Pretty Little Thing – a brand famed for fast fashion – has introduced an app encouraging shoppers to buy and sell second hand clothes.
Though PLT says its new marketplace will help those “striving to be more mindful when it comes to how they consume fashion”, not everyone is impressed by the concept.
Sustainability authors and influencers have told HuffPost UK this is another example of ‘greenwashing’ – where a brand papers over problematic business models with one shiny, environmentally-friendly policy.
On social media, the announcement of PTL Marketplace was also met with some scepticism, with one consumer asking: “What is the point of this?”
It was then announced that Love Island contestant Indiyah Polack will become the first ambassador for the marketplace app. Polack will be the face of the app and will star in her own TV advert.
“As soon as I knew PLT wanted me to support this initiative and be the ambassador for the marketplace, where the focus is on re-wearing and re-selling which is something that’s important to me, I knew I wasn’t going to turn the opportunity down,” she told MailOnline.
Good on You, a website that rates the ethical practices of fashion brands, has given PLT an environmental rating of ‘not good enough’ and labour rating of ‘very poor’. The brand, which is owned by Boohoo, has faced a steady stream of criticism for policies behind the scenes – and some say the new marketplace doesn’t go for enough to enact change.
Aja Barber, a journalist and author of Consumed, asks: “Why would you need this platform from a company who has said nothing of reducing their outrageous production and has a dodgy reputation with payment of workers when there are plenty of resale platforms already operating who aren’t involved in any of that?”
Barber tells HuffPost UK that PLT should first address how “unsustainable their entire business model is”, before investing in such add-ons.
PLT has confirmed that those using the app will be able to sell Pretty Little Thing items as well as pre-loved clothing from other fashion brands.
Brett Staniland, who is a model and sustainable fashion editor, thinks encouraging consumers to buy pre-loved clothes is a good step – in theory. But in practice, he believes the app is completely redundant for re-selling the brands own goods.
“Their products are trend-led and ultra-fast, meaning they’re specifically not designed to be resold or have any longevity whatsoever, so resale is never on the cards for those items,” he says.
Staniland also claims that PLT’s clothing is “low quality” and doesn’t withstand multiple repeat washes, again making resale tricky. “The most sustainable thing they can do is just cease operations altogether,” he adds.
Venetia La Manna, the co-founder of Made Them and podcast host of All The Small Things, says without ethics we cannot have sustainability. “Pretty Little Thing and their parent company Boohoo have consistently failed to protect their garment makers, with allegations of illegal labour in Leicester back in 2020,” she says.
“The only way PLT will be ‘sustainable’ is if they restructure their entire business model. We don’t want greenwashing campaigns like this resale app, we want fair living wages for their garment makers and a drastic decrease in overall output.
“There are some brilliant, accessible second hand platforms out there already. This one should be avoided at all costs.”
Laura Young, who is a climate activist and ethical influencer, believes the most unsustainable thing about fast fashion is the sheer scale at which companies produce clothes.
“PLT have it in their power to change their business model to become more sustainable,” Young says. “Slowing down production and tackling the other issues – like materials, production, transportation and packaging [would make a difference]. However instead they create a secondhand platform to make more profit. This profit will continue to fuel their unsustainable practices.”
It’s worth noting that the “no selling fees for new users” only lasts for the first three months.
While some on social media have praised the idea behind PLT Marketplace, Young points out that this isn’t a new concept, with apps like Depop and Vinted offering a similar service already.
We asked Pretty Little Thing for comment and a spokesperson said customers told them they want simple and easy ways to give their old clothes a new lease of life whilst making money for themselves in the process.
“PrettyLittleThing Marketplace is a community platform that will allow people to do just that,” they said. “We are all about making fashion more diverse and inclusive, giving our customers the creative freedom to express themselves. With the PLT Marketplace App, it is now even easier to join our ‘PLTLoved’ movement as we all play our part in reducing waste.”
Still, climate activists are unconvinced by the launch.
“This is a clear example of greenwashing as it creates a sense/culture that PLT is ‘sustainable’ and trying their best,” says Young. “In reality they are just doing the bare minimum when they have it in their power to do so much more!”