Although spellcheck is telling me otherwise, Missguided isn’t incorrectly spelt – in fact it’s fully-fledged fast fashion brand and can perhaps be famously remembered for their £1 bikini? The brand is located in the city of Manchester, residing alongside it’s online rivals; Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and In The Style so I guess Manchester can be regarded as an empire for fast fashion.
As a slow fashion advocate (yes, some of the clothes in my wardrobe have been there since I was 16…), I was incredibly intrigued to see the Channel 4 documentary series, Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester. From the offset, there was very much a reality TV approach from Channel 4, surprising in some sense, but as we learn about the company and it’s employees along the way, it perhaps not so surprising.
If Missguided hoped that this series would be good PR, it comes at unfortunate timing. First shown on 12th August, a month after the horrendous revelations associated with Boohoo’s supply chain, I think we can expect a few raised eyebrows as the CEO of Missguided, Nitin Passi, declares that fast-fashion is just painted with one negative brush.
The documentary reiterates their plan to get back on track and stand up next to their online rivals and it is commendable that Missguided admit their supply chain mistakes in the past. The back-story to how they lost £26 million in 2018 proves to be the turning point in their approach. So I guess one thing to take from this documentary is their visit to a local Leicester factory. With a thorough inspection undertaken by their Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, it does appear like everything is in order. We can only vaguely assume that – there is no true insight into the inspection that is undertaken.
Nevertheless, knowing that fast-fashion brands have such an impact upon the supply chain, it’s uncomfortable to watch how Missguided employees haggle prices with their suppliers. In the first episode, we see Shelley, a buyer, get the price from £7.75 to £7.40, whilst the narrator, a current employee at Missguided, says “Nice one, girl”. I think we all know who will be paying the price for that and it won’t be Missguided.
One thing that Missguided were willing to pay the price for though is a collaboration with Molly-Mae Hague, runner up in 2019’s series of Love Island. With her millions of social media followers, it would be great exposure for the brand. So what are they offering? £350k and an £80k Range Rover for a six month brand contract (I’ll let you read that again so it sinks in). It’s worth noting that it was a six month contract based on Molly-Mae’s popularity, Missguided felt that her stint of popularity in the public eye would only be six months. Anyway, the brand were confident that they were going to pull this one off and it would be a deal-breaker based on their loss in 2018…but most viewers know that Molly-Mae took a 500k contract with Pretty Little Thing instead – another fast-fashion brand owned by Boohoo.
So the imbalance is pretty clear. Missguided are more than happy to spend £350k on an influencer, but £7.75 per dress is apparently too much (?!)
Female empowerment also gets a lot of airtime during the documentary series, the narrator states; it may be owned by a man but the 229 female employees run the show. Social class is also talked about numerously – women, who have come from working class backgrounds, have been offered opportunities at Missguided to have their dream career in the fashion industry – 200 miles from the London-centric fashion scene.
As a brand, Missguided is also on a mission to empower women with their clothes. Previously, the brand was known for body-con dresses in small dress sizes, but now they’ve roped in Gemma Collins (affectionately known as the GC & I do love her) to promote the plus-size range through social media and they run a campaign with diverse influencers to talk movingly about overcoming their own body confidence obstacles. It’s likely that both marketing strategies will prove relatable to the typical Missguided target customer.
From a PR aspect (the student in me hasn’t left yet), it is an incredibly interesting series. We learn that their marketing techniques are all about ‘disruptive’, creating a storm in the press, guerrilla marketing and of course, painting the CEOs £350k Rolls Royce for photo opportunities – how else do you do marketing these days?
After watching the four episodes, I did find myself warming to the employees, they work HARD, devote their life to the fashion industry so the regular bottle of prosecco to celebrate financial results always goes down well at a meeting.
But the part that sticks with me the most from this series is how the CEO says ,“It’s the customer designing all of the newness, not us. If we don’t do it, someone else will”. It’s almost advertising the need for fast-fashion regulation to exist.
My conclusion? We’re best to shop elsewhere and pick up sustainable shopping habits rather than get misguided….