Yes, Topshop is a fast fashion brand.
Topshop is the flagship brand of the Arcadia Group, a British clothing retail group with seven fast fashion brands to its name: Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, Topman, and Wallis.
The group was founded in 2002 by Philip Green (worth $2.2 billion), his wife Tina Green (worth £5 billion) and the Green family, although the Arcadia Group timeline romanticises its history somewhat:
“Our story began in the early 1900s when 18-year-old Lithuanian émigré Montague Burton arrived in Britain. He borrowed £100 to set up his eponymous menswear business in Chesterfield and within six years he established a chain of Burton stores selling ready-to-wear and bespoke suits. The thriving business relocated to Leeds in 1910 – we still have a head office there.”
Note the use of the term émigré rather than immigrant. And they say they’re anti-racist?
Philip Green has been personally been involved in the following controversies:
- In 2003, he made a racist comment against Irish people
- In 2007, he was accused of using overseas sweatshops by Labour Behind The Label
- In 2010, he was again accused of using sweatshops by Channel 4’s Dispatches
- In 2010, he was also accused of UK tax avoidance, despite being a government advisor at the time
- Across the period of 2000 – 2015, he was accused of taking money out of BHS as dividends (£586 million, to be precise), and leaving a £207 million deficit in employees’ pension funds. Under threat of losing his knighthood, he later settled this by paying £363 million into the pension scheme.
- In 2018, he was accused of sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff
- In 2019, he was found guilty on four counts of misdemeanour assault for inappropriately touching a woman
Again, do these brands really say they’re anti-racist?
In addition to this, Topshop has also caused a hell of a lot of controversies of its own:
- In the early 2000’s, Topshop was accused of using sweatshops in London’s East End, paying as little as £3.75/hour.
- In 2007, Topshop was accused of using cotton picked by slave labour
- In 2010, Topshop was protested against for tax avoidance
- In 2013, Topshop was found guilty of illegally using Rhianna’s likeness on their clothing
- In 2016, House of Commons noted that Topshop uses ‘contract cleaners … paid below the living wage‘
And in 2020, Arcadia group announced the cutting of 500 jobs due to covid-19, as well as refusing pay their garment factories due to covid-19, while Philip and Tina continue to sit on billions from their home in Monaco. This leaves over 2,000 Bangladeshi garment workers facing job losses and poverty.
In terms of sustainability, Arcadia is part of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan This is a voluntary scheme that UK Government insisted was good enough to clean up the fashion industry without the aid of any further regulations as recommended by the Fixing Fashion Report (hint, it’s not).
They also have a mini-site dedicated to greenwashing called Fashion Footprint. I love how even the navigation bar lists their priorities: Product, Planet, People. Definitely people last. There is no mention of the garment workers within their supplier factories – just their employees and some more greenwashing.
I don’t know how they even got the below ratings, because it feels wholly false.
Transparency Rating: 38/100
Sustainability Rating: 3/5
This snippet is part of a larger guide to UK fast fashion brands, which goes into more detail about the issues with fast fashion, why it will never be sustainable, and how to make your wardrobe more sustainable.
Data for this review is taken from the brand’s website, corporate website, and Wikipedia. The Transparency Rating is from Fashion Transparency Index 2020. The Sustainability Rating is from Good On You.