02 Jun

How Ethical Is PrettyLittleThing?

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It may be pretty on the surface, but things get a little murky as you go down the supply chain. “We Avoid” PrettyLittleThing due to its lack of positive action for people, the planet, and animals. This article is based on the PrettyLittleThing rating published in July 2020.

Not so pretty underneath

On the surface, Boohoo-owned PrettyLittleThing appears—well, pretty. Its Instagram account, boasting almost 15 million followers, is full of diverse, happy-looking women sporting colourful and trendy clothes. The brand, founded in the UK in 2012 as a small accessories-only company, has since grown to one of the largest fast fashion retailers. It is a go-to option for size inclusivity, featuring extensive plus, tall, and petite ranges. But we know by now that rapid production at low prices is a classically unsustainable business model, so let’s dig a little deeper and see if the “pretty” continues below the surface for workers, animals, and the environment. How ethical is PrettyLittleThing?

Environmental impact

Off the bat, PrettyLittleThing’s environment rating is “Not Good Enough”. It doesn’t use eco-friendly materials, instead opting for planet-damaging polyester in most of its lineup. There is no evidence it has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, nor does it implement any water reduction initiatives. While it does measure and report on greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations, it skips over the supply chain! PrettyLittleThing also follows the take-make-waste model of fast fashion brands, selling hundreds of styles that end up in landfill after just a few wears. There is a long way to go before this brand could be considered good for the planet.

Labour conditions

For a brand promoting such pretty and happy people, scoring the lowest possible labour rating of “Very Poor” is an even bigger disappointment. Some of PLT’s supply chain is certified by Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit – SMETA Best Practice Guidance in the final stage of production, but the rest is all bad news. It received a score of 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index, much like fellow low-rated fast fashion retailers Fashion Nova, Boohoo, and Revolve. It publishes zero or minimal information about its supplier policies and audits, and it doesn’t disclose any information about forced labour, gender equality, or freedom of association. While PLT ambassadors seem happy, the same can’t be said for workers in the supply chain. There is also no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage or any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers from the impacts of COVID-19.

Animal welfare

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, PrettyLittleThing is rated “Not Good Enough” for our animal friends. While it doesn’t use fur, down, angora, or exotic animal skin or hair, it does use leather and wool without stating sources. There is no evidence it has a policy to minimise the suffering of animals, nor that it traces any animal products to the first stage of production, so there is no way to guarantee the welfare of any animals along the supply chain.

Overall rating: We Avoid

So, how ethical is PrettyLittleThing? Based on our own research, we gave PrettyLittleThing our lowest overall rating of “We Avoid”. In fact, it sits up there in our top ten fast fashion brands we avoid at all costs. The brand has to turn its act around for people, the planet, and animals before any part of its behind-the-scenes can be considered “pretty”. By being more transparent about its practices and making crucial improvements to everything from worker wages to materials, PLT could see its score increase.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

We know that size inclusivity is one of the most significant barriers for people trying to shop more ethically, and there is no shame in shopping for brands that are making a start if they best suit your needs. Fortunately, there are tons of size-inclusive ethical alternatives to PrettyLittleThing out there to help you slow your consumption down and invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Here are a few of our faves.

Good swaps

“Good” and “Great” alternatives to PrettyLittleThing

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Good
Two women wearing sports leggings and crop tops in burgundy and green

Girlfriend Collective creates minimal, luxury clothes made with certified fair labour, certified by the Social Accountability Standard International SA8000. The brand uses more eco-friendly materials like recycled polyester as well as low-impact non-toxic dyes and is fully Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified. Inclusively sized Girlfriend Collective offers products from 2XS-6XL.

See the rating.

Shop Girlfriend Collective @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Girlfriend Collective.

CHNGE

Rated: Good

CHNGE is a US-based sustainable fashion brand using 100% organic material, built to last a lifetime while making a statement. Find CHNGE's inclusive clothes in sizes 2XS-4XL.

See the rating.

Shop CHNGE.

Afends

Rated: Good
two images of people in tops, shirts and trousers

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Afends – Menswear Archive Sale

Where streetwear meets sustainability. Shop a complete wardrobe made from 100% lower-impact fabrics, from pants to tees and sweats, featuring a slew of prints. Up to 50% off menswear archive sale, including graphic tees, hoodies, jackets and pants. (Ends: 31 JAN)

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Afends – Eyewear

Handcrafted in Italy from premium bio-acetate and fit with UV resistant lenses, these sunglasses are leading the way in more sustainable eyewear. Exclusive 20% off eyewear with code GEYEWEAR20. (Ends: 31 JAN)

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Afends – Denim

Denim, the foundation of Afends. Whether you like ‘em loose, straight or super baggy, they’ve got your next all-day, everyday jeans. Exclusive 20% off denim with code DENIM20. (Ends: 31 JAN)

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Shop now

Born in Byron Bay, Afends is a responsible brand leading the way in hemp fashion. Drawing inspiration from the environment, streetwear, and surf culture, Afends’ mission is to create more sustainable clothing through innovation, action, and positive change. As true hemp advocates, they purchased 100 acres of farmland called Sleepy Hollow to grow their own hemp crops and ignite the hemp revolution. Explore their range made from 100% eco-conscious threads.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great

Outland Denim makes premium denim jeans and clothes, and offers ethical employment opportunities for women rescued from human trafficking in Cambodia. This Australian brand was founded as an avenue for the training and employment of women who have experienced sex trafficking. Find most of the brand's range in US sizes 22-34.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

Shop Outland Denim @ Good.

Sotela

Rated: Good

Sotela is a body inclusive, sustainable clothing company offering adaptable pieces with the flexibility of 1-2 sizes in each.

See the rating.

Shop Sotela.

ARTICLE22

Rated: Good

Every piece of ARTICLE22 jewellery is locally handcrafted in Laos using recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminium scraps. The brand embodies the innovation that the fashion industry needs more of—using recycled materials to produce beautiful globally-marketable products, while equipping local artisans with new skill sets and providing them with a sustainable source of income. ARTICLE22 gives back to clear more unexploded bombs in Laos, supports traditional artisans, and donates a proportion of profit to community development for workers. The range is available in sizes S-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ARTICLE22.

Editor's note

Feature image via Pretty Little Thing, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory  to search thousands of rated brands. We may earn a commission on sales with top-rated partners made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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