Dirty Side of the Fashion Industry / A Monster Destroying Its Own Creations
From time to time scandals about the fashion industry, which is wasting huge amounts of resources appear in the spotlight. One can remember a big flurry that was started last summer when some articles arose stating that fashion luxury company Burberry burnt $38m worth clothes and cosmetics. A few years ago we also heard about human exploitation and cruel working conditions when “producing fashion” in Bangladesh. In addition to these scandals, the research indicates fashion industry being the second largest polluter on Earth after the oil industry. Wow, it sounds really bad, doesn‘t it? But Iet’s investigate whether there is any kind of way to enjoy that magical feeling when a new pair of jeans tuck up on our bodies perfectly meanwhile staying certain that they had been produced in a responsible-saving-resources manner.
8 April, 2019
by JULIJA BLAZAUSKAITE
illustrations by GODA PELE
When I first started to think about this topic, I was mostly interested in uncovering the ones who intentionally get rid off so many clothes and accessories after so many environment, energy, financial, not to talk about human resources had been used to produce them. Sadly, I realised that no one anymore is astonished about luxury and fast fashion companies destroying big stocks of their goods. Interestingly, I found an article in the Guardian, which states that only a small number of fashion enterprises admits that, but they are not really willing to reveal real numbers of destroyed stocks for the public use. Nevertheless, some brands desire transparency and are informing the customers about their actions. One of them is Richemont enterprise, which acknowledged that £421m worth of goods (including watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre and Cartier) had been destroyed. Moreover, according to Financial Times, Celine and LVMH could be included into the list as well. Unfortunately, it is only the peak of an iceberg and the scale of wasted resources by the fashion industry is huge. Thus, to understand the impact of the luxury fashion industry on Earth is even harder.
Hidden motives beyond luxury fashion decisions
Well, I believe that in order to resolve the conflict, first, we should familiarize ourselves with the approaches of both conflict sides. Thus, I decided to dig more into the way the luxury fashion industry is reasoning and look to the rationale behind why those giants of fashion are still destroying goods, which are perfectly good to be consumed.
It seems that luxury brands justify the destruction of the vast amount of their merchandise for various reasons. Firstly, companies are aware of the fact that if their goods will be sold with a discount at the end of the season, a large part of consumers will wait for the prices’ reduction. The more people will have that particular and special piece of clothing, accessory or device, the less it will be wantable in the future. As all know, luxury companies don’t obviously want their goods being accessible to everyone. Secondly, fashion luxury representatives are afraid that if some of their unsold goods are to be sent to recycle, part of them will be stolen and sold in the black markets. In addition to black market fear, the worry of grey markets exists as well. Luxury companies are concerned that some individuals resell their goods by buying cheaper in countries with lower luxury taxes and then selling it more expensively in places where luxury tax is way higher. Lastly, the destruction of luxury goods is a “tool” to get the recovery of tax money from the goods which have been exported to the United States. As Forbes indicates, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 99% of taxes and fees on imported goods can be recovered if goods will be destroyed under Customs supervision. Thus, despite the need to recover production costs, in general, the most important reason for luxury to destroy still usable goods is to protect their brand equity.
Could the circular economy be our saviour?
I understand that it is really hard to protect the brand name and still be eco-friendly in the fashion and luxury industry. Nevertheless, there are some initiatives, which seek for ways to reduce waste of resources in the fashion business. Ellen Macarthur Foundation is one of them, which tries to encourage the work of fashion business to be based on the circular economy framework. The circular economy is the opposition to the linear economy, which uses the model of production 'take, make, dispose of'. The idea of the circular economy is guided by the motto that industry is a regenerative system where all input resources, emission, waste or other leakages are minimized and recycled. Some recyclable fashion enthusiasts such as Stella McCartney encourage to create a new textile industry where clothes will be worn longer, recycled easier, or be simply resold. In addition, it is sought that the new textile industry would not release so many toxins, which are poisoning our environment. Moreover, the revolution in technologies, which essentially produces our clothing has already started.
You may ask whether there are any real examples of the circular economy that actually have worked out. As the boom of sharing things is becoming more and more popular in industries such as automobiles and various techniques, why fashion couldn't follow their example? Recently, I came across a very promising business, which, I believe, is setting quite an example in this regard. The Rent the Runway is the New York-based designers clothes renting company. Their business has a scheme, which relies on the features of the circular economy. Run the Runway supplies you with a rotation of 4 different styles for a whole month for a monthly fee that also includes dry cleaning costs and repair of your rented clothing, if needed. Moreover, the garments supplied to customers are from top designers, such as Jason Wu, Diane Von Furstenberg and etc. Similar example exists in another side of the world, China, Beijing. The startup called Ycloset is renting the latest collections clothes on the weekly or monthly basis for a certain fee. For those who do not have time for shopping or dry cleaning renting is a great solution to look great and save the Earth.
In the end, up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled. It means that there is no need to destroy clothes. The principles of a circular economy could be used in order to reduce waste in the fashion industry and maintain the satisfaction of a new good. As looking even more to the future, we can expect that similar rent services will be used for everyday clothes. For the desert, you could check the Danish company, Vigga, which rents baby clothes and tries to reduce the destruction of daily baby apparel in an ecological way. Cheers!