stylish, and when I was younger, I couldn’t have done that without Primark’.
PR Gurus told MailOnline the strategy is working with celebrities helping boost sales, creating more brand awareness and appealing to Gen-Z buyers influenced by their role models on social media platforms.
Brand and culture expert Nick Ede said there has been a ‘significant increase utilising A List talent to sell clothes for high street fashion brands’, adding it not only boosted revenues, but helps online fashion houses become ‘major players’ in the Fashion Week calendars.
And PR guru Andy Barr told MailOnline brands are trying to, ‘move away from the throw-away generation types that typically fall out of Love Island’ and to celebrities with their own strong brand values who will offer them clout across PR and social campaigns and advertising spots.
He told MailOnline: ‘A list talent like Naomi and Rita are setting the bar high and creating brand awareness, driving sales and opening up the brands like Primark and Pretty little thing to feature in top tier fashion publications but also allowing consumers to feel like the star for a fraction of the cost.
‘They also allow the fast fashion brands to become major players in the Fashion Week calendars.
‘There is always going to be a significant amount of negativity surrounding these kinds of collaborations as they will be seen to encourage the consumption of fast fashion but the demand is there and the talent know that they can make a lot of money from these kinds of campaigns.’
PR expert and founder of 10 Yetis Andy Barr said that fast fashion brands are looking to move away from reality show celebrities, such as those that appear on Love Island.
Instead he claims the stores are cashing in for ‘big name stars’ who will overtime ‘help repair the damage done’ and move customers away from ‘one-time clothing’.
He said: ‘Fast fashion brands are having a change of heart of late and refocusing how they approach and market celebrity collaborations.
‘They are trying to move away from the throw-away generation types that typically fall out of Love Island and these kinds of five-minute-of-fame celebrities.
‘Instead they are trying to sign up the big name stars who offer them more than just a new audience to aim their products at.
‘They are trying to work with celebrities who have their own strong brand values and who will offer them significant clout across their PR campaigns, social campaigns and advertising spots.
‘Fast fashion brands will know that the fans of the big names that they sign up will trust their idols to have made sure that the deals that they sign are with reputable and trustworthy companies.
‘Over time this will help to repair the damage done, especially as consumers move away from one-wear-only clothing.’
It comes as television star Amanda Holden announced that she would be launching her own line for the fashion brand Lipsy London, which aims to provide clothes for women of all ages.
She told the Mail yesterday: ‘The biggest compliment in the world is seeing a 20-something in a piece that’s in this collection. I have released a thigh boot for goodness sake! We can all wear thigh boots in our 50s.’
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion refers to ‘cheaply produced and priced garments that copy the latest catwalk styles and get pumped quickly through stores in order to maximise on current trends’, according to Earth.org.
Studies have shown that the practice of quickly producing cheap clothes en-masse has several devastating impacts.
‘From the growth of water-intensive cotton, to the release of untreated dyes into local water sources, to worker’s low wages and poor working conditions; the environmental and social costs involved in textile manufacturing are widespread,’ researchers from Washington University explained in a 2018 study.
Last month, Mike Ashley’s retail empire Frasers, who owns Flannels and Sports Direct, boosted Boohoos finance by increasing its stake in the company to over 7.8 per cent.
Taking a larger stake in the brand, the company said Boohoo was becoming increasingly appealing because of its ‘laser focus on young female customers’.
Earlier this year Pretty Little Thing was applauded as an ‘extraordinary success’.
The founder of the company Umar Kamani, who announced he was stepping down after a decade, spoke of the growth from a market stall in Manchester to a global brand worth an estimated £3.8 billion.
Yet while the brands are often deemed as a financial success story, many have faced problems trying to become greener.
Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Primark and Lipsy are all listed as ‘not good enough’ on Good On You – a website that measures the sustainability levels of clothing stores.
Over the years, clothing lines such as these have come under mounting pressure to become greener and help tackle the ongoing climate crisis.
Earlier this year the real price of throwaway fashion was revealed through shocking photos of piles and piles of clothes in Nairobi, Kenya.
An investigation found that around 12 million items of ‘junk plastic’ clothing are placed in the Kenyan capital every year because they were too dirty or damaged.
