• Emma Cartmel

A case of Jekyll & Hyde

Primark recently opened it's first pop-up space at East London's hip BoxPark in Shoreditch. This temporary space is to mark the launch of the brand's new Wellness collection - part of the "Primark Cares" initiative.

Hmm, anyone else hearing an oxymoron here?

Image Credit: Jade Stephens on Unsplash

The collection not only encourages wellness, but demonstrates the brands movement towards more environmentally friendly materials, with the range's items being made from organic, recycled and sustainable materials, with the new eco focus even extending to the stores fixtures, hangers, and displays.

Anyone else conflicted?

Now I am sure I am not the only one who feel's discomfort, or dissonance, regarding Primark's new endeavour. The idea that a giant of the fast fashion world is releasing a sustainable "wellness" range seems somewhat inconsistent to me.

Sure, Primark is taking steps in the sustainable direction, but I am not sure I would class their product as "ethical fashion".

This internal conflict I am experiencing is known as cognitive dissonance, and I have written about this theory in an earlier post. One way of relieving this tension is by finding a way of reconciling the difference.

Easier said than done it seems as I find my innner Dr. Henry Jekyl and Mr Edward Hyde.

Dr Hyde

The evil Hyde in me jumps straight on the attack. At the end of the day:

  • Primark is still a fast fashion brand, with their "trendy", low cost clothing encouraging consumers to buy more, only to discard them after a couple of wears (if at all) before returning for more.

  • This "wellness" collection only forms a small portion of the overall Primark product offering. It does not represent the overall business model.

  • Just because a product is claiming to be sustainable doesn't necessarily mean it is ethical, and vice versa.

  • Primark lacks control of their supply chain, outsourcing their manufacturing.

  • Even their paper bags are trying to give off the impression of a "caring" brand, only to have this image torn apart (literally), when they break under the weight of too many £2 purchases.

Dr Jekyll

In an attempt to be more of a Jekyll, should we recognise that:

  • This isn't the first initiative introduced by Primark to better it's sustainability credentials. By 2022, Primark aims to train 160,000 cotton farmers located in India, Pakistan and China in environmentally friendly farming methods. Transformation doesn't happen without incremental change first. Yeah?!

  • Organic, recycled and sustainable materials are better than their polyester or regular cotton alternatives.

  • Giving these guys a break is maybe the way to go. After all the likes of Primark, Zara and H&M probably aren't going anywhere anytime soon. They are likely to just get bigger. Therefore, isn't any change better than no change?

I am yet to reconcile my differences regarding these fast fashion brands "saving the planet". But what I can say for sure, is that you won't find me in a Primark store (whether or not it is branded as ethical) any time soon.

Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment, and let me know your thoughts. Are you a fence-sitter, or a clear Jekyll or Hyde?

Additional resources

Check out the Good On You page "How Ethical Is Primark?" for a review of the brand in relation to their environmental impact, labour rights and animal welfare.

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