What’s at stake
In 2018, consumers around the world were shocked at reports that the luxury fashion house Burberry had incinerated more than £28 million worth of unsold clothes, bags and perfume in just one year. Destroyed in order to protect brand value and ward off counterfeiting, it soon emerged that this practice was not unusual. Nike were deliberately slashing leftover trainers on a regular basis, and luxury giant Richemont admitted to destroying nearly €500 million worth of Cartier and Montblanc watches – all in the name of brand protection.
How had this scale of wastage become business as usual for retail? Because the demand for fashion is at an all-time high. Greenpeace estimates that US shoppers buy five times more clothing than they did in 1980. ‘Newness’ is a global preoccupation, and brands rush to capitalise on this hunger by gambling on what will sell, producing a vast variety of stock and simply burning what doesn’t chime well with shoppers. Fashion is now the world’s second largest polluter after the oil industry, and 300,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes are sent to landfill each year.