Another investigation into the fast fashion brand Shein – which has 6,000 new items on its website every day – exposed the amount of waste being created in some fashion warehouses.
Other fast-fashion chains have been accused of extremely poor working conditions.
A Channel 4 documentary exposed dangerous working conditions and lack of fire safety in some Shein factories. The brand now ships to over 150 countries and was valued at £81 billion in April 2022.
Meanwhile an undercover reporter who went into a Boohoo warehouse – known for its £4 dresses – found staff comparing themselves to ‘slaves’, made to work in temperatures over 32C for 12 hour shifts. Employees also made allegations of racism and sexual harassment.
Yet the negative coverage has not stopped celebrities from becoming the face of brands. Love Island star Molly Mae and Selling Sunset’s Chrishell Stause teamed up with Pretty Little Thing.
Actress Megan Fox and hotel heiress Paris Hilton paired up with Boohoo.
And brands lining up more and more A-listers is helping improve their sustainability, some brand experts have said.
Mr Ede added: ‘What is good is that businesses are addressing ‘green washing’ issues more and are scoring much better on the Fashion Transparency Index than in previous years which is a positive sign and significant move.’
In the hours following Rita Ora’s campaign launch, she was slammed by critics for ‘not caring’ for venturing into fast fashion, while others shared their doubts that the millionaire and globally famous popstar still shops at the budget high street retailer.
The 32-year-old singer is just one of an ever-growing list of celebrities cashing in with huge brands despite the growing backlash from sustainability campaigners.
Reacting to the partnership, one wrote: ‘Fast fashion is destroying the planet, or don’t you care.’
Another fumed: ‘Rita Ora who prides herself with her own ‘sustainable’ line of sportswear making the world a better place just partnered with Primark. She really does not give a f**k.
PR expert Amanda Fitzgerald warned that celebrities who have turned to promote brands like Boohoo could end up damaging their reputation in the long run.
She told MailOnline: ‘There is a clear trend right now for fast fashion brands to be using big names to endorse their campaigns.
‘It could be seen as a brand strategy masterstroke by the labels to harness the power and reach of these celebs, however, these A listers could actually be damaging their names by association.
‘For the brands, teaming up with names we all know and respect, and who we view to carry themselves with grace, elegance and timeless style, injects these very things into our subconscious awareness.’
Naomi Campbell was also hit with an onslaught of criticism when she debuted a range of pieces she had designed in collaboration with the Pretty Little Thing – a global brand now worth an estimated £3.8million – in what its biggest partnership yet.
A description about the collaboration on PLT’s states that the collection pays ‘homage to Naomi’s legacy and iconic signature style.’
Her decision to pair up with the brand, however, also led to fierce backlash from some.
Addressing the concerns weeks after the initial launch, Campbell said: I understand people’s criticism.
‘I understand what people are going to say, but I took it from a standpoint of getting to know the audience of the younger generation and being able to share my platform.
‘There are so many other fast fashion brands out there – do people say anything about other models when they work with them?’
The model went on to question whether racism played a part in the criticism she received, asking if double standards were at play.
‘Do they say anything when other caucasian models have worked with fast-fashion brands and done collaborations?’ she added. ‘They’ve said not a word. They’ve praised them. So why are they coming for me?’
Kourtney Kardashian Barker, who is worth $65 million, faced similar criticisms when she became Boohoo’s sustainability ambassador, launching two ranges with the popular British clothing line.
After teaming up with the brand, critics hit out, accusing the celebrity for helping Boohoo potentially greenwash its customers.
Speaking about the criticism she faced last month, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians Star said she learnt from the experience.
Speaking on a recent episode she said: ‘A lot of [criticism] fell on me, and I actually love that because I feel like I am in the position to shine a bigger spotlight on this problem.
‘This is not one person’s problem. This is a big problem in the world [and for] the whole fast fashion industry and the whole fashion industry.’
Using top stars to become the face of high street brands is not unusual. In 2007, legendary model Kate Moss joined TopShop as a designer.
She then returned again to launch another line in 2014 in a bid to help the chain, which became a victim of the pandemic.