Missguided, the faster-than-fast fashion giant best known for its £1 bikini and sponsorship of Love Island, is attempting to set the record straight about its role within the garment industry in a new Channel 4 show, Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester.
The four episode docu-series, which starts on Wednesday at 10pm, could not be more timely. Last month, rival Boohoo was hit by claims that staff at some Leicester-based garment factories were forced to work during lockdown and that some were paid as little as £3.50 an hour. While Boohoo says it had found no evidence supporting the claims, and that it was 'shocked and appalled', it immediately launched an investigation into its supply chain.
Channel 4's reporting won't redeem the reputation of the faster fashion industry, but its insight into Missguided's operations sheds new light on what makes it tick.
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For a start, Missguided has not been enjoying the same success as competitors like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing. The Salford-based company reported a £46.7 million loss in January 2019, and was forced to close its Westfield Stratford City store.
The captain trying to save this sinking ship is Cheshire-born Nitin Passi, who founded the company in 2009 with a £50,000 loan from his father. He says his mission has always been about attracting a young audience. “I thought there was a bigger demand for it and fewer people were doing it," he said in a 2014 interview with Fashionista. "Asos was doing it at that time and they were having great results, so I thought I'd give it a go.”
It was Missguided's sponsorship of ITV’s much talked about reality show Love Island in 2018, that really boosted its profile. The Love Island app featured an ‘Islandstyle’ section, dedicated to what the contestants wore on the show, and data company Ogury revealed that the app had more active users than those of Uber, Deliveroo and Asos.
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Molly-Mae Hague, runner-up in season 5 of Love Island makes an appearance in the Channel 4 documentary, when Passi tries to sign her as a brand ambassador in a £350,000 deal, but it falls through when Hague partners with Pretty Little Thing instead.
Other Missguided ambassadors include supermodel Jourdan Dunn, Lionel Richie’s daughter Sofia Richie and Gemma Collins, another ITV reality star who emerged from The Only Way is Essex in 2011.
Those celebrity partnerships have a magnetic pull on its target market of 16-24-year-olds, but what really makes them place order after order is the prices - dresses cost around £20 while tees start at just £6. And with a constantly updated 'new in' section, it speaks to a social media-obsessed generation who refuse to be seen in the same outfit twice on Tik Tok or Instagram.
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It's a concept that has trickled down from high fashion. In Andre Leon Talley’s memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, he writes that the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld would not want to see his house guests in the same ensemble he had seen them in during the day. This throwaway culture takes a serious toll on the environment though; according to the UN, 85 percent of textiles end up in landfill.
But what does Missguided have that a French fashion house doesn’t have? Inclusivity that feels real and non-tokenistic. It says its mission is for “ALL women to love their bodies - small bits, big bits, wobbly bits and all.”
For a brand that is dependent on mass appeal, this could be its smartest strategy of all.