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12th February 2022

Fast-fashion…but make it (even more) consumable

Should working-class people be celebrating or condemning the collaboration between Greggs and Primark?
Fast-fashion…but make it (even more) consumable
Photo: Greggs

I don’t usually jump to conform to Geordie stereotypes, but being an avid follower of Greggs’ official Instagram (of course) it has not escaped my attention that the fast-food company have just announced a collab with highstreet fast-fashion brand Primark. Maybe you’ve heard of it. 

From a working-class anti-capitalist perspective, I have to say I’m disappointed in Greggs. Sure, we all know on a systemic level that buying our sausage rolls or steak bakes is in a way just enough fuel for us to be able to continue contributing to capitalist production. What good little workers we are.

We know too that the buttery, flaky pastry and delicious processed meat is probably not doing great things for our arteries, or our blood pressure. However, at least the relatively recent masking of capitalism with a moral concern for animal rights with the release of 5 vegan products (so far), adds a sort of moral subtlety to the whole thing. Although in terms of false-consciousness, I’m not sure whether that’s actually worse. 

Either way, I have to pass about 5 of them on my way home. That’s an awful lot of willpower. I don’t mind the years vegan sausage rolls have taken off my life so much if it means fewer pigs are being slaughtered in abattoirs that serve Greggs. Whereas this collaboration with retail giant Primark seems ostentatiously exploitative. 

On a global scale, of course, this is nothing compared to the abuse of workers in sweat-shops for minimal wages and horrific working conditions just to put cheap t-shirts on the shelves. This collaboration, like any other Primark collection, will most likely be produced in a dodgy factory somewhere in Asia where workers are physically, emotionally and financially exploited. However, just like putting calories on a menu won’t stop us ordering the burger if that’s what we’re really craving, or photos of rotting gums on baccy pouches won’t stop us from rolling another cig, the tragic reality of individuals across the globes are very unlikely to prevent anyone from buying into this collab. But, much like any capitalist-related issue, the problem lies not with the individual consumer, but with the exploitative system on a mass scale.

Now I will be amongst the first to jump to the defence of working class people who choose a more unhealthy option over a salad because of the significant price difference. When a Greggs will cost you £1.05 (don’t think we’ve not noticed the 5p increase – that’s inflation for you), versus a salad for a minimum of £5.50 at Pret-A-Manger, the choice seems obvious. There is absolutely no point in promoting healthy eating in a society which deprives people of the means to actually make healthy choices. 

The same goes for Primark clothing. I completely understand that not everyone can afford to spend their inadequate salary on fancy sustainable brands, or mind you even a £40 pair of Topshop jeans every time they need new clothes. While thrifting is, of course, a more sustainable option, it can be extremely time-consuming, another thing a lot of working class people simply do not have a lot of. Not only that, thrifting is often simply not an option for those who do not fit within the standards of the fit and able-bodied worker.

While this collab is getting a lot of buzz (I mean whoever came up with this was kind of a genius), it is just one amongst a myriad of other trendy collections which will die out, quite literally, nearly as fast as they came out. On the up-hand, whilst the poor quality and cheap mass production of Primark clothing means that these pieces won’t last very long, if you’re eating Greggs regularly then chances are neither will you.  

Moreover, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, although Primark hasn’t actually released what the collection will look like, it’s probably safe to assume that it will come in the trademark blue and yellow Greggs colours along with a logo or two slapped unto some socks, t-shirts and hoodies. And I mean… let’s just say that, especially considering London fashion week in all its glory is one week away, this feels like a middle-school project rather than a real-life fashion collection. If you really wanted a hoodie with a Greggs logo and didn’t care who made it and where it came from, you could have easily made your own on one of those websites that allow you to put a picture of your dog/boyfriend/family member on pillows and hoodies.

All in all, whether it means that the blue and yellow hoodies will replace PLT tank tops in students’ wardrobes, or people will be sporting affordable totes with a handy pastry compartment, it’s hard to ignore the exploitative nature of this surprising partnership.

‘Tasty by Greggs’ is set to open at 8.00am on Saturday February 12, with the clothing range launching a week later on Saturday 19th.

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