How Ethical Is Fabletics? All You Need to Know

How Ethical Is Fabletics? All You Need to Know

Dennis Kamprad

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Kate Hudson is praised as an inspiration, as is her activewear brand Fabletics. However, the company primarily makes money with its online membership program, which many have criticized as shady. So we had to ask: How ethical is Fabletics?

Fabletics can be considered as unethical due to their membership entrapment techniques and lack of transparency, among other things. Owned by TechStyle Fashion Group, the subscription-based e-commerce brand has received much criticism from customers and has yet to make an effort to change or improve.

We admit we weren’t terribly surprised by what we found. In fact, any developments throughout recent years only seem to corroborate what others have said in the past. But if you aren’t familiar with Fabletics and its VIP membership program, this article has all you need to know, including whether or not it is ethical. 

Who Is Fabletics?

Fabletics was launched in 2013 by co-founders Kate Hudson, Adam Goldenberg, and Don Ressler. The company is under the TechStyle Fashion Group umbrella and has been valued at over $1.5 billion.

Formerly known as JustFab Inc., TechStyle Fashion Group is an online fashion retailer that profits mainly from its membership and subscription services. Their portfolio consists of Fabletics and four other direct-to-consumer brands, including Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty, Kimora Lee Simmons’ JustFab, FabKids, and ShoeDazzle.

How Ethical Is the Brand?

Ethics – What’s That?

Fabletics isn’t exactly upfront about its ethical or sustainability practices. We had been down this rabbit hole of subscription-based e-commerce before with our ethics review of Savage X Fenty. If you reach out to inquire about these topics, you are made to wait a long time and are given the run-around before receiving vague, unhelpful, non-informative answers–sometimes even with blatant disregard to the very nature of your concern.

Cordially, Barbara had an experience similar to ours–the link will bring you to her review–even going as far as to call the company, only to get the same annoying answers we did. 

An internet search of Fabletics ethics doesn’t help very much, either. In fact, the content of top-search results yields more promotional pieces about the company than it does negative reviews–although you will find those as well. (And don’t even waste your time searching for Fabletics manufacturing–that information is very well hidden.)

The critiques you can find all say the same thing: scammed-customers and no transparency. Yet this displays alongside the Ethical News Marketing promotion of Fabletics’ limited-edition collection that benefits the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up initiative. Some suggest the partnership with such charitable organizations is just a front to cover-up and distract from the unethical practices the company embraces as its sole means of obtaining income. 

TechStyle’s Tech-Support Scam Style of Business

Like all TechStyle Fashion Group’s companies, Fabletics participates in the VIP Membership program created by TechStyle. 

For a membership fee of $49.95 a month, VIP elites receive access to exclusive new clothing (usually chosen by the celebrity-face and co-owner of the company, in this case, Kate.) In addition, members receive discounts on all items throughout the collection, including accessories. The option to “skip” a month and make no purchases is provided so long as you log-in and opt-out by the 5th of each month.

Membership is not required to make a purchase; however, prices are substantially higher for non-VIP customers–from 20-50% higher.

The promotion of VIP membership is a foundational focus for website creation with all of these companies. On Fabletics’ homepage, you are greeted with a promotion of its well-known “2 for $24” leggings deal (which you are reminded of about halfway down the page); and items have the non-VIP price visible but with a strikeout line through it, and the VIP price next to it.

This monthly fee serves as a “credit” toward your monthly purchase. Signing up for the program is essentially committing to being a loyal customer and making a $49.95 minimum purchase each month. Once you exceed your credit limit, items are available at discounted prices.

The catch in all this is that anyone who wants to purchase something but not wanting to join the membership program is made to pay absurdly high prices. Anyone looking to make a modest purchase under $50 suddenly has a very limited inventory to select from. 

Furthermore, customers report to routinely have issues with unsubscribing from the membership, including still being charged after canceling and not realizing they were signed up in the first place.

The company has opened some brick-and-mortar stores, but most of Fabletics’ sales come from e-commerce–and most complaints stem from there as well, as tricking people into signing up and charging them without their knowledge has been the cornerstone of subscription-based services for quite some time–technology just enhanced the success in this business model. 

Kate Hudson’s Displays What Can Be Perceived as Hypocrisy and Disingenuous Behavior 

Kate doesn’t get a pass from us in clean ethics either. 

The website profiles Kate (among other things) as a “fashion tastemaker” who was “born to inspire others,” claiming it was her passion for supporting and motivating others to lead active, healthy lives that led her to co-found Fabletics. 

Have you ever been inspired to start working out because of the leggings you saw on a mannequin in a department store? Our guess is no. And we failed to find the online forum dedicated to people who have been moved to live a healthy lifestyle because a clothing line inspired them to do so. Sorry, Kate. But it seems as though you’re more motivated by the financial gain one can achieve by convincing others you care about their health.

And what is a “tastemaker” anyway? Trend-setter we understand, and no one requires you to find the trend tasteful. Is this some new Orwellian-marketing language foreshadowing the consumer is no longer entitled to an opinion in personal taste anymore? Frankly, it’s pompitous, off-putting, insulting, and altogether uninspiring

Continuing on the website, a picture of Kate wearing a shirt with the company mantra “Live Your Passion” printed on it is the backdrop for the company mission. It states they “create clothing that inspires” that is “high in quality at prices you’ll feel good about,” and that inspiration starts at their website. It further claims to “foster a community of people who embrace our mantra–” Live Your Passion”–every day.”

We’re not buying it. 

For those who are already annoyed with celebrity spokespeople and virtue-signal-preaching of ethics, we hear you. And it seems Ms. Hudson has found herself in some hot water for her hypocritical display in embracing those who are living their passion, as there appears to be an exception if unfortunate circumstances arise during said living.

In June of 2020, YouTube personality Myka Stauffer shared with her followers her heart-breaking tale in a decision to give up a special-needs child she had adopted after learning the extent of the special-needs was beyond her ability to care for the child properly. She cares deeply for the child, yet with four other kids and a new-age celebrity lifestyle, the YouTuber could not follow through with her commitment, despite how passionate she is about it. 

Kate Hudson responded by cutting ties to the YouTube celeb in a display of ethical and moral superiority, implying that Myka was a bad person for ultimately sacrificing a child whom she loved to another family for the sake of the child’s well-being. 

Apparently, Kate would rather the special-needs child be provided mediocre care that limits an enrichment within its life just so Myka–and by extension, Kate–can get points on a social credit score under the virtue-display category. 

When you couple all of this with her willingness to participate in a business specializing in what is perceived by many as scamming people, relying on ignorance, forgetfulness, and overall inertia of consumers to make money, you really start to wonder about Kate’s personal ethics underlying her motivation to front such an endeavor. 

Final Thoughts

Any company that is not transparent about manufacturing these days may as well carry a sign that says “we love to exploit labor” for the whole world to see. Yet, when it comes to Fabletics, a lack of transparency has seemingly helped limit consumer awareness and raise company profits.

We hope Kate and TechStyle make some changes in the future to give customers access to more company information. Although something tells us the inspiration for such will not come any time soon. 

Stay impactful,

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