Words by Rachel Citron
Channel 4’s insightful documentary Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester engaged audiences with a truly authentic behind-the-scenes look at the world of fast fashion. The fast fashion industry is now colossal and has been instrumental in redefining the industry to meet consumers’ desires. Media personalities have become trend setters. When audiences see a fashion item showcased by their favourite celebrity or influencer, they want a replica of this style immediately, and the world of fast fashion answers all their prayers.
Missguided was founded in 2009 by CEO Nitin Passi, and has become a leading force in fast fashion, alongside the likes of Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and Misspap, to name a few. Although Nitin himself remains a key voice in the company and features prominently within the documentary, the walls of the Macadamia office, filled with pink décor galore, is populated with empowered women since, as the female narrator reminds the audience regularly, although the company “may be owned by a man, we are in charge.” Competition within the world of fast fashion is undeniable with companies competing for consumers’ attention. Missguided suffered a huge loss of £26 million in 2018 and their climb back to success is a central factor of the show. Their huge goals, stop-at-nothing approach and ambition to reach the top of the fast fashion world is paramount in their business model and portrayed clearly in the four-part documentary.
The world of fast fashion is highly intriguing, however the mix of reality TV and the world of Missguided received mixed reviews. Hannah Marriot, writing for the Guardian, rated this two out of five stars, using words such as “propaganda-like” when discussing the documentary and “deadpan” to describe the voice-overs. Dazed’s Sophie Benson further suggests that Inside Missguided masks the reality of fast fashion through focusing on “girl boss culture.” That being said, many interesting and noteworthy factors stood out as key to this fast fashion company. Their business exploits the power of social media and uses novel marketing campaigns, the cut-throat needs of the buying and designing process, as well as the reality of fashion modelling, are explicitly portrayed and the content opens up a discussion as to whether bad press is still good brand exposure. Positive role models for ambitious females, the ethical role of fast fashion companies, the importance of inclusivity and plus size fashion are also featured to spin a positive vibe towards Missguided.
Throughout the series several messages became apparent. Here are five that made memorable watching:
1. DISRUPTIVE MARKETING IS THE WAY TO GO
Gaining customers attention is essential within the world of fast fashion, consequently marketing strategies are crucial. Marketers want to make a buzz, they want their company at the centre of people’s mind. Therefore, there is no better way to engage consumers than through crazy, out of the ordinary, epic marketing stunts, also known as disruptive marketing. Episode 2 of the documentary brings this topic to light. In 2016 Missguided conducted one of their most famous guerrilla marketing stunts, an advertising strategy in which a company uses surprise interactions in order to promote their products. This epic stunt, The Pamborghini, created a mobile marketing vehicle by plastering a £300,000 iconic sports car with Missguided branding and the superstar Pamela Anderson’s image adorned the bonnet. This drove immense attention towards the company. Round 2 of this successful strategy is illustrated within the documentary. Nitin’s £350,000 Rolls-Royce is suitably branded and utilised by the marketing department who leave the car around London hotspots to gain mass attention. The Rolls-Royce also makes an appearance at London Fashion Week with none other than flamboyant Gemma Collins promoting Missguided clothes, and using her celebrity status to further attract attention, as she poses through the sunroof. Evidently, this conveys the power of disruptive marketing which creates priceless attention, integrating Missguided into everyday life, yet causing memorable disruption. Following the creation of these stunts, understanding the desired outcomes and being involved in the dilemma’s as plans rarely go smoothly, is interesting and shows the ambition of the brand vision with a human aspect that allows viewers to connect with the message on both intellectual and economic levels.
2. “BAD PUBLIICITY IS GOOD PUBLICITY”
Aired in the advert break of ITV2’s huge hit, Love Island, a Missguided swimsuit advertisement filmed in Ibiza was banned, receiving a complaint that it “objectified women.” However, within the documentary Treasure, a campaign manager and one of the main individuals featured within the show, defends the campaign pertinently sighting the context of the show within which it was aired. She defends her creative images of allegedly sexualised strawberry eating, by questioning whether Love Island’s contestants coupling up based on appearance in swimsuits could not be regarded as a similar concept, yet is, in fact, a valued part of that award winning production. Treasure states that despite the advert being deemed to contravene advertising agency standards, she received praise from CEO Nitin, portraying her belief that if the advert was in fact not banned, she would have been criticised for not being “disruptive enough.” Presenting the premise that although the advert may have not sit well with a particular audience member, any coverage, regardless of whether this is bad press, can be positive for the brand. The passion for getting noticed is clear, as no matter what, having the Missguided name in the press and being talked about achieves a desired aim. The statement “bad publicity is good publicity” truly reigns here and this is the perfect example of how brands often desire their names in the press and from a marketing and PR perspective, a positive can often be drawn. Accepting reality without a blame culture matches the message that Missguided is a modern company dealing with ever changing goal posts, just like the consumer they seek to attract.
