You’ve probably seen some reviews of Channel 4’s recently released documentary: Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester. And on the whole, they haven’t been all that positive.
The series focuses on Manchester’s complicated relationship with fast fashion, and the brands - Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, In the Style, and Missguided itself that choose to call it home.
When Missguided announced the series on its website, the company claimed it is ‘famed for [its] empowering message’ and is ‘on a mission to make every woman feel confident, sexy and effortlessly cool’ regardless of ethnicity, body size and shape, religion, or sexual orientation. In the head office, this may be true, but for us this claim seems ironic at best, and hugely deceptive at worst.
In 2017, Missguided was one of the brands mentioned in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme Undercover: Britain's Cheap Clothes. In the programme, undercover reporters worked at two UK textiles factories that produced clothes for Boohoo, New Look, River Island, and Missguided. The undercover reporter was paid £3.25 per hour whilst at the factory - which was making clothes for Missguided. Whilst UK minimum wage stood at £8.20 for 21+ year olds.
The definition of the word “empower” is: to give power to (someone); to make (someone) stronger and more confident. The keywords here are “give” and “make.” Empowerment means you're transferring power to someone else. At Know The Origin we don’t think it is empowering to pay someone below minimum wage, there is no transferring of power there, it’s abusing human rights.
Although the narrator of Inside Missguided mentioned that the company was involved in a ‘scandal’ in 2017, they quickly brush over this to discuss Missguided’s regular audits of its UK suppliers - while we see footage of an employee visiting a factory in Leicester.
We aren’t given any information about Missguided’s international suppliers, however, which according to this article by Fashion Roundtable, accounts for 92.2% of their supply.
It would seem reasonable to assume at least some of Missguided’s clothing is made in developing countries, due to the mass movement of clothing and textile production to the low-cost production countries. Missguided has been rated as ‘Very Poor’ on environmental and ethical rating site Good on You. The website reads; ‘While it traces some of its supply chain, there is no evidence of worker empowerment initiatives or payment of a living wage...Missguided does audit some of its supply chain including the final stage of production, but its lack of transparency regarding its labour practices and living wages means we rated the brand’s labour conditions ‘Very Poor’.
As Missguided offers very limited supply chain transparency on its website, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion than that at least some of the company’s clothes are made by female garment workers who are not paid the living wage. With frequent references to female empowerment at Missguided HQ within the documentary, it’s hard see Missguided’s feminist message as anything other than a catchphrase.
This documentary follows on from BBC Three’s 2019 series of a similar format, Breaking Fashion, which followed Missguided’s competitor In the Style. We found it surprising that Channel 4 would commission a programme that celebrates and fuels environmental degradation and the abuse of people when it has a history of openly criticising fast fashion companies, including Missguided.
The documentary only highlights fast fashion brands of the North - none of the fantastic ethical companies that we know and love. As a small brand, we are still seeking to set an industry standard with wages and environmental impacts, despite not being at the scale of Missguided. We’re in excellent company at Know the Origin, with The Co-Operative, Lucy & Yak, Bibico, and Monkee Genes also based outside of the capital.
If like us, you were appalled by the commissioning of this programme by Channel 4, and the bizarre statements of female empowerment peppered throughout the documentary, here are some actions you can take.
- Get in touch with Channel 4 and let them know how you feel about the programme. You can tweet them at @Channel4 or contact them here.
- Get in touch with Missguided and ask them #whomademyclothes? This hashtag is part of Fashion Revolution’s campaign to end global garment worker injustices. (See below) Get in touch with Missguided on twitter and instagram @missguided and on their contact page here.
- Contact Ofcom, the UK’s government-approved communications regulator. They deal with complaints about TV shows and other media. Complain to Ofcom here.
- Follow and share the work of Fashion Revolution, a not for profit organisation who work towards ‘A global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit.’
- Follow the work of Good on You. They rate lots of different fashion and apparel brands on their environmental impact, labour conditions, and animal welfare. You can find lots of amazing brands to support on there.
Written by Angharad Poole.