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Why the Boohoo and Kourtney Kardashian collaboration is an exercise in greenwashing

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |Opinion

Image: Boohoo x Kourtney Kardashian Barker

On Wednesday Boohoo unveiled its debut collection with Kourtney Kardashian Barker during New York Fashion Week. In Boohoo’s words the range is a “collaboration to discover more about sustainability and style”, appointing Ms Kardashian Barker as its sustainability ambassador. While the pairing has been met with much obvious criticism, a power outage pre-show may have been a sign from the climate gods expressing their concerns over what is essentially an exercise in greenwashing.

At the most fundamental level neither Boohoo nor Ms Kardashian Barker are sustainability leaders in their respective niches of retail and celebrity. Boohoo has long been associated with unsustainable business practices, most recently with a Guardian investigation revealing the retailer manufactured garments in a Pakistani factory where workers were paid just 29 pence per hour. Ms Kardashian, not by contrast, was issued a “notice of exceedance” by her local municipal water company last month for surpassing 150 percent of her monthly water budget at least four times since a drought emergency was declared in Southern California at the end of last year. Ms Kardashian is one of just two-thousand persons issued with exceedance. That is not clocking up the miles of private jet travel or digging too deep into other excessive and unsustainable lifestyle practices.

In a toe-curling video the retailer asks the viewer to “join them on their journey to discover more about sustainability within the fashion industry. Watch as she talks to experts along the way to educate and inspire positive change.”

Nothing from the sustainability “talks” unveils anything new to viewers

Neither Boohoo nor Ms Kardashian are conversation starters when it comes to sustainable fashion practices. Their pairing up fails to break new ground that would, for instance, set an example in how a retailer can embrace viable sustainable business practices. No attempt was made at the design and manufacturing level either, investing in product alternatives where innovation could really make an impact. With the occasional recycled polyester fabric in the mix, this collection does not deviate from any other of Boohoo’s collections, which are cheap and disposable, the antithesis of sustainability and the very ethos of fast fashion.

The gist is that this Boohoo and Kardashian linkup is a marketing marriage to sell more product, packaged with a sustainability by-line. Last year Boohoo spent 22 million pounds on marketing initiatives, a near twenty percent of its 125 million pound profit. Boohoo did not reveal how much it paid Kourtney Kardashian or how many seasons it will continue with the collaboration. Ultimately it will depend on sales and the return on marketing spend.

Adding fuel to the fire, Ms Kardashian Barker in an Instagram post invites “any experts who have ideas, suggestions to reach out. I want to help and from my experience so far working with the team I work with at Boohoo, they do too. I will be elaborating on their changes, how we’ve made this line more sustainable, and what I’ve learned we as consumers can do to help… all to come!!”

Most ‘experts’ would call this product development and do this prior to releasing a collection, not seeking knowledge and solutions after it drops.

With prices starting at just 6 dollars, any credible sustainability factors seem nigh on impossible. While there are some recycled materials and 100 percent cotton fabrics, the majority is polyester, which either virgin or repurposed is not biodegradable and harmful to the planet and all living beings.

Kourtney Kardashian
New York Fashion Week