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF ETHICS WITHIN FAST FASHION:
The fast fashion industry has come under fire concerning the ethics of the companies, particularly within the context of factory workers. Episode 3 touches upon this crucial point, focusing on how as a company Missguided have not always got it right, but in response they adapt so as not to make any similar mistakes and “sharpen their act.” In 2017 Missguided were involved in an ethical scandal, showcased within Channel 4’s Undercover: Britain’s Cheap Clothes: Channel 4 Dispatches revealing that they were only paying workers between £3-3.50 and hour, yet at the time the minimum wage was over double this at £7.20 for workers over 25 years old.
The documentary follows the ethical Missguided journey where they have hired an ethics manager and re-evaluated many aspects of their activities. Moreover, we see Nitin himself involved in ensuring the ethical practice of the brand in factory audits. Evidently ethical systems are essential. Although the documentary does draw upon this factor, there have been concerns that it lightly passes over the magnitude of the topic. As a response Missguided have signed the Transparency Pledge meaning they will publish their supply chain in full, further conveying the importance of ethical commitment.
Click here to read more about the Transparency Pledge.
4. THE DESGIN TEAM AND PLUS SIZE FASHION
The documentary presents how consumers want clothes instantly. The demand for consumers to access the latest style immediately allows fast fashion companies to thrive. Missguided aims to be this hub where consumers flock to. The design team’s role is crucial. The documentary conveys the demand for clothing that is in style and that has been seen on their consumers’ favourite celebrity. Taking inspiration from these styles, teams must create something that achieves a similar look at an affordable price that and will appeal to consumers. The importance of the design team from sourcing ideas, trialling with models, and engaging with feedback is depicted. The buyer’s role is also aired in detail. The effort involved in creating collections shows that talent, skills and collaborative teamwork all contribute to success. Furthermore, in the final episode the design team is discussing their plus size fashion range. Specific reference is made to designs that meet the needs of wearers, rather than just a larger version of a trending dress. The customer appears to be valued and the company uses social media marketing with empowering women and high self-esteem as themes to engage a following. Fashion is seen as a lifestyle, and is linked to influencers who live life to the full. Missguided are keen to be included in meeting all individuals’ styles and making their customers happy.
5. FEMALE EMPOWERMENT AND ALL THINGS INFLUENCERS
The entirety of the documentary has a strong message of female empowerment inspiring women who wear Missguided clothes to feel comfortable and empowered. The documentary conveys how this message is at the forefront of social media marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing has grown in popularity tremendously. Influencers have the power to directly engage with an audience with the return of investment being massive for the brands. The ability to immediately target the Missguided audience through a popular influencer is difficult to put a price on for marketers. Although the power of working with major influencers who have mainstream appeal is evident and clear to the audience, through Missguided targeting individuals such as Molly Mae who we learn Missguided offered a £350,000 deal plus let’s not forget a Range Rover (before learning that she does not drive). A deal which she turned down partnering instead with rival Pretty Little Thing. The documentary presents the power of working with a wide range and diversity of influencers who have unique and inspiring stories to tell, alongside the end goal to sell clothes to their followers. Audiences see a behind-the-scenes look at an influencer campaign #LOVETHYSELF featuring a varied group of influencers that are unapologetically themselves, loving every single part of their body and dancing in Missguided clothing. The combination of these two presents the importance of social media and working with inspiring influencers and the success this can have for brands.
The documentary is cleverly balanced between memorable interviews with outspoken leading staff, inclusive with all aspects of the company featured, shows the reality of meeting targets, over-spending budgets and negative responses to campaigns. Additionally, presenting the message that profit is earned through hard work and the crucial aspect of ethical business decisions allowing an all access look into the outlandish yet fascinating world of fast fashion.