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Founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane, UK-based online fashion retailer Boohoo’s quick ascent in the industry can be attributed to its cheap prices, its ability to tap into style trends and produce garments very quickly and its fun, sexy brand marketing targeting the 16-30 year old ‘every girl’.
Due to its tremendous growth, the fast fashion company has been able to acquire other labels including Nasty Gal, Pretty Little Thing and Karen Millen. Boohoo’s current market valuation hovers at around £3.9bn. In July 2020, £1.25bn was wiped from its value after allegations of slavery but the fast fashion business has mostly recovered after promising to implement changes.
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So has anything changed? According to Good On You, a fashion ratings app that evaluates brands on various ethical and environmental standards including fair wages, supply chain transparency and use of eco-friendly materials, the answer is no: “Boohoo is not taking adequate steps to ensure payment of a living wage for its workers” it clearly states on the website. The organisation recommends that shoppers avoid the brand.
If you like Boohoo’s fashion offerings but dislike the brand’s disregard for its workers, the environment and communities, here are some ethical brand alternatives to Boohoo:
1. Organic Basics
Boohoo offers a Seamless Triangle Bralette made of polyester aka plastic which retails for $22 – but who knows whether it will even last the distance given the huge number of complaints about the cheap quality of Boohoo’s clothing.
The better alternative: Organic Basics produces an Organic Triangle Bra which is made from certified organic cotton, is ethically made in Europe cut and sewn by diligent garment workers who are actually paid a fair and living wage and retails for $47.
Boohoo produces a vast range of sassy bodysuits that help to accentuate the bust and hips but there are more ethical alternatives to these cheaply-made, elastane/polyester numbers.
The better alternative: Reformation’s range of crew neck, slim-fitting and button down bodysuits are a better alternative; made from organic cotton/Spandex and TENCEL Lyocell/Spandex versions are much better for the environment, and they’re sweatshop free, ethically manufactured in Los Angeles.
As expected of global fast fashion brands like Boohoo, its collections are vast. Its leggings and tights for example, come in so many colours, prints and patterns but almost all come in the same plastic fibre responsible for shedding microplastics into the ocean – polyester. What’s more surprising is that if not on sale, the leggings and tights retail for about $30-40 about the same price as other brands that produce responsibly and pay workers fairly.
The better alternative: Pact produces a selection of leggings and tights made from GOTS-certified organic cotton which is manufactured in a Fair-Trade certified factory in India. The prices are also reasonable, with leggings costing $20-$31.
On its website, Boohoo doesn’t provide details of the fabrics used in its turtlenecks but given that so much of its range is made of synthetic fabrics that shed microfibres, our guess is that the turtlenecks are made of plastic fibres such as polyester or nylon. Furthermore, the original price for its Rib Knit Turtle Neck Top was $32 and considering that the brand has been accused of slave labour, it’s only fair to wonder how much of the amount paid actually goes to the workers in the brand’s supply chain.
The better alternative: Canadian brand KOTN produces a textured, tight-fitting ribbed turtleneck in a high-quality thick wale 95% Egyptian cotton rib that stretches for movement and is ethically-made in Egypt using direct-trade practices. While the cost is $53, paying more means supporting a brand that doesn’t pay workers a pittance and doesn’t pollute the environment with loads of plastic fibres.
When it comes to swimwear, Boohoo’s range is as vast as the rest of its collection. There are triangle bikinis, bandeaus, scoop high leg one-piece styles, underwire bustier styles, you name it they have it – all made as quickly and as cheaply as possible. However a flattering, head-turning swimsuit shouldn’t come at the expense of people and planet.
The better alternative: Spell produces a range of lust-worthy swimwear in stunning prints and colours. The Bodhi Leopard Cheeky Bottoms for example, are made of ECONYL®, a 100% regenerated nylon fibre made from pre and post-consumer waste such as fishing nets, and is responsibly manufactured. Originally priced at A$69 it’s now on sale for $27. This is in comparison to Boohoo’s Leopard High Waist Crop Bikini which is on sale for $20.
6. Amour Vert
Boohoo’s range of tees are made of cotton, and while natural and biodegradable, cotton is an extremely thirsty plant and requires lots of water to grow – the WWF estimates it at 2,700 litres of water for a t-shirt – and in times of climate change, is a questionable crop to grow in an increasingly warming planet. Furthermore, conventional cotton uses high amounts of toxic pesticides and chemicals to grow.
The better alternative: American label Amour Vert produces a range of tees in certified organic cotton and ethically manufactures its sustainable women’s collections in the USA. Its Easton Puff Sleeve Tee (originally priced at $48 and on sale for $28) is an ethical alternative to Boohoo’s Plus Ruched Knot Puff Sleeve T-Shirt (RRP $32 and on sale for $16).
Boohoo produces a range of footwear including a range of sliders in a variety of colours and styles. Made of “synthetic materials” it’s reasonable to assume that these sliders are made of plastic-based textiles.
The better alternative: Indosole makes a range of eco-friendly sliders made from recycled tires and produced ethically in Indonesia by workers who are paid a living wage and treated with dignity and respect. Good On You has also rated this brand ‘Good’.
Disclosure: Prices and details are correct at time of publishing. This curated list does not fully take into account all the ethical considerations that are unique to each individual. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to do your own research paying particular attention to the supply chain and your own particular set of ethics. You can also check out online tools and apps that provide product reviews and brand ratings here. Click here to read more about our policies. Cover image of KOTN ribbed turtleneck.