Naomi Campbell, iconic supermodel and fashion mogul, announced her collaboration with PrettyLittleThing in July of this year via an Instagram post. The post showed a director’s chair that read “PrettyLittleThing Designed by Naomi Campbell” on the slat with the post description “PrettyLittleThing Designed by Naomi Campbell. Coming soon.” The news left many fans of Campbell gagged, to say the least.

Naomi Campbell is a fashion model most notable for being the first black woman on the cover of Time Magazine and Vogue France. According to Empire, Campbell was “one of six models of her generation declared supermodels by the fashion world.” Campbell’s presence and influence on fashion continues to be a spectacle as she shares her status to “advocate for diversity and encourage identity, representation and community within the industry and fashion” according to CULTURS. Campbell’s legacy will go down in the books as one of the most famous and influential models of her time. It came as no surprise that Naomi decided to continue working within the industry. The shocker came when she collaborated with the notable fast-fashion brand, PrettyLittleThing.

PrettyLittleThing is a UK-based fashion brand that is famous for its accurate adaptations and fast production of the latest trends and styles. Like every other fast-fashion brand, PrettyLittleThing has its fair share of controversies. Despite the brand being a hub for affordable clothes for women and femmes of all shapes and sizes, its methods of production and reputation within the industry are not as pretty as they may seem to be.

PrettyLittleThing does not use lower-impact materials and there has been no evidence of them using safer chemicals within manufacturing or practicing waste reduction activities within their brand.
PrettyLittleThing is another example of a disposable fashion brand that creates clothes that are often worn only a few times and then thrown away, as their quality products are not long-lasting like other competitors. All this and more can be read on Good On You, a website that rates brand’s sustainability efforts.

There is also evidence of PrettyLittleThing mistreating their workers to the point where they were accused of “modern-day slavery” back in July 2020, according to Wear-Next. XR Fashion Action states that “PrettyLittleThing and their parent company, the Boohoo family, have been under fire for the exploitation of workers in their supply chains, most they were linked to a dark factory in Leicester where garment workers were being paid £3 and forced to work during COVID-19 lockdowns.” PrettyLittleThing’s unethical methods and embarrassingly bad quality of clothes have given the brand and tarnished reputation. What did Campbell even see in them?

According to The Guardian, “in an interview with W Magazine, her [Naomi’s]main motivation to team up with PrettyLittleThing was the opportunity to champion emerging talent: ‘If I can get them on the platform, and get the light shone on them, and give them a helping hand in their career … that makes me happy.’ In a subsequent interview with the Daily Mail, she said that another factor that led to the collaboration was a desire to design her clothes.” Campbell truly is always giving back, with herself stating that the collaboration with PrettyLittleThing is nothing short of a charity case.

Campbell’s collaboration with PrettyLittleThing is bewildering to me. Campbell is truly a force to be reckoned with within the fashion industry. She has opened doors for women of color, more notably dark-skinned women of color, within the fashion industry. Naomi Campbell’s name rings bells within the industry and she truly could have any house at the palms of her hands with just one phone call. So, to go from being the woman who closed Gianni Versace’s last haute couture show in 1997 to the director of a collaboration with a notably corrupt brand and designing clothes, like a body suit for £12, is unfathomable and a complete disservice to her reputation, name and brand within fashion.

The Naomi Cambell x PrettyLittleThing collaboration brings up another crucial topic within the industry involving
high-fashion names/houses collaborating with brands, not of the same status.

H&M is another fast-fashion brand that prides itself on providing the best clothes at an affordable price with sustainable practices. Often found within malls, H&M is seen as an easy go-to for closet basics and other simple fashion needs. You can imagine how perplexed many were when H&M released their collab with Mugler this past February.

Mugler is one of the most quintessential high-fashion brands within the industry. Making his mark with his eclectic, avant-garde designs, retro-futuristic garments and riveting takes on women’s fashion, the late Thierry Mugler is easily one of the most impactful designers of his time. Mugler’s collaboration with H&M unfortunately could not hold up to the brand’s stature. Varsity states, “Much of the backlash against this collaboration has been rooted in concern for its impact on Mugler’s image, but it has been painfully obvious for a while now that the Mugler of today is a mere shell of what it used to be.”

Mugler’s fascinating perception of womanhood was a sight for sore eyes. Mugler’s inclusivity on the runway revolutionized diversity in fashion and was pivotal when fashion was starting to turn into a minimalistic hellscape. It’s disappointing to see its name be associated with a brand that marketed a product with a black child in a sweatshirt that had “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE” posted on the front.

The issue isn’t collaboration, It’s actually wonderful to see high-fashion houses merging visions and releasing thematically unorthodox garments and collections. The issue comes when you are collaborating with brands that find it okay to charge their workers £3.5 in immoral working conditions. The problem comes when you collaborate with businesses, not artists.

Companies can’t begin to uphold the reputation and name that these houses have diligently built. In turn, when you collaborate with these companies, the fantasy and vision that you were once selling and gaining an audience from, is no longer art, but just a simple cash grab. It tarnishes your name and leaves such a distasteful and heart-breaking taste in the mouths of your audience. Naomi Campbell’s collaboration with PrettyLittleThing was disappointing to me and I believe it negatively impacted her name.

While Naomi’s intentions may have been pure, the reasoning behind it is unjustifiable. PrettyLittleThing’s unethical methods of production and treatment of workers are simply unforgivable. Even though Naomi wanted to share her stature with “emerging talent,” why not share it with brands that are ethically producing their garments and intentionally spreading their creativity, vision and talent within the industry? Mowalola, No Faith Studios and NOID are some real emerging talents that Campbell chose to neglect and instead spread the “talent” of a disappointing fast-fashion brand. H&M’s numerous failed attempts to make it into high fashion continues to underwhelm everyone and is a testament to brands knowing their place.

The downfall of brands is bound to happen. Everything will run its course. Fashion is so heavily dependent on trends, making sure that you are meeting the needs and expectations of the consumer. Even haute couture is heavily influenced by the audience and wants to create spectacles that simultaneously resonate with the audience while uplifting the vision of the artist. These factors are what make fashion so cutthroat. Houses can collapse in the blink of an eye, making it so easy to fall out of relevancy within the industry. So, why has your downfall been catalyzed by brands like PrettyLittleThing and H&M? It’s so bittersweet to see brands self-sabotage their reputation by making unfortunate executive decisions like these.

An aspect of fashion is to sell a fantasy. Harling Ross of Repeller stated, “Fantasy is to fashion as a cat’s claw is to a spool of yarn: a mechanism for unraveling its commercially friendly, tasteful exterior trappings and laying bare its harmlessly hedonistic heart.” Don’t take away from that aspect to make a quick buck. It’s self-deprecative of these brands to rub their name, reputation and iconic stature through the mud by associating with fast-fashion brands. While it’s extremely challenging to prioritize art in such a corrupt economy, for the sake of art, why not try?