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Fast fashion: Is Naomi Campbell's latest clothing venture Pretty risky?

Supermodel in action: Naomi Campbell models for the fast fashion brand
Supermodel in action: Naomi Campbell models for the fast fashion brand Copyright Handout/PrettyLittleThing/Canva
Copyright Handout/PrettyLittleThing/Canva
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The 53-year-old is one of the richest models in history and her choice to work with much maligned fast fashion label Pretty Little Thing has left fashion insiders and fans alike baffled.

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Celebrity collaborations with fashion brands are commonplace nowadays but a newly launched venture has fashionistas scratching their no doubt beautifully coiffured heads.

Legendary supermodel Naomi Campbell has teamed up with none other than fast fashion company Pretty Little Thing (or PLT), leaving many puzzled at the choice.

The industry is divided over the 53-year-old’s relationship with PLT, first announced back in July.

Set to launch on Tuesday 5 September in a showcase at Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan, just before New York Fashion Week kicks off, some fashion insiders have called the move “bizarre”.

"Naomi Campbell releasing a collaboration with Pretty Little Thing was the 2023 fashion link-up we didn't see coming."
J'Nae Phillips
Insights Editor at Canvas8

The range, ‘Pretty Little Thing, Designed by Naomi Campbell’, is certainly a departure for the supermodel - one of the original five - who’s perhaps best known for her work with high end brands like Chanel and Versace as well as her iconic strut on catwalks around the world.

Handout/PrettyLittleThing
The original supermodel - Naomi Campbell models PLTHandout/PrettyLittleThing

Her new range, which will go on sale on PLT’s popular e-commerce site on Tuesday, features faux fur, patent satin pieces and sequin mini dresses - and the price is a million miles away from those charges by the luxury houses Campbell usually models for.

The cheapest piece, a long sleeve top, will retail for €12 and the most expensive, a polyester, faux fur coat, comes in at €140.

"An electrifying fashion experience, echoing the British fashion icon’s ethos of innovation, glamour and empowerment.”
PLT describe Naomi Campbell's show to be staged in New York

Campbell has had a hand in the design process, but the collection also features pieces by emerging fashion designers.

On offer will be a cut-out bodycon dress by Lagos-based Victor Anate as well as a satin off-white dress designed by Jamaica-born Edvin Thompson, founder of Brooklyn-based ready-to-wear brand Theophilio.

Campbell has been widely praised for her support of these two Black designers.

Handout/2023 PrettyLittleThing
Goddess of fashion: Campbell wears PLTHandout/2023 PrettyLittleThing

She’s long been a staunch supporter of Anate and Thompson as well as designers including rising star Bianca Saunders and Kenneth Ize, modelling for him as he made his Paris Fashion Week debut in 2020.

Some fashion fans say the collaboration is a good thing, bringing Campbell’s legendary style to a new audience at a low price.

Others, both industry insiders and armchair critics, are simply puzzled why somebody who could seemingly choose to work with almost any brand has chosen one with such a bad reputation.

"This collaboration is an extension of my commitment to create and promote opportunities for young, emerging designers.”
Naomi Campbell talks about her PLT collaboration

Even PLT’s head of design, Chris Parnell, seems a little surprised the company managed to snag such a superstar.

“This collaboration with Naomi Campbell is a monumental moment for Pretty Little Thing,” he said, adding, “We are not just launching a new collection; we are making history with the most significant collaboration we've ever undertaken”.

It’s certainly raised eyebrows of those at the forefront of the fight against climate change and fast fashion’s significant role in its acceleration.

In a 2020 report, The Guardian revealed that Boohoo Group, PLT’s parent company was marked down in the Human Rights category because they were found to be selling clothes made by Pakistani workers who earned about €0.34 per hour.

“The brand is regularly criticised for its promotion of micro-trends and 99% off Black Friday sales that encourage overconsumption and influence people to buy clothes that they do not need”, Raymond Lam, a fashion expert from Vendula London tells Euronews Culture, adding, “many of the products that they sell are made from environmentally damaging materials such as polyester”.

