Fast fashion brand Missy Empire has been accused of fostering a “toxic culture” as some female former employees have made claims regarding bullying and abusive and degrading comments, according to The Guardian.

A total of 18 female former staff members told the newspaper that young women working at the brand were “targeted for mistreatment” by managing director Ash Siddique.

The claims, seen in the form of emails, screenshots and testimonies by the newspaper, include staff being bullied, shouted and sworn at, degrading comments being made about models’ body shape and physical appearance, and staff being asked to model clothes for Siddique.

Seven former staff members also claim to have been fired “without reason” and two former employees said they were unable to keep copies of their employment contracts.

The owners of Missy Empire are said to have ignored formal complaints at the time.

One member of staff, who joined the company at the end of 2022 and left after a year, said her experience working at Missy Empire left her with “anxiety and feeling depressed”.

She said: “I was crying all day in the loos because I was bullied. During my first week there, I was called into the office so many times and shouted at about mistakes and the business failing. He [Ash Siddique] made out like it was my fault.”

Missy Empire was co-founded by brothers Ash and Ish Siddique in 2015 with a mission to “strive for girl power”.

JD Sports acquired a majority stake in the fashion brand in June 2021, before selling it to Frasers Group in December 2022.

Staff said that both JD Sports and Frasers were “made aware of problems at Missy Empire” after being sent seven emails containing seven individual complaints against the brand, which have been sent to their HR departments since April 2022.

A spokesperson for JD Sports said that, while it was a majority shareholder for 18 months, Missy Empire remained “responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, including its own HR procedures”.

The sports giant added that Missy Empire employees could “escalate any concerns through JD’s department or whistleblowing policy” and that a “small number of issues were formally reported to the company” and were “investigated and addressed”.

It added: “Everyone has the fundamental right to feel safe and respected at work.”

Ash Siddique and Frasers Group did not respond to requests for comment.

A contract seen by the newspaper also revealed that staff were not paid for overtime, lunch breaks were unpaid and wages were deducted if they returned late from breaks.