Luxury Brands Under Fire for Excess Inventory Practices

Following a 20 year boom in clothing consumption, the fashion industry has reached a truly unsustainable level. While the focus has always been on fast fashion, surprisingly it is the most luxurious brands that are secretly fuelling inconceivable environmental damage, notes Antonio Corbillón in an article for El Correo. While most excess clothing is either discounted at outlet stores or sent via non-profit organizations to countries in need, ultra luxury brands prefer their items don’t land in the hands of the commoner and instead choose to burn excess inventory. Burberry is one such company that has admitted to doing this over the last five years. In 2017, around $35 million worth of unworn pieces was sent to the crematorium. The company has vowed to stop this practice, but representatives from Greenpeace have noted that many other fashion brands are secretly doing the same. 

Experts expect that Burberry’s figures could be multiplied by the dozens based on practices of many American and European fashion brands. The article notes Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes as brands that have traditionally preferred to eliminate stock over donations or recycling. Tough competition is leading to the excess supply of products, and an important part of marketing for these fashion brands is to maintain the desire for exclusivity. 

After publicly announcing the end to Burberry’s high-end clothing crematorium, executive director, Marco Gobbetti, said the company is now adopting the ethos that: “Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible.” In this new transparent and sustainable chapter, Burberry has signed an agreement with the sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse to transform the 120 tons of leather cuts it has left over from factories into useful products. 

However, it has been argued that these brands should be looking at shifting practices at the beginning of the chain, rather than at the end when there is an inventory surplus – and this would involve manufacturing less. The answer for this is being found in the management of order channels – where production is based on customer orders, and brands can later rotate any excess between influencers and celebrities. However, looking to the future, clothing marked by organic fabrics and ecodesign is predicted to be the next fashion triumph and sign of “exclusivity.”


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