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Dave Benett/Getty Images
Style Queen: Campbell attends the 1993 Designer of the Year Awards with fellow model Kate Moss (L)Dave Benett/Getty Images

Campbell has rebuffed criticism of the collaboration, telling Women’s Wear Daily: "I know that it's fast fashion, and that people have their criticism, I'm not denying them. But as a changemaker, I felt this was a great way to effect change in the industry in getting my emerging designers recognised and seeing them on a global platform".

It’s certainly an unexpected move from the fashion icon at a time when many people are turning away from fast fashion brands like PLT and the controversial Shein and the EU is putting in place legislation to slow down the practice.

These companies are infamous, too, for their labour rights records, making the collaboration an even more baffling choice for Campbell, who was given the Global Advocacy Award by the Human Rights Campaign in 2020.

“This latest partnership has raised a few eyebrows as it is a world away from what the global fashion icon is known for, and comes at a pivotal time in fashion as greenwashing by high street brands comes under increasing scrutiny”, J'Nae Phillips, Insights Editor at Canvas8 tells Euronews Culture.

“This has to be one of the most criticised collaborations set to release this year as some are calling out Campbell for 'selling out' at a time when fast fashion giants like Pretty Little Thing are being held to task for their perceived flailing eco-credentials, amidst accusations of the damaging impact their production processes and ethos are having on the environment”, Phillips adds.

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Scott Garfitt/2023 Invision
Naomi Campbell poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Killers of the Flower Moon' at the Cannes Film Festival in MayScott Garfitt/2023 Invision

Despite the controversy it’s more than likely the collection will sell out in mere minutes - but the question remains: will people be treasuring these pieces, or will they be wearing them once before they end up on second-hand resale sites of landfill?

With her iconic status, this release may just buck the trend for other celebrity collaborations being worn once and thrown out.

Campbell first shot to fame as one of the original supermodels in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, along with Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and the late Tatjana Patitz.

The five appeared on the cover of British Vogue’s January 1990 issue. Shot by Peter Lindbergh, it’s since become one of the most iconic fashion images of all time.

Campbell has, this month, reunited with Crawford, Evangelista and Turlington on joint covers for editions of both British and American Vogue.

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Alongside this appearance on the September issue of the magazine - the most important in the fashion calendar - the four will star in upcoming docuseries The Super Models, which will dive into their long careers and glamorous lives.

“Known for her high-achieving supermodel status featuring in everything from brand campaigns and glossy editorials to prestigious runways, Campbell is a name typically associated with luxury brands that command a high price tag - making her high street collaboration all the more surprising”, says J'Nae Phillips.

While she’s still very much in demand on catwalks and on covers of glossy magazines, Campbell has always marched to the beat of her own drum.

Not only did she have her two children past the age of 50, unusual even for female celebrities, she’s long been known as very outspoken.

She’s unafraid to call out perceived discrimination, saying much of the flack she’s received is down to race.

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"Last year I was refused entry to a hotel in the south of France because of my skin colour," she told The Times in 2020, adding, "It's rude. It's wrong. And there are still certain countries where I don't appear on the cover of magazines for that same reason".

In November last year, she came under fire for hosting a fashion show in Qatar, a country well known for its controversial treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

At the time, Campbell defended the choice, saying, "being engaged in places like Qatar is an essential step towards positive change.

She’s hugely popular on social media, boasting 15.5 million followers on Instagram alone and appealing to both fashionistas who remember the ‘90s and Gen Z yearning for a more glamorous time.

She also has a Youtube channel and one particularly popular video with nearly 4 million views shows her extensively cleaning her seat on an aeroplane - it’s a first class seat, of course - and has since become a meme.

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Last year, Campbell was revealed as the new face of Hugo Boss and in August, she starred in Victoria's Secret's Icon campaign alongside fellow celebrity models including Gisele Bündchen.

Ranked as one of the richest models of all time, Campbell has repeatedly shown criticism doesn’t bother her.

Although the PLT collaboration is a surprise to many, what’s not surprising is that Naomi Campbell could turn her hand to almost everything - and almost certainly make a success of whatever that may be.

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