An Open Letter To Burberry - Flashy To Ashy
Updated: Aug 6, 2018
Oh Dear Burberry,
I was shocked to find out in the news that you burned over $37 million worth of clothing that you 'didn't need anymore'.
I respect that you have already had a great amount of backlash over the issue and are probably fed up with everybody talking about it, but I find it a pressing issue if other fashion houses follow this act of inconsideration. But what I would like to say is, thank you for opening up this issue because it has been rumoured that you're not the only one's who are doing this. [?]
Though I don't agree with what you did, I'll try to keep this as balanced and rational as possible.
Do you know what £28 million worth of clothing could do for those in the UK who need it? That's an awful lot of waste to just be randomly burning because a season has ended. It's greatly upsetting that there are so many people in need of clothing who don't have access to it, for example, the homeless who don't have the funds to buy fresh clothing. Homelessness is increasing significantly across the UK and we need to be looking at ways we can help and clothing banks are in need of more donations!
Not only that, is that we are suppose to working out ways where we can become sustainable as a planet again. All this wasted material could have gone to better use had it have been recycled instead of burned to ashes! I can't bear to imagine how much material that is now nothing but dust, or even worse, materials that don't burn that are just left destroyed and can't be used again.
I find this act to be totally irresponsible and this isn't what should be happening the today's fashion industry. I thought the fashion industry was suppose to be about revolutionising the way people think in positive ways.
I read an informative article on Dazed Digital by Emma Allwood which explains why fashion industry brands burn their products towards the end of the season and argues that this isn't sustainable at all.
Allwood E. (2018) says: "Why do brands burn? Well, there’s the fact that hefty markdowns can hurt a company’s image of being exclusive and always in-demand; a row of messy sale rails in a luxury boutique selling handbags that cost more than the average person makes in two months doesn’t exactly scream, ‘THIS IS A WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT’.
If the market becomes over-saturated with cut-price products, it can negatively impact a label’s prestige – brands need their high prices to seem justifiable, and exclusivity is a key part of that. While many high-end companies operate their own outlets, they are perhaps less willing to palm off unsold stock to chains – after all, who is going to shell out for a cashmere coat if it might end up in TK Maxx in a few weeks?
Then there’s the argument that destroying clothing is protection against counterfeiting – if enough stock is sold cheaply enough to end up in the wrong hands to be copied, a brand’s intellectual property is at risk. Counterfeiting is a huge, and illegal, industry reportedly worth $450bn – where vulnerable people like undocumented immigrants are regularly exploited for low-cost labour, including in the UK. According to the UK’s Anti-Counterfeiting Group, intellectual property crime helps to fund other kinds of illegal behaviour, including the smuggling of drugs, guns and people.
Orsola de Castro, co-founder and creative director of Fashion Revolution, says “there is no such thing as an environmentally friendly way of burning clothes.” Part of this is to do with the materials: “Many of these (pieces of) clothing contain components such as synthetic linings or zips and buttons that are plastic. You can burn plastic, but it doesn't become ash. Harnessing energy is not a really good excuse, because (producing) them in the first place is very energy consuming. It just doesn't make any sense.”
So I guess this mistake which has caused a HUGE backlash is a wake up call to ALL in the fashion industry! Something needs to change where ethics are concerned that help protect people who work we need to take more time out and think of ways to make the industry much more sustainable. We are becoming a wasteful society and this needs to change to benefit EVERYBODY!
It's understandable that it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine which charities to choose who to donate money and materials to, because every charity operates differently. But that doesn't make donating these materials an impossible challenge if sufficient research is carried out. It could be that this act was a rash decision that wasn't clearly thought out and the brand have made a mistake. Not good for the PR side of things, but most brands will make mistakes, this one however was quite a big one.
If you talk to most people, people will tell you that they don't care about what 'everybody is wearing right now'. People want to be able to express themselves without being preached to of how people choose to live. That includes the clothes they wear! Superficiality is still something that's holding originality under siege. So instead of focusing on what's more luxury, we need to start thinking of ways to make the world a much more sustainable place to live in.
What I will say is that if other fashion houses and brands are doing this too then I don't think it's fair that Burberry are the only one's being targeted on the matter and other brands should also be held to account.
Workers at fashion houses need the credit they deserve and to not be exploited by the industry and we need to start thinking about ways we can overcome luxury by sustainability. Workers should be paid a correct wage and materials need to be sourced ethically, so that everybody is benefited.
To finish this letter I think one of the most outrageous things about this whole debate is that fashion houses are always preaching about sustainability, but clearly aren't practising what they preach.
However, talking about this issue really helps us all come to the table and start debating on the ways that we can get rid of clothing that's thought out more clearly. Sometimes mistakes like this brings the debate to the forefront so we can tackle the problem and I hope this helps to open the discussion further!
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