Burberry burning £28m of stock is awful, yes, but fashion has never been ethical

The entire fashion industry is built on a single premise – creating a false need so that we purchase more

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 20 July 2018 18:12 BST
Burberry burns £2.8 m of clothes and cosmetics to protect its brand

Fashion and ethics have never been comfortable bedfellows, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that leading British brand Burberry incinerated £28m of perfectly good stock last year when they signed a deal moving their cosmetic line to the USA. Clothing which was unsold was also burnt, to stop discounting and reinforce the exclusivity of the label.

The manufacturer might claim that clothes are destroyed to prevent them being copied, but that argument holds no water – from the moment any garment appears online at the fashion show, someone somewhere will be knocking it off.

Using fabrics that are eco-friendly, recycling offcuts of fabrics and leathers to other small businesses are just tinkering around the edges of a giant problem. The entire fashion industry is built on a single premise – creating a false need so that we purchase more. True “need” never comes into this thought process. We certainly don’t “need” any more £1,000 Burberry coats or bags.

As for recycling – in the last few months, Primark, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have asked us to return our old clothes (from their stores) in return for vouchers or discounts – but they’re not about to stop selling fashion, are they?

MPs are the latest people to attack “disposable fashion” – the Commons environmental committee is to investigate how pollution and waste can be reduced. What a waste of public funds. All luxury brands, from clothing to accessories, destroy the stuff that doesn’t sell and artificially inflate their prices in the process.

So why do we keep buying? We naively believe that a premium brand like Gucci or Burberry will give us some special aura, the equivalent of entry to a VIP lounge. Sadly for Burberry, the brand stopped being chic several years ago when they decided to focus their advertising and product ranges for the Far East and became the uniform of Japanese and Chinese young women. The cult of the label will not be sacrificed to save the planet anytime soon.

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