Fresh from the fallout of PLT’s casting call, we take a look behind the glamour to uncover the unsettling truths of the brand that continues to thrive despite its malpractice.

In the early hours of the morning, the bustling streets of London’s Soho pulsated with anticipation as aspiring models gathered, eager for their shot at stardom in Pretty Little Thing’s (PLT) casting call. With the event slated to begin at 10am and no specific end time, the queue had already snaked through four streets well before dawn, drawing hopefuls from far and wide in pursuit of their big break. A staggering turnout of over 3,500 women turned up, only for PLT to abruptly shutter the proceedings due to capacity constraints, leaving one hopeful to shout, “We’ve been waiting here for 10 hours and they’re not letting us in now. We just want to be PLT babes!”


The fallout from the event swiftly reverberated across social media platforms, as attendees took to vlogging and sharing their first-hand experiences. Some dubbed the brand “Pretty Little Liars” in light of their disorganised casting, while others interpreted it as a calculated publicity stunt by the fast-fashion giant. One TikTok user remarked,  “The marketing manager knew what they were doing. They sold girls a dream, when they already have their models lined up for next season.” Another user commented on the event, “There’s something so dystopian about this PLT casting. Pitting women against each other and making them queue up in the streets of London all to be the face of a cheap brand.”

It’s no surprise that the event caused many people to feel like it was all for a publicity stunt, after all this is PLT we’re talking about, a company that once sold garments for as little as 8p. And whose parent company, The Boohoo Group, faced accusations of  ‘modern slavery’, money laundering and unethical trade practises. They wouldn’t bat an eyelid at making loyal customers—and aspiring models—subject to gruelling hours without provisions on a scorching hot day. To compound matters, the brand’s deletion of negative comments about the casting on their TikTok video’s only added fuel to the fire. One user’s comment on a video, where PLT interviewed attendees in the queue, encapsulates the frustration:  “Please stop deleting comments. It’s unfair. You guys just want a biased comment section that makes you look good.”


Whether or not PLT actually plan on signing even one of these models is a separate question in itself. If they do, it shows their willingness to cut every corner they can: they would be acquiring models at a minimal cost, bypassing agencies and their fees, and potentially choosing a model who has little or no professional experience, who won’t demand a day rate and be aware of their rights. On the other hand, if they are treating attendees of the open casting seriously, one would expect a bit of preparation going into it. As industry leaders, they possess a comprehensive understanding of event logistics—especially as previously hosting an open casting call in LA in February this year. However, they chose chaos, making the event a free-for-all, lacking ticketing, clear planning, staggered entry slots or even a preliminary survey to gauge expected attendance.

@twinbrett Stopped by the PLT open casting today. Apparently over 3000 people still want to work for them, and they even had to close it early due to capacity. #pltscoutme #plt #boohoo #fastfashion #twinbrett #prettylittlething #london ♬ original sound - Brett Staniland

It’s hardly a revelation that this isn’t the first time PLT has found itself embroiled in controversy – to put it mildly. Just days after the casting fiasco, the brand was reprimanded for the eighth time in four years for breaching advertising rules, during a Black Friday social media campaign late last year, where they dangled discounts from 30% to 99% off clothing. But their rap sheet doesn’t end there. The brand’s troubles escalated notably in 2020, when a Labour Behind the Label report exposed unsettling practises within PLT’s parent company, Boohoo. Shockingly, employees were reportedly instructed to work during a region-wide lockdown, even if they had tested positive for COVID symptoms. The report also shed light on the abysmally low wages of the workers at Boohoo’s Leicester factory—where PLT’s clothing is also produced—earning a paltry £3.50 per hour, less than half the national working wage. This stands in stark contrast to the extravagance recently witnessed at PLT’s founder, Umar Kamani’s wedding, reportedly costing a staggering £20 million, and yet he can’t afford to pay his employees minimum wage?


As a result, PLT and Boohoo have been forced to take a ‘greener’ approach, yet it appears to be yet another instance of greenwashing. In 2022, PLT unveiled a Marketplace app, encouraging customers to buy and sell second-hand clothing. However, it’s ironic that a business thriving on exploitation—built on rapid production at low costs, often at the expense of exploited workers and utilising non-eco-friendly materials—is now attempting to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. On the description of the Marketplace app PLT claim that it’s designed to ‘extend the life of garments, breathe new life into pre-loved clothing and help reduce waste with the impact of the environment front of mind’. It reads well and good, but when PLT are making garments that can hardly withstand a single wash without losing its quality, then what’s the actual point? Unless PLT fundamentally alter its business model—that is built on cheap labour and high product turnover—these behemoths will always fall short of offering an ethical alternative.

The survival of PLT and other fast-fashion brands is down to them banking on their customer’s collective reluctance to delve into the origins and conditions of their clothing’s production. Let’s be honest, how many of us diligently check the labels to investigate where our clothes have been made and find out about the working conditions before we buy? My guess is not many. Yet, now more than ever, we must confront the fast-fashion industry as a whole before it’s too late. The industry is the second biggest consumer of water, using 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt, whilst contributing 10% of global carbon emissions—more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.


While Gen Z are regularly dubbed as the ‘sustainability generation’, just like any other cohort we are multifaceted: some of us have little or no choice to buy from fast fashion sites like PLT, after all we are amid a cost-of-living crisis. However, just by regulating your buying habits can make a change. Buying an item of higher quality is sometimes worth the money, compared to repeatedly buying cheaply made pieces that end up in the bin within weeks. Ultimately if that doesn’t way make you rethink you buying choices, then hopefully this will. Next time your shopping on PLT’s site, ask yourself this: is an unfathomably cheaply priced garment really worth the depletion of our air and water?