Are Burberry clothes worth it?

The destructiveness of the fashion chains

Burberry and Co. destroy clothing worth millions to protect their brands. There are more creative solutions.

Vienna. The British luxury brand Burberry would have preferred to save itself the bad press of the past few days: Since it became known that the fashion label destroyed brand new clothes and cosmetics worth 28.6 million pounds (32 million euros) in the previous year, environmentalists and shareholders have been complaining about the apparently so senseless destruction of value. The accuracy of the Burberry designers was also better. In 2013, “only” products for a good five million euros ended up in the trash.

But Burberry is not alone. Dozens of suppliers throw tons of excess goods into the shredder every year. The luxury jeweler Richemont destroyed products worth 481 million euros in May. Mail order company Amazon destroys thousands of returned items instead of reusing them. The Swedish fashion chain H&M only had tons of new clothes burned again in the autumn. Urban Outfitters hit the headlines after an employee reported they were spraying store shelves with green paint and rendering them unusable. And Nike was caught cutting up boxes of new shoes and stuffing them into garbage cans.

The logic behind the manufacturers' apparently blind mania for destruction is always the same: If too many Burberry raincoats or Nike shoes stay on the shelves unintentionally, it damages the image. If the products find buyers via detours (and at a great price), this depresses the brand value of the luxury providers. What would the Burberry customer think if her pretty checked scarves suddenly became standard well outside of the well-defined target group?

Luxury brands in the car seat

The fashion industry in particular has long since maneuvered itself into a dead end with its ever faster product cycles. Year after year, the mountain of clothing grows, which is first produced at high cost and then destroyed again at great expense to protect the brand value. There have long been more creative alternatives for dealing with production surpluses - and maybe even making money from it.

A few examples: The companies could simply donate the goods. There is no money for it, there is usually no cost and at least nice PR. If you absolutely want to prevent too many of your precious pieces from being in circulation, you could easily get around that too. A number of companies offer to free clothing from logos, labels and brand names and then to resell them as no-name products outside of the markets used by the original. That even brings a little change, but of course only works where the products cannot be assigned to a brand at first glance.

There are also solutions for these cases: The recyclers also take over clothing to shred it into textile fibers that end up in car or airplane seats. This means that the luxury labels would have more users again than they ever wanted. Their next collection should be able to withstand the competition with anonymous car seats.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 21, 2018)