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Women working at a ‘female empowering’ fast fashion firm have claimed they were told to join OnlyFans instead of getting pay rises by their bullying male boss who reduced them to tears and created a ‘toxic culture’.
Some 18 female members of staff at the Manchester-based retailer Missy Empire, now owned by Frasers Group, have claimed that young women were targeted by managing director Ash Siddique.
Mr Siddique and his brother co-founded the fashion firm that they say is ‘for the go-getters, the goal-setters, the kick-ass females who F with convention and create their own kind of pretty’.
Their XX brand logo stands for the female chromosome which the company say is ‘a subliminal reminder that we are for the female and we will continue to empower you by the power of clothes’.
But behind the facade of female empowerment, former staff have told The Guardian that they were told to join OnlyFans – a platform to make money using pornographic videos – instead of getting a pay rise.
‘We were just having a conversation about pay rises and he [Ash Siddique] said we should all be doing OnlyFans as a side hustle and he will be our agent,’ a staff member told the newspaper.
Women working at a ‘female empowering’ fast fashion firm have claimed they were reduced to tears amid a toxic environment. Pictured: Geordie Shore star Chloe Ferry wearing Missy Empire clothes
Missy Empire co-founders Ash (left) and Ish Siddique are pictured. Ash is accused of making degrading comments about models’ bodies
The staff allege that Mr Siddique ‘made degrading comments about models’ body shape and physical appearance’.
It’s also claimed staff were ‘asked to model clothes for the managing director’ and that ‘Missy Empire’s owners ignored formal complaints’.
Seven members of staff also alleged they were ‘fired without reason’ and a further two claimed they were ‘unable to keep copies of their employment contracts’.
The Guardian reports that the claims have been backed up by emails, screenshots and testimonies and that Mr Siddique did not respond to the allegations. MailOnline has also contacted Missy Empire for comment.
The investigation found that junior positions at Missy Empire are often filled by young female workers, many being employed in their first jobs.
There is also understood to be huge turnovers at the company, with staff frequently leaving or being dismissed.
Staff spoke of their excitement to join the fashion firm before they had their ‘enthusiasm and self-confidence destroyed’.
None of the workers who have made the allegations were with the company for more than 18 months. Many worked for just a few months.
Seven members of staff also alleged they were ‘fired without reason’ and a further two claimed they were ‘unable to keep copies of their employment contracts’. Pictured: Love Island star Laura Anderson wearing a Missy Empire dress
Missy Empire say they are ‘for the go-getters, the goal-setters, the kick-ass females who F with convention and create their own kind of pretty’
One woman, who started in late 2022 before leaving for a new job a year later, told The Guardian that she was reduced to tears because of bullying, while she was screamed at and made a scapegoat for business failings by Mr Siddique.
JD Sports acquired a majority stake in Missy Empire in June 2021 and sold it to Frasers Group in December 2022.
Staff said that problems were flagged to both companies, with at least seven emails – all with different complaints – sent to their HR departments since April 2022.
One email sent to Frasers Group HR by a female employee said: ‘In the conversation I was called a f***ing idiot many times, mocked and told I’m not f***ing needed, so I should feel free to walk out the door. Ash also said I am not allowed my holiday as he can decide when I do, and he doesn’t feel like giving me it, and if I would like to take holiday I can if I take it unpaid.’
She added: ‘Myself and the other employees are often spoken to in this manner. Ash’s behaviour while I have worked at Missy Empire has resulted in me having anxiety and feeling depressed.’
In an earlier email, sent in March 2023, she also claimed what looked like a voice recorder was spotted in the staff kitchen ceiling. She sent a photo of it to Frasers Group and asked for it to be looked at.
No action was taken after either email, according to the staff member, who only received a response to say there was no HR function at Missy Empire at the time.
Another female staff member, who worked at Missy Empire from summer 2022, alleges that she was fired after Mr Siddique found a list of her grievances which she had also emailed to the Frasers Group HR employee relations manager.
Chloe Ross seen leaving the Eve and Jess Gale Missy Empire in July 2021
Love Island star Kady McDermott and Samira Knighty at The Missy Empire Makeup Master Class at Roc and Rye in Manchester
Demi Sims seen leaving the Missy Empire party in Manchester in July 2021
She complained about a string of issues including swearing and humiliating comments about staff performance and models’ body shape.
The email said Mr Siddique described a previous model as ‘fat with the pig nose’ and that he created a ‘toxic work environment where people feared for their jobs’.
Another member of staff said that she had to try on clothes to see if they fit, despite this not being part of her job. Staff said Mr Siddique was ‘very innapropriate’ and had ‘raging arguments’ in the office.
One worker, who says she was fired without a good reason, said that Mr Siddique described models as being ‘too fat’ and that he only wanted ones with ‘big bums and big boobs and a tiny waist’.
A JD Group spokesperson said: ‘We were the majority shareholder in Missy Empire for 18 months between June 2021 and the completed sale of the business in December 2022.
‘Missy Empire was responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, including its own HR procedures. However, as a significant shareholder in the company, Missy Empire colleagues also had the opportunity to escalate any concerns through JD’s HR department or whistleblowing policy.
‘Everyone has the fundamental right to feel safe and respected at work. There were a small number of issues that were formally reported to the company during our ownership, and these were investigated fully and addressed in line with JD Group’s procedures.’
Missy Empire and Frasers Group have been approached for comment.