The collapse of Missguided, an online fast fashion company has demonstrated the parlous state of industrial relations in the fashion industry. Employees have said their treatment was worse than that meted out by P&O Ferries.

At least they got a video

anonymous Missguided employee

Staff were sent an email 20 minutes before a telephone conference. They were all muted by the company and given the news in a pre-recorded telephone message. One sacked employee is reported as saying, “We were told not to come back to the office and someone independent would collect [our] equipment, and then they cut off [the call].” They went on to say, “At least they [P&O Ferries staff] got a video, we just got a phone call…I couldn’t even say goodbye to my colleagues.” The employees who kept their jobs did get a video conference call but many of them are looking for other jobs.

Workers’ Rights

Missguided are still trading online. Customers are only told in very small print at the bottom of their homepage that the firm is in administration and being run by three “Insolvency Practitioners of Teneo Financial Advisory Limited”.

Their motto is, “Shopping is a right, not a luxury”. No mention of workers’ rights though. Ex-employees will have to pursue their right to redundancy payments through the courts.

House of Fraser have acquired the intellectual property rights to Missguided and hope to use it to increase their online presence. But they are not taking on its outstanding obligations, not to its employees, nor to customers with outstanding orders and requests for refunds and the suppliers who are owed millions for stock already supplied.

Big Business

Fashion is big business. There is massive pressure to get the latest styles to market ahead of your competitors. And corners are cut. It’s not just about customer service and workers’ rights. Environmental targets for pollution and carbon emissions are also missed.

Impact

The Business of Fashion sustainability index assesses companies’ progress towards six targets: Transparency, Emissions, Water & Chemicals, Waste, Materials and Workers’ Rights.

The top 30 companies are doing worse than a year ago, with an average score of 28/100 down from 36/100. These are household names. Puma led with 49 points, followed by last year’s leader Kering – the French owner of Gucci, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent – Levi Strauss, H&M Group and new entrant Burberry.

Key Facts

Yesterday’s iPaper carried a useful summary of the environmental cost of the fashion industry.

  • The fashion industry is responsible for around 10 per cent of humanity’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is the fifth most polluting industry in the world.
  • 93 billion cubic metres of water – enough to meet the needs of five million people – is used by the clothing industry each year.
  • 500,000 tons of microfibre, equal to three million barrels of oil, are dumped by the clothing industry into the ocean annually.
  • More than half of clothes thrown away end up in landfill.
  • The fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 per cent by 2030, at current rates.

Shoddy

The cost-of-living crisis is going to drive more firms to the wall as people buy fewer clothes and companies cut standards even more in a race to the bottom. The result will be that poor people will be paying rock bottom prices for clothes that will not last and will be paying that price over and over again. What a world it would be if we could all afford to buy quality clothes that looked good, lasted and saved us money in the long term, so we did not feel obliged to buy the shoddy disposable goods that are today’s business model.

Victorian socialist, William Morris, campaigned against this waste of resources and the environmental damage it caused over 120 years ago. Morris hated ugliness and shoddy workmanship. His passion was for beauty and good craftmanship. I will try to follow his advice not to “keep anything in your house unless it is beautiful or useful,” as I look in my wardrobe to choose my outfit for the Jubilee celebrations!


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