Is Debenhams A Fast Fashion Brand?

Screenshot of Debenhams website

Yes, Debenhams is a fast fashion brand.

Debenhams is a British fashion retailer and was previously a department store chain. In 2021, after 243 years of business, Debenhams closed its stores, and is now an online-only entity after was purchased by Boohoo Group. (There is one exception to this: the one Debenhams store in Manchester’s Arndale Centre, which was opened after a number of beauty brands refused to supply unless the brand had a physical presence).

As Debenhams is now owned by Boohoo Group, it is the sister brand to Boohoo, BoohooMAN, Burton, Coast, Dorothy Perkins, Karen Millen, Misspap, Nasty Gal, Oasis, Pretty Little Thing, Warehouse, and Wallis. Boohoo Group was co-founded in 2006 by Asian-British businessmen Mahmud Kamani (worth £1 billion), his brother Jalal Kamani, and white British businesswoman Carol Kane (worth £100 million). The business made £1.2 billion in revenue in 2020 and employs over 2,000 direct employees, as well as 5,000 UK-based garment workers and third-party employees.

Debenhams is a fast fashion brand due to its change in business model under its new ownership by Boohoo, as well as the huge scale of clothing styles that it offers, and the sheer number of clothes that it sells.

Fashion Revolution Transparency Rating: 28/100
Good On You Sustainability Rating: 2/5
Remake Fashion Accountability Report Rating: 13/150

Additional Reasons Why Debenhams Is A Fast Fashion Brand

  • When looking at the site in October 2022, I found them selling HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF STYLES, with 62,421 womenswear styles, 16,709 menswear styles, and 79,549 items in the sale. These unbelievably huge product ranges demonstrate their fast fashion business model and focus to profit from the overproduction of clothes.
  • I also found clothes being sold on Debenhams for as little as £1. It is not possible to make clothing for this price without some form of exploitation of people and planet – at the very least, it’s made at a quality so low it will not last.
  • As Debenhams is now part of Boohoo, it’s worth noting Good On You’s findings on Boohoo, such as: “little of [Boohoo’s] supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages or other labour rights.” That means we don’t know how the people making Debenhams’ clothes are being treated.
  • Good On You also found that Boohoo “uses few eco-friendly materials” and provides no evidence it has “taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals” or “minimises textile waste when manufacturing its products.”
  • In 2021, Boohoo Group launched its Sustainability Plan called UP.FRONT. Within this, it outlines incredibly vague aims that apply to Debenhams, such as:
    • “[By] 2030, all the materials we use in our garments will be more sustainably sourced”, except there is no legal definition for what ‘sustainably sourced’ means, and by saying ‘more sustainably sourced’, they can achieve this by changing one button…
    • Boohoo Group makes no promise to reduce its use of oil-based textiles, despite polyester being one of the top two textiles its clothes are made from.
    • Boohoo Group aims to make “all garment packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable” by 2023, which means it’ll continue using plastic, as plastic is reusable.
    • Within this entire plan, Boohoo has set just one measurable, science-based target, aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 52% by 2030. It’s a good start, but 2030 is also the year when global carbon emissions need to reach net zero.
    • The company aims to “announce more goals in 2023”, but I’m not holding my breath on seeing any efforts to stop using oil-based textiles, curb overproduction, or embrace true circularity.
  • At the time of writing, Boohoo Group is currently being investigated by the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority for greenwashing.

Sustainable Alternatives To Debenhams

If you’re looking to stop shopping at Debenhams, I recommend checking out online department stores with better ethical and sustainable credentials such as Brothers We Stand*, Content*, Gather & See, Wearth*, and Young British Designers*.

You could also check out my guide to 150+ sustainable fashion brands to find more, or consider searching for second-hand garments on my favourite second-hand fashion sites.

This post 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, Wikipedia, and sites linked throughout. All information is assumed correct at date of publication. Last updated: October 2022.


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