Everything we learnt from the Missguided documentary, and everything they missed out

People are accusing them of not actually being empowering


Last week, Channel 4 released four-part documentary Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester, which follows staff at their HQ over the course of several months.

As soon as it begins, we’re bombarded with bright neon lights and Missguided’s apparently “feminist” ethos. It was not received well: The Guardian called the series “flimsy” and “propaganda-like”, giving it one out of five stars. Dazed said in the series, “‘girlboss’ culture masks the reality of fast fashion”, saying it focuses on female empowerment and “neglects to explore the experiences of those actually making its clothes”. iNews called it “a PR disaster” that has “backfired spectacularly”.

They offered Molly-Mae a deal worth over £350k

Much of the first episode is dedicated to the brand’s bid to sign a deal with Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague last summer. Missguided offered Molly-Mae £350,000 plus a Range Rover worth £80,000 (she doesn’t even drive). Molly-Mae declined the offer, instead choosing Pretty Little Thing, who offered her £500,000.

They sweep over previous supply chain issues

In comparison to the huge offer to Molly-Mae, in all four episodes only a few minutes are dedicated to Missguided’s supply chain, where we follow the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager as he audits a prospective new supplier in Leicester. In 2017, Channel 4 exposed Missguided and other brands for using Leicester suppliers with poor working conditions. In the new documentary, Missguided do own up to their mistakes – albeit ignoring the specifics of the allegations held against them in 2017.

The brief mention of their supply chain feels like a tick-box exercise. In the documentary, it seems ensuring ethical and sustainable standards are maintained throughout Missguided’s supply chain is not being treated with the seriousness and respect it deserves – the narrator casually says: “It’s not just sweatshops abroad who take the piss out of their workers. It happens here too!”

Yesterday, it was announced that after significant backlash to the documentary, Missguided have signed the Transparency Pledge, which means they will now publish their supply chain in full. This is the first step to ensuring they practise what they preach.

They say Missguided is ‘run by women’ but there’s actually a huge gender pay gap

There may be issues in Missguided’s supply chain, but what about the women “who run the place” in their Salford HQ? In 2018, Missguided reported a 46 per cent median gender pay gap, more than double the UK average of 17 per cent.

This figure is not alone in the fast fashion industry. While Boohoo boast a zero per cent median pay gap, other brands tell a different story, with PLT having a 29 per cent median gap, and Karen Millen a 49 per cent gap. Clearly this is not an issue unique to Missguided (or even the fast fashion industry), but if a brand is marketed on its commitment to “empowerment of females” surely their gender pay gap should be as minimal as possible, if it even exists at all.

On their website, Missguided preface their gender pay gap with the reassurance they are “a brand built on empowerment”, and they’re “proud that 78 per cent of Missguided colleagues are women”. They defend their gender pay gap, saying: “This is not because women and men were paid differently for doing the same job. It’s because we have more women than men in our lower paid roles and fewer in higher paid ones”. CEO Nitin Passi recently admitted he doesn’t identify as a feminist, so why would he ensure there are women on Missguided’s board?

They preach #LoveThySelf but there seems to be a culture of fatphobia

In the final episode, we meet the team responsible for Missguided’s plus size range. They discuss product return rates, which turn out to be shockingly high. The two key items we are shown include a mini skirt and a dress, with returns rates of 50 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

People have highlighted how some of the language used around body positive campaigns in the documentary is fatphobic. Gemma Collins was called “larger than life”, a member of staff said “thumbs are fashion, fingers are for fat people”, staff asked “do I look skinny?” before interviews, and another said “I don’t look at her and see a size 20” when choosing a plus size model.

Echoing Missguided’s office staff, there was a definite lack of diversity among the women chosen to front these body positive campaigns. That’s not to say that no women of colour are hired in these campaigns – they are. However, they are mostly lighter skinned. They may feature plus size influencers in certain parts of the campaign, but the main promotional video is very much still focussed on thinner women with toned bums. Colourism is present in all areas of media, but is especially prominent in the fashion industry, and shouldn’t be ignored by big name brands like Missguided.

 

Missguided’s attempt at a “come back” promotional documentary falls flat – instead of boosting their image as an apparently feminist brand it further reveals the damaging one-dimensional nature of their particular brand of corporate feminism.

But then again, what says: “The patriarchy has been dismantled” better than a pink neon light on the wall?

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