OPINION – There’s no law against fast fashion. Not to my knowledge anyway. Shein puts out hundreds of new lines per day. It’s perfectly legal. For years, major fast fashion names have been churning out poor quality clothing which will inevitably end up being rapidly discarded. High use of fibre blends and elastane and a heavy dependence on polyester means most of it can’t be recycled. It’s a criminal waste of resources given current pressures on planetary boundaries. But in legal terms, no crime has been committed.
Why, then, do public relations teams at fast fashion brands feel that every new launch must have a nod to sustainability? It feels at times like they are reading off a script. It’s as if they insert the word sustainability at the centre of any campaign, right from the off, and then work backwards from there. The tail wagging the dog.
Surely any campaign should pinpoint its strength, its key selling point, and hang the story on that? Fast fashion’s obsession with convincing us all it is sustainable is seeing brands tying themselves in knots. But might it all be for nothing? Do their customers really care?
This nonsense reached its zenith with Boohoo’s new collection in collaboration with Kourtney Kardashian. “When Boohoo first approached me with this idea that was all about sustainability and style, I was concerned about the effects of the fast fashion industry on our planet,” she said.
Yes, so concerned that she recently posted on Instagram asking her audience which private jet to take for short trip – hers or her boyfriend’s.
If ever there was a public relations car crash waiting to happen, this was it. What were they thinking? Signing Kourtney Kardashian and asking her to be a sustainability ambassador is liking signing Lionel Messi and asking him to play in goal. Talk about hijacking your own launch.
Kourtney Kardashian, an American media personality, socialite, and reality television star has a net worth of US$65m (and yes, I had to look that up). She has 196 million Instagram followers and 6.5 million TikTok followers.
Any tie-up with her was always bound to bring huge exposure for Boohoo. Her demographic audience is, one suspects, precisely the target audience of Boohoo. No clever marketing was required for this collaboration. Just stick her up front and let the numbers do the rest.
Whether extra sales from this collaboration would be enough to create a positive return on investment – Kardashian will not have come cheap – is another matter.
Regardless, this was a public relations own goal which did not need to happen. Numerous studies have shown that style and price remain the key sells for young fashion shoppers. Boohoo could easily have focused its Kardashian campaign on style and affordability, while milking her huge audience. Instead, they’ve made themselves look like chumps.
Boohoo is not alone in thinking it needs to use sustainability as the hook for every PR campaign. H&M, Zara and the rest have been doing it for years. Even after been regularly called out for greenwashing, these brands continue to keep up this charade. It’s like they think we are all stupid.
Thankfully the authorities are onto them now, although one suspects the generic sustainability-related marketing froth around fast fashion will be very difficult to dislodge. It really is quite insidious.
(It is in attempting to make specific product claims where fast fashion brands will rightly be pulled-up by regulators).
While all of this may feel like a defence of fast fashion, it’s certainly not. If anything, it’s an expression of schadenfreude. Boohoo became the latest fast fashion brand caught attempting to pull the wool over our eyes and set itself up as an object of ridicule in the process.
Like many in this space, the business is simply addicted to greenwashing. There’s no other explanation for such middled marketing. We suspect this will be an expensive lesson for the business. Other brands might wish to take note.