Boohoo was named and shamed in Parliament today for producing £5 dresses which one expert warned would be of such low quality charity shops would snub them.
The online fashion house, which has seen its sales soar to £560million after enlisting celebrities as models, was criticised for fuelling a throwaway clothes culture.
MPs were told that online shops like Boohoo and Asos are aggressively competing to produce cheaper and faster clothes for young women.
But the environmental audit select committee – which is investigating the environmental impact of the ‘fast fashion’ industry – was told this is fuelling a culture where an eye-watering 400,000 tonnes end up being binned in UK landfill sites.
Stella Claxton, senior lecturer with the Clothing Sustainability Research Group, Nottingham Trent University, said some of the shop’s clothes were so cheap that charity shops may not want them.
MailOnline found three dresses selling for £5 full price when we went on Boohoo’s site today, while another one was reduced from £6 to just £2.
Labour MP Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the committee, told MailOnline she was ‘shocked’ by the evidence.
She said: ‘Clothes are sold at pocket money prices, costing little more than the price of a coffee, and are treated as just as disposable.’
Boohoo was named and shamed in Parliament today for producing £5 dresses which one expert warned would be of such low quality charity shops would snub them. MailOnline found three dresses selling for £5 full price when we went on Boohoo’s site today
Stella Claxton, senior lecturer with the Clothing Sustainability Research Group, Nottingham Trent University, (pictured in Parliament today) said some of the shop’s clothes were so cheap that charity shops may not want them
Ms Claxton told the MPs: ‘If you look at where the growth of the retail market in the UK is coming from, it is very much the kind of low value end, particularly the success of the online retailers such as Asos and Boohoo who are competing on low prices and fast turnaround.
‘I saw a dress on Boohoo retailed for full price at £5 at the weekend.
‘So we have a market – these garments are mainly aimed at young women who are…getting pleasure from what they wear and getting pleasure through their clothing.
How does Britain’s addiction to clothes affect the environment?
Britain’s addiction to buying more and more cheap clothes has come under the spotlight in Parliament.
MPs on the environmental audit select committee are probing how the ‘fast fashion’ industry is harming nature.
Their latest report warned that pollution caused by synthetic fibres being machine washed and finding their way into the world’s oceans.
While an eye-watering 400,000 tonnes of clothes are estimated to be d umped in landfill sites in the UK every year.
The MPs have voiced their alarm at the environmental fall-out and its chairwoman Mary Creagh has written to leading retailers demanding to know what they are doing to improve sustainability.
The global fashion industry produced more CO2 emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined in 2015, according to a submission to the MPs’ inquiry from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
The select committee say they want to protect the lucrative fashion industry in Britain, but tackle the environmental problems it fuels.
‘But the actual value of the item is very low in real terms and in quality terms and in emotional terms to them.’
She said that because the clothes are so cheap, their owners do not see them as valuable enough to recycle by giving them to a charity shop.
And she said that may charity shops may not want to stock them.
She said: ‘So the incentive for them to recycle or want to pass that on in some way, or for even charity shops to want that kind of product in their shops, is very low.
‘So the opportunity for that end of the market to have a second hand opportunity is quite limited.’
A Boohoo spokeswoman said: ‘Sustainability is an important subject to us at boohoo and something that is top of our agenda.
‘We cater for a wide variety of customers and do offer some very affordable options as highlighted here, but these are just a small part of our offer.
‘The youthful demographic of our customer, means that education is key and we use our huge reach across social channels globally to help share ideas of how a garment can be utilised in their wardrobe again and again.
‘We are also working with reGAIN a company that allows users to recycle unwanted clothing to prevent them from going to landfill.
‘We know there is more we can do and we acknowledge that we have a responsibility and role to play being a fast fashion brand.’
MPs are investigating the environmental fall-out of the UK’s addiction to clothes.
As part of their inquiry, they are looking at how fibres from clothes are making their way into the world’s oceans, and vast amounts of clothes are chucked into landfill ever year.
The committee’s latest report also shows ocean pollution from synthetic fibres, as a single washing machine load can release 700,000 fibres to wastewater, according to research from the University of Plymouth.
Britain buys an estimated 1.1million tonnes of clothes ever year – which equates to around 26.7kg for every person living in the country.
This is higher than any other European nation, with the Germans in second place buying around 16.7kg a year, MPs heard.
While Britons donate lots of their old clothes to charity shops for reuse, around 400,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill ever year.
Experts giving evidence to MPs today urged shops to take more responsibility for their clothes and ensure they are made of longer lasting and more durable materials.
They also called for more research and investment into how to make clothes recyclable.
Dr Mark Sumner, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, told MPs that millennials are under huge pressure to look good, while the prolonged wage squeeze may have fuelled the cheaper fast fashion industry.
Britain’s insatiable appetite for clothes in numbers
Britain buys more clothes than any of its European neighbours.
Here are some of the figures which highlight the UK’s clothes addiction:
- 1.1million tonnes: Amount of clothes bought in Britain every year
- 26.7kg: Amount of clothes every individual in Britain on average buys a year
- 400,000 tonnes: Amount of clothes buried in landfill in Britain every year
- Brits today buy five times more clothes than they did in the 1980s
He said: ‘The idea that you are going to find a millennial, or even someone in their 30s or 40s, to look at a garment that doesn’t have as much polyester coming off, and think they are going to choose that over a garment that makes them look really attractive and may hep them find their mate and be successful in that job interview [is not realistic].’
He added: ‘That £5 Boohoo dress is so low value, unless we see that emotional connection it stays as a £5 dress – lasting emotional connection.’
Young people are also losing the ability to mend and repair their clothes – and are going out shopping for new coats because they cannot sew a button back on.
Dr Sumner told the committee: ‘I followed some design students, who spend all their time in a design studio with sewing machines, needles and thread and everything, and one of the students said to her friend “I have got to go down to the Trinity shopping centre to buy a new coat, because a button’s fallen off my coat”.
‘We are seeing more and more people saying they are going to buy a new outfit because I can’t be bothered to fix it, or it is so cheap to buy an outfit.
‘This is not just about clothing, for example buying new appliances is much easier and cheaper than getting a repair.
‘My bread maker broke last week….No-one can repair it or give me the parts, so I have to buy a new one.’
Speaking after the committee, Ms Creagh said that she had been left shocked at the revelations of environmental damage and exploitation of child labour her committee has uncovered in its investigation.
MPs on the environmental audit committee (pictured in parliament today) were told that online shops like Boohoo and Asos are aggressively competing to produce cheaper and faster clothes for young women