You might have predicted that, in a year like 2020, priorities would have shifted from on-trend outfits and high street mega-sales towards conscious, considered consumption habits.


Sadly, you’d be wrong. In fact, online searches for ‘cheap clothes’ rose by 46.3 per cent between March and June, with mass unemployment and the monotony of endless lockdowns blamed for a mass pursuit of cheap thrills. Today, while traditional retail struggles to stay afloat – or in the case of Debenhams and Arcadia, collapses altogether – fast fashion e-commerce giants like Boohoo have only been gaining momentum, reporting 45 per cent sales growth during the pandemic, despite the Leicester labour scandal.

The pendulum swung even more dramatically towards fast fashion last week on Black Friday, the annual sales event where retailers slice huge discounts off their overstock, encouraging a culture of hyper-consumption, when PrettyLittleThing, the celebrity-driven online fast fashion store owned by Boohoo Group, made headlines with a ’99 per cent off’ sale. Price tags for the firm’s synthetic bodycon dresses reached staggering lows of £0.04. Yes, really. And while this clever marketing strategy was based on loss-leaders to drive traffic to the site, it exposed in plain sight the underlying problem with fast fashion: the true cost of cheap clothes is the livelihoods of the garment workers who make them.


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