Writes Katie Burke – Fashion Editor
With the current conversation surrounding saving the planet from environmental damnation and the role the fashion industry can play in that endeavour, we seem to be inundated nowadays with high street and online retailers vying to prove their new-found eco-friendliness. One retailer who seems to have completely missed this bandwagon is online store Missguided.
They have recently been promoting a black bikini online which has had its price slashed to £1. It is described as a one-off product that won’t break the bank in the hopes of celebrating “empowering” women to look and feel good. In a time of more mainstream discussion on women’s rights and in an age of increasing ethical and environmental awareness regarding the long-term cost of cheaper clothing, it is baffling that Missguided believed that a cheap bikini could “empower” us or is the right item to promote in the current climate.
Missguided are masters of self-promotion and garnering a cult online following. With T-Shirts emblazoned with catchy slogans such as ‘Girls Do It Better’ in our current climate of perfectly curated Instagram declarations of surface level feminism, products like this are the perfect money-makers for brands. From going viral by creating a ‘Jeans and a Nice Top’ section on their site, to using Instagram as a valuable self-promotion tool with the ability to shop on their page or commenting on celebrities’ photos, online retailers such as Missguided are a force to be reckoned with.
By using Love Island stars such as Ellie Brown to promote their latest wares such as the £1 bikini, the brand is a master in grabbing consumers’ attention as customers declared their delight on social media at being able to buy the product for £1 and under if you include promotion codes or student discounts.
We all love a bargain, so it’s easy to see how an item such as this bikini could tempt anyone. However, there are a couple of ways to look at the problematic nature of selling such a cheap item. According to an article by The Guardian, it is estimated that over half of their clothes are created in factories in Leicester, with the headquarters of Missguided being based in Manchester. This suits the company’s aim to be trend-based “rapid fashion” as coined by its founder, Nitin Passi, in comparison to the high street’s infamous fast fashion.
Without having to wait for all its clothes to be shipped in from Bangladesh or factories even further afield as many other fashion retailers do, Missguided can comfortably update their stock every day. But for Passi, this is not enough as he believes the brand should be updating their site with new stock every hour. Given that their office walls bare slogans such as “Don’t Make Sense, Make Dollars”, it is clear what the company’s aim is.
This suits the company’s aim to constantly be up to date on weekly trends, as opposed to investing in pieces that you will wear forever. The cheap cost of their items, such as the £1 bikini, encourages consumers to buy more than they need and distracts us from questioning how cheaper price tags impact on our thinking and how fair they are to those who work on their production. When we buy lower priced items, we immediately devalue their worth to us and what they can contribute to our wardrobe. As we have not spent a considerable amount of money, we do not feel the need to get longevity out of the item as it did not break the bank.
Therefore, perhaps one or two wears later and we are more than happy to get rid of these cheaper-than-chips items of clothing. However, in doing this we are only thinking of ourselves and what we can get out of such low prices. We fail to think about how by discarding these items with so little care, we are contributing to an increasing climate problem around the world.
Given that Missguided’s website states that it aims to empower women globally, one must question why they are feeding into this rhetoric that has traditionally disempowered women? While Missguided stated that it cost more than £1 to produce the bikini and they absorbed the excess costs themselves, these lower prices allow consumers to place little worth on the work done by many female garment workers. When such items are carelessly dumped in overflowing landfills which contribute to the climate crisis, it is women who are more severely impacted upon, according to the UN.
According to figures, 80% of those displaced across the world as a result of climate change are women. Perhaps if Missguided truly want to empower women, they should reconsider placing such low prices on their items, as the long-term consequences are extraordinarily high in comparison to the low cost.
Made from 85% polyester, and 15% elastane, the bikini is made from two of the worst synthetic fibres for the planet. Being made by chemical synthesis to imitate a natural product, these are some of the most difficult materials to decompose when put into landfills. Polyester is by far the most popular fabric in fast fashion, but the toxic chemicals involved in its creation, as with elastane, find their way into the water systems of the country in which they are made and can have a serious impact on the sanitation and health of those who depend on the water.
Similarly, when polyester is washed in our washing machines it releases tiny microfibres which can pass through pipes and sewage systems, eventually finding their way to our oceans and adding to its increasing level of plastic. As these fibres are non-biodegradable, not only do they pose a threat to our water’s sanitation and our food chain, but to the wildlife that calls the water home.
You might think, “well I’m only buying one bikini, that can’t cause much damage”, but we must begin to view our actions as a collective. For every day Missguided announces a new drop of the £1 bikini, they sell out. That’s thousands of bikinis which have required the release of toxic chemicals in the making of their materials, and thousands of bikinis which will shed harmful microfibres when washed.
Given that they are of such cheap value, it is highly likely that many of these bikinis will only be worn once or twice and will end up in a landfill, as people do not feel as compelled to wear it to get their money’s worth as they might with a higher priced item. According to WRAP, 350,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill every year in the UK, and we can only assume that most of these bikinis will soon find their way there where they could outlive many of us given the non-biodegradable nature of their fabric.
We all love a bargain, there’s no denying that. However, in this age of climate crisis, we must continue to question our purchases which come with such low-price points. Do we really want future generations (if there are any, given the current state of the planet) to have so little regard for the consequences of items that come with such a low price tag? Do we want to place so little worth on the work of garment workers who fill our wardrobes with our latest purchases? Do we really want to contribute to the decaying of our planet with the use of toxic chemicals and unsustainable fabrics?
Instead, just re-wear your bikini from last year. Instead, spend just a little bit more on other swimwear and remember that it will help the planet in the long run. In a time where the fashion industry is slowly making changes to their contribution to climate change and is generating a discussion on how much value we place on our clothing in general, Missguided seem to have really missed the mark on this occasion.