When you think of sustainable fashion retailers, PrettyLittleThing probably isn’t one that springs to mind.
The fast fashion brand is best known for its cut-price clothing – it caused controversy by selling dresses for as little as 8p during Black Friday 2020 – and, as part of the Boohoo Group, was embroiled in a sweatshop scandal, when factory workers in Leicester were found to be making garments for below the minimum wage in poor conditions.
However, PrettyLittleThing’s new UK and EU creative director, social media sensation Molly-Mae Hague, wants to move the brand away from throwaway fashion.
“We want people to love these garments and wear them constantly,” she tells Retail Gazette at an exclusive preview of her latest PrettyLittleThing (PLT) collection. “We’ve worked really hard and created pieces that will be timeless, and that girls can keep in their wardrobes so it’s not throwaway fashion.”
Molly Mae’s vision for PLT
When Hague was appointed creative director last summer, on the back of several successful collections with PLT, eyebrows were raised across the fashion industry.
An influencer before she was cast in reality TV show Love Island in 2019, Hague emerged a social media sensation with more than 6 million followers on Instagram. But some questioned her qualifications to lead the entire creative direction of a major fashion retailer when some trained designers spend decades working at big brands without reaching such heights.
“We want people to love these garments and wear them constantly,” Molly-Mae Hague
However, when Retail Gazette meets Hague she has a clear vision for what she wants to do with the brand.
“Being a consumer since the age of probably 14, I know what I want to see from this brand. I’ve gone through all the stages of being a customer, to an influencer, to an ambassador, to now the creative director,” she says.
So what does Hague want to see? The key word appears to be “elevation”.
She explains there will be an elevation of both the quality, and design, of the brand so that means saying goodbye to its much-criticised flimsy dresses of years past, and hello to items that’ll stand the test of time.
Her latest PrettyLittleThing x Molly-Mae collection is a great example of what she’s trying to achieve. The collection is set to launch tomorrow at London Fashion Week, PrettyLittleThing’s first show at the event.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done,” she says. “It’s just going to blow people’s minds because we’ve never done anything to this scale before. It’s so elevated.”
The collection features day-to-night pieces and workwear that can be styled multiple ways, all still at an affordable price point.
From throwaway to timeless fashion
By creating more quality, “elevated” pieces, Hague hopes the brand will encourage shoppers to hold onto garments for longer and PLT can shake its reputation as purveyors of throwaway fashion.
“Sustainability is a massive topic, everyone’s talking about it. One thing I will say is our people that produce and work on our garments don’t work day-in day-out on these pieces for them to be throwaway fashion,” she stresses.
“We want people to love these garments and wear them constantly.”
“With this collection we’ve worked really hard and created pieces that will be timeless, and that girls can keep in their wardrobes, so it’s not throwaway fashion.”
Hague also points out that the PLT social team is producing content that shows its young shoppers how they can re-wear items.
“That’s something that not every girl knows how to do,” she adds. “They might buy a pair of jeans and think, ‘this only goes with one top’. We really want to educate girls on how those jeans can be worn with five different, 10 different tops, and be worn over and over again.”
Building a PLT marketplace to rival Depop
PrettyLittleThing is not just encouraging customers to keep items for longer, it also wants them to give unwanted items a second life.
“It’s encouraging girls to think ‘this is actually in really great condition, I don’t need to chuck it away’,” Molly-Mae Hague
The fashion retailer has been working on its own marketplace, where users can sell and buy not just pre-worn PLT items, but second-hand items from any brand.
The marketplace, which will launch as a stand-alone app in the coming months, will adopt a similar model to the hugely successful Depop.
And PLT will be looking to emulate its success as Depop now has more than 30 million users worldwide, 90% of which are under the age of 26 – the key PLT demographic, and hit sales of more than £500m in 2020.
On the PrettyLittleThing marketplace, Hague explains: “It’s not going to be just PLT pieces, you can sell pretty much anything on there, which is obviously encouraging sustainability hugely.”
“It’s encouraging girls to think ‘this is actually in really great condition, I don’t need to chuck it away, why not encourage someone else to buy it’.”
When the official launch goes ahead later this year, Hague will lead efforts to promote it and will put her old clothing on sale on the market place, with proceeds going to charity.
Hague describes the upcoming launch as “massive” for PLT and predicts that “it’s going to really disrupt the fashion industry”.
She admits that many would not expect PLT to make such a move. In fact, it’s a commitment that goes beyond that of many brands considered more sustainable than the fast fashion retailer.
But it’s actually a shrewd business move. Sustainable fashion is more important to younger shoppers – PLT’s target audience – than ever before and thousands are already reselling its products on Depop. There are currently more than 150,000 search results for PLT and more than 120,000 for PrettyLittleThing on the resale platform.
With resale just sustainable, but a potential money-spinner for the brand, Hague is clearly using her influence at PLT for good.