Here’s What’s Really Happening to Last Season’s Fashion

Maor Yur
December 17, 2019

As we round out the decade and enter 2020, clothing production rates are at an all-time high. With high production, comes high excess. Whether you blame it on fast fashion, social media, or our consumer culture (only spurred on by irresistible sales and free—sometimes even same-day or two-day—shipping…), the problem persists.

For retailers, that can mean bringing in inventory not just twice a year, but monthly and even weekly. But there’s no way shoppers are buying all of it, so…what happens with all of the excesses? Where does it go?

In July 2018, it was released that Burberry was actively participating in the burning of excess merchandise—and on a massive scale. Nearly $40 million worth was incinerated in 2017 alone, all in an effort to preserve the brand and reputation. Burberry didn’t want its products to end up at off-price retailers or other non-luxury locations, for fear that the easy accessibility would devalue the brand.

Think about it for a second: Resources were depleted and fossil fuels were burned not once, but twice—first to create the garments and then to bring about their fiery end.

Thanks to a great deal of bad publicity, Burberry has since restructured their operations.

However, Burberry isn’t the only company at fault. Burning isn’t a practice exclusive to luxury, high-end fashion, either. The act of burning excess merchandise is a rampant problem throughout the fashion industry that’s beginning to get more spotlight. Many brands have been outed for the practice, including Nike, Eddie Bauer, and Urban Outfitters.

And that’s not the only way brands handle excess in order to protect their brand and stock. In addition to burning, there are many companies that opt to shred their leftover garments. In 2017, it was discovered that Nike was slashing perfectly good, unused sneakers. Those that found the discarded shoes claimed that apart from the slashes, there were otherwise no issues with the pieces.

When brands opt to slash and destroy their merchandise, it’s later dumped into landfills, where it sits until it decomposes. That takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

It’s nothing short of careless to discard garments like this, especially when the pieces can instead be donated, reused, or recycled.

But… we’re working with a larger issue here. With this much

excess, we can’t rely wholly on recycling and donating to take care of the problem.
The answer instead lies in production.

What if retailers simply only produced what they needed, in smaller batches? What if items could be created on demand to ensure that excess wasn’t created?

That’s part of our focus at Kornit Digital. By choosing advanced, high-tech equipment that enables printing on demand, our clients are able to manufacture only what they need. This saves resources, energy, money, space, and, most importantly, prevents waste. Plus, our zero-water technology means we don’t waste or pollute freshwater in the process.

This year as a consumer during the holidays, do your part. Actively research before making any purchases and find out where your products are coming from. Look at brands’ manufacturing processes and opt only for those that actively participate in sustainability efforts.

We can all make a difference, and partnering with companies that are making an effort and working toward change is a great place to start.