Following the release of ‘Breaking Fashion’ by the BBC which offered a behind-the-scenes look at In The Style, comes Channel 4’s fashion documentary ‘Inside Missguided’ another fashion e-tailer that follows their dominant female workforce through their day to day jobs. This comes after their dramatic loss in 2018 and the ethics scandal of 2017. The company’s recovery is shared with the world in this documentary-like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The choice to release another fast fashion documentary is confusing, in an age where the world and consumers are more aware of climate change and the effects fast fashion is having on the earth. Though the company owns up to its mistakes, its nonchalance towards the issue of fast fashion is deeply troubling.
There’s no arguing that they had a successful year – however, each episode oozes with privilege and prejudice with an excessive empowerment message that grows tiresome and acts as the velvet curtain to hide the horrors of fast fashion. CEO Nitin Passi says: “fast fashion gets tarred with the same brush and it’s not fair.”
The documentary takes a look at the Misguided HQ in Manchester which is adorned in hues of pink, fuchsia, rose, blush and coral; with unicorns and flamingoes galore; neon signs blaring down as mantras and affirmations. The storyline of their financial loss and determination to claw their way back to the top is a good one, however the show appears like more of a reality show than a documentary, with holidays to Ibiza, photoshoots, parties and meetings with glam femme fatales such as Head of Creatives, Treasure, who shines brightly on screen and is reality television gold with her no-nonsense and control freak attitudee, not to mention her foul mouth which comes out with phrases like: “we live, breathe, eat and shit Instagram and influencers.”
Insensitively naming the home of their Manchester HQ as “the empire of fast fashion” the team try to get their new designs fitted, modelled and uploaded in the blink of an eye with a abundance of samples, stock and flimsy textiles littered around. Fast fashion is referred to as a “culture” and the idea is glorified as an adrenaline, fast paced race to get items on sale before competitors – “that’s the culture, bigger, better, quicker, faster and sicker” says Treasure – as well as this CEO Nitin Passi blames consumer demand for the fast fashion industry and its environmental impacts instead of the large corporation polluting and producing too much than consumers can handle.
“It’s the customer designing all of the newness, not us. If we don’t do it, someone else will.”
Despite their 2017 ethics scandal which found Misguided using factories that paid workers between £3 and £3.50 an hour and wanting to build back their reputation, the documentary shows very little when it came to the making of the clothes and the factory conditions. In episode three the ‘ethics team’ search to find a new factory for production and do a full inspection of the building, its workers and health and safety measures to ensure it is all up to standard. Missguided’s narrator admits that this new scrutiny and standard is due to the fact that they “haven’t always got it right” and are extra careful now.
CEO Passi says: “It wasn’t a focus of mine, I just wanted to grow the business.” This one section of the documentary is all that is dedicated to the factories and garment workers, casting doubt on the fact that Misguided are entirely clean, especially after rival Boohoo was busted, yet again, for underpaying factory workers in Leicester.
Money is something that tends to be thrown around despite the previous financial loss. In an attempt to bag Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague straight out of the villa, the team discuss money and offer her £300k. This is then boosted to £350k and an £80k Range Rover is thrown into the deal even though Molly cannot drive. The price fo the car is then added to the cost instead, totalling £430k. This is an obsence amount of money, but is only more upsetting when we see someone haggling the price of a single zip from 75p down to 40p and the staff talking about bonuses and requesting more money for their end of year party.
Workers such as Treasure and senior designer Victoria have spoken about their working class background and how Misguided gave them an opportunity to excel in the fashion industry that they wouldn’t have previously had which is fantastic. The dream that Misguided sells of expensive looking clothes that are on trend for less is the same dream offered to girls looking to kick-start their career into fashion. Victoria says: “we would all love to be dripping in Gucci and Louis V but that’s not possible.”
However this also seems to be contradicted by the offhand comments made by the narrator throughout the show. Examples include when all 300 plus staff members rushed outside to see Nitin Passi’s branded Rolls Royce – “you wouldn’t get that with a Micra, Citroen or a Mini,” – or getting ready for the end of year party in which girls are provided with spray tans an the lads are fighting for appointments at the on-site barbers, “doesn’t every business have an in-house barber?”
More prominent problems arise from the documentary however, such as the battle of diversity. The war that plus-size models and body positive influencers face against others is a harrowing one, but the documentary showed that even amongst larger models there is still a favouritism shown for the smallest of the bunch.
“We’ve been doing plus-size for a couple of years but we’ve not done it with any conviction,” says Passi, as the brand launches a plus-size campaign just in time for Black Friday sales. Three women sit at a table and flip through a model portfolio, selecting the face for the launch. They comment on each – “she’s very heavy busted, she’s a very full curve shape which might be too much for the shoot,” they say about one, “I wouldn’t have thought she was a size 20, she’s gorgeous” they say about another. You can imagine which model they chose out of the two. The launch only cast one model because according to the brand, plus-size models are more expensive because they are more ‘niche.; The model on set did not even know she was the first size 20 model to work with Missguided.
“In the past, people always said Misguided only makes clothes for fit, skinny birds. Not true! Alright, maybe a little bit.”
The diversity campaign led by Treasure was a huge success and was certainly empowering, but the comments made during casting for both campaigns meant the cracks started to show in the brand’s faux empowerment message. Passi mentions multiple times how he wants every ‘hot girl’ on Instagram wearing Missguided. One of the brand’s bikini summer adverts depicting bronzed limbs and beach bombs was even removed by the Advertising Standard Agency for exploiting and objectifying women.
The launch of their sports luxe ski range was eventful also, a photoshoot led in the ski slopes of Austria with a stunning mountainous terrain as a backdrop to gorgeous model Key, wearing lime green swimwear and posing with a husky. Dressed in a black ski jumpsuit with the zip fully down exposing her cleavage and naked body underneath, the model struggled as the temperatures dropped well below zero. Eventually they took the shivering girl out of the blizzards before she caught hypothermia. The entire sequence was difficult to watch.
In the end, Missguided had an undeniably successful party season and year, but there are many issues deeply rooted inside the fashion industry that were highlighted by this documentary, not just fast fashion. Money, true diversity, hypocrisy and the never ending battle against ethics. Just as fast as these companies work, the earth is being polluted by fast fashion and companies like Missguided continue to revel in their pink dream HQ, sipping prosecco as their plastic body con dresses make their way towards a landfill.
To read more about the impacts of fast fashion, read Politics and Lifestyle Editor Heather Flood’s article below on The Hummingbird Journal.