Great deals. Cute clothes. Easy user interface. Nasty Gal is known for all of these things. One thing they aren’t known for, however, is their sustainability practices. Many are skeptical about the true cost of the jaw-droppingly low prices. Nasty Gal started as an eBay shop in a small San Francisco apartment, but it has since grown to become a multinational fast fashion powerhouse. They are now owned by BooHoo, a UK-based megabrand that also owns boohooMAN and PrettyLittleThing. Spoiler alert: it’s not looking too great for Nasty Gal. Vague goals litter the website, leaving customers high and dry in terms of knowing their sustainability practices. The opaque nature of the brand is a very bad sign indicating their sustainability efforts are not up to par.
Nasty Gal has a few sections dedicated to their materials. They have outlined goals for material quotas, but there is little on the steps they are currently taking to be more sustainable. For example, by 2025, they claim that all polyester and cotton will be recycled or more sustainably sourced. One glaring issue with this statement is that they don’t define what “more sustainably sourced” means to them. Will they use less water in farming? Will they abandon pesticides? What will they do to achieve this? Nasty Gal provides no further information. By 2025, all leather, wool, feather, and down will be sourced in line with industry best practices. Again, Nasty Gal provides no concrete goals on how they’ll do this. Furthermore, this means they’re not doing it now. They claim to use recycled fibers, organic cotton, responsibly sourced viscose, wool, feather, and down, but provide no figures detailing their current usage amounts. Furthermore, they claim the tanneries they source leather from are “working to reduce their environmental impact”, but this isn’t elaborated upon at all. Lastly, Nasty Gal is in the process of rolling out a new classification for some of their garments. READY FOR THE FUTURE is a strapline that will designate garments made of more than 20% of their “better materials” outlined above. Nasty Gal claims that most items will be made of more than 50% better materials, but they are apparently starting with a lower threshold to support all suppliers in driving improvements.
Nasty Gal doesn’t reveal much about its manufacturing processes. What little is disclosed is solid and “green” but I fear that this represents only a minuscule portion of the supply chain. They have an alternative organic denim line that is made from 100% organic cotton that has been grown using natural processes. They claim its production maintains soil health because it is grown without pesticides and chemicals, but they disclose nothing about whether or not it is grown in monocultures, an extremely harmful practice in farms. They also have a few products made from at least 90% recycled materials, including recycled polyester. This material is made from yarn made from plastic bottles and other diverted landfill materials. In terms of packaging, Nasty Gal uses at least 80% recycled dispatch bags. Furthermore, their garment bags are projected to have over 65% recycled content in the near future.
Nasty Gal has a goal to eliminate direct waste to landfills by 2025. However, this doesn’t include their suppliers and partners, and, for the umpteenth time, they provide no data on how they hope to achieve this. They are also “looking at recycling and resale offers” to extend the life of their products. They also have a goal to reduce their emissions by 52% by 2030, “in line with science-based targets”. There is no data on how they’re going to do either of these things. Nasty Gal uses a ‘test and repeat’ model in which they make a limited supply of new product, analyze how it’s received by consumers, and produce more or less stock in response. This aims to reduce waste of product. Nasty Gal also has a partnership with reGAIN that allows users to recycle any unwanted clothes and accessories. The clothes can be from any brand, not just Nasty Gal. These initiatives and goals demonstrate the lack of structure at Nasty Gal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their vague goals aren’t achieved.
Judging the company’s past, it appears evident that Nasty Gal isn’t the most ethical company. In 2015, they made headlines for firing three women prior to them taking maternity leave. One publicly sued them. After this, they lost copious amounts of profits and partnerships and the company was sold to BooHoo. In terms of current workplace conditions, Nasty Gal has little to no publicly disclosed data. Unsurprisingly, they outline vague goals on their website but that’s about it. By 2021, the current year, they want to disclose their factory lists and purchasing practices. I’m writing this in November, and the list is nowhere to be found. They also claim to be setting up and donating 1 million pounds to an Independent Garment Workers Trust in Leicester. They are also opening a factory in Leicester ‘to showcase how [their] garments are made and to share best practice across the industry’. However, there is no data on any of these projects. As such, I don’t think anything has come to fruition. According to their website, the starting salaries at the Burnley distribution center are above the National Living Wage. They don’t disclose any information about their other distribution centers or manufacturing plants, however. Again, the opacity of the corporation is not a great sign.