There are many dirty secrets in the world of fashion and the issue of the destruction of unworn stock is maybe the most hidden. Deadstock is the term for such unwanted stock that has not sold for a variety of reasons; overproduction, defects, poor buying or design decisions and sometimes even the weather.
In 2017 the fast fashion giant H&M was accused of burning 12 tonnes of unsold garments a year. Investigators from a Danish TV show tracked where unsold garments went to and found a waste disposal company in Roskilde. It was here that they witnessed some 30,000 kids and ladies trousers being destroyed. H&M claimed that the garments did not meet their strict safety requirements either due to mould or chemical restrictions and therefore had to be incinerated. However, when tests were done on garments they managed to rescue and compared to identical ones sold in store, they found no difference. It is therefore reasonable to assume this was deadstock that the brand wanted rid of on the quiet.
The Swedish brand was previously accused of destroying unwanted garments back in 2010 when clothing that had been cut up with razors had been found dumped on Manhattan streets. After an uproar in the press H&M promised to not do it again, but the Danish disposal company claim to have incinerated 60 tonnes[i] of H&M deadstock since 2013. This has now become such an issue for H&M that they have recently admitted to having $4.3 billion[ii] in unsold clothes.
This destruction is sadly a common practice throughout the industry as backed up by many employees of other high street brands, who have been asked to cut up, burn or otherwise destroy unsold garments[iii].
“Potentially 10 million items of clothing become ‘deadstock’ every year. That’s a lot of clothes to miraculously make ‘disappear.’”[iv]
Clothing has been found outside Walmart stores with holes punched in it preventing it being worn[v] and Celio, a French retailer[vi] was slammed on social media after cutting up and discarding their unwanted garments. 42.9 tonnes[vii] of clothing, shoes and jewellery were also found to have incinerated by Bestseller, the Danish company behind Vero Moda, Vila and Jack Jones and Radio 4 exposed that jackets and sleeping bags were slashed and binned by the outdoor company, Millets.
This is not just a high street problem however, luxury labels are also at it as Orsola de Castro, who is a designer who utilises fashion waste in her work, says:
“The issues of incineration when it comes to fashion waste is nothing new. It is something that brands and factories alike have been doing for years. Luxury brands are the worst when it comes to incineration, as they would rather burn unwanted or damaged leather products then sell them as it may damage their reputation”[viii]
Some companies give their surplus to outlet or discount stores and some even to charity and staff but these are few and far between. This excess of hidden waste is particularly hypocritical from brands such as H&M who using recycling schemes tell us we need to recycle clothing. More needs to be done to tackle such hidden practices but unfortunately it is a symptom of the fast fashion system. Many of these brands drop new stock into stores every week and this speed and volume is where such problems arise. Purchasing fast fashion is therefore condoning this waste.
#deadstockdestruction #clothingincineration #fashionwaste
As an assignment for the Fashion & Sustainability course I am currently doing through FutureLearn, we have been asked to undertake a wardrobe audit. Doing an exercise like this, like a food or money diary, can really make you stop and think about your consumption habits. I decided to share the findings with you to get you to think about just how many clothes you have. I expect it's more than you think!
I have never had a lot of money to spend on clothes, so I was amazed to find that I have over 100 garments in my two wardrobes (spring/summer and autumn/winter) and a nearly another 100 garments in my chest of drawers and coat hooks. This includes nightwear, sportswear and swimwear, but not underwear, shoes or accessories such as scarves etc.
My excuse is that I am fashion designer, so I am naturally a hoarder of clothes! My oldest garment is actually only 14 years old, this is due to the fact I have moved around a lot, so would often give lots to charity while packing to move. Just imagine how many I would have had if I still had those! I still sometimes wish I had kept some of those older items as fashion is cyclical and so some would have come back into fashion.
As I work from home, the clothes I wear the majority of the time are pretty casual; jeans and a jumper (of which I have 18!) mostly. Generally, when I get something new I will wear it all the time and then get bored of it, so most casual stuff gets a lot of wear. At a guess, only about a ¼ of my wardrobe has been worn in the last 6 months. Some items were gifts, some were work samples, some were passed on to me and a couple were my late husband’s that I like to wear to remind me of him. Most of my clothes are from the high street and a lot from fast fashion brands so not of great quality unfortunately.
Sadly, I do have 5 items that have never been worn. Most of these are new, so I haven’t had the opportunity to wear them yet, but the others I shall endeavor to sell and learn from my mistakes! (I have to confess that I already have a pile of clothes to sell that I haven't included in these numbers, oops!) I have always passed on unwanted clothes to charity, clothing banks, store recycling schemes or onto family. I would never put clothing in the waste bin, but I am aware that recycling is not the solution.
I have a big thing for dresses and have over 40 of them, and most of them are summery ones, so in the British climate they don't get out much! I also have 10 coats, and 8 jackets which seems like a lot, but most have particular functions and get worn a lot in our weather (excuses, excuses!). I only have 6 pairs of jeans which is below the average, and in fact I mostly wear one pair nearly all the time! These ethical jeans are the most expensive garment I own, yet cost per wear would be very low. I have 23 casual tops/t-shirts in my drawers (a lot of which seem to be striped) and I also have 25 going out/dressier tops too, so I will have to cut down on those!
I was surprised by how many items I estimate that I have only worn once or twice; 51 garments which is about a ¼ of all my clothes! These are mainly dressier items worn to weddings, funerals or for going out. These seem to be the majority of what I have in my wardrobes, so I am looking at selling on some items on Depop. Some things I am considering adapting in some way to make them more likely to be worn. I have already done this with several items by dying, shortening or changing the fit.
Since the start of 2017 I took up the idea of slow fashion after blogging about it for some time. This meant being really conscious about what I am buying and I can see that has had a big effect. I have mainly bought second hand garments, a couple of high street essentials and a couple of ethical brand items in that time. In comparison to the previous year the number of garments I bought last year has halved as did the amount spent.
I love the idea of having a minimalist capsule wardrobe of classic styles, which is effortlessly stylish and means you don't have to spend ages deciding what to wear. However, as a fashion designer I really need more variety than this. That said, I am trying to buy more classic items now and stay away from trends as these can look outdated very quickly.
The item that holds the most emotional value for me is probably a green floral dress that I bought when we lived in Sweden. I have a particular memory of wearing it to the Midsommar celebrations and dancing around the maypole with my late husband and our son. I have worn it many times since and always makes me feel great and reminds me of happy times.
In the last few years I have been using the Stylebook app on my phone to help organise my wardrobe and plan outfits. You take or download a picture of the garment and input all its details. It will then give you stats on how often you wear them, how many you have, cost per wear, outfit suggestions and what is most and least worn and much more. It also helps me to see what I need to complete outfits and so extend a garment’s wearability, rather than just impulse buying stuff that won’t get worn.
I would like to go into more detail on my wardrobe audit at some point (when I have more time) to see where most of the items are made and what fabrics they mainly are. This would give me a better idea of the social and environmental impact that my clothes shopping has had.
Is your wardrobe bursting at seams like mine? Could you become a more conscious fashion shopper too? Let me know what you think x
#wardrobeaudit #slowfashion #consciousconsumption
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