A major issue in the fashion supply chain is ‘deadstock’- clothes which haven’t been sold at full or sale prices. The energy, resources and labour put into making even a single garment is significant and ultimately, retailers must work towards ending deadstock inventory to avoid waste, from design through to production. TRAID talked to Rob Williams, CFO at clothing manufacturer, Hawthorn about the urgent need for retailers and brands to stop disposing of wearable stock, and to put it back into use instead.

TRAID – Not many people know about the fashion industry from the perspective of a manufacturer. What issues and challenges are affecting the industry right now?

Rob Williams: One of the hottest topics in the fashion industry at the moment is sustainability, and more specifically the damage that fast fashion is doing to the environment. Some manufacturers and brands are trying to find ways to become more sustainable. However, one of the biggest challenges for the industry is fashion waste. One of the less publicised elements of the industry is that corporations dispose of often perfectly good stock in ways which is very damaging to the environment. An unfortunate consequence of this is that good causes are missing out on clothing which could be put to use, and the environment is suffering unnecessarily. Although consumer fashion waste has been come under the spotlight over the past couple years, even more alarming is that businesses throw away 40 times more textiles than consumers. That figure is made up of things like off cuts from production, and brands destroying stock in order to ensure their reputation is upheld. This equates to a staggering 92 million tonnes of waste per year, a large amount of which is unnecessary and could be put to good use.

TRAID – We partner with some amazing brands who pass on deadstock to TRAID for reuse, but they are the exceptions. Why do corporations dispose of clothing so readily?

Rob Williams: There are lots of reasons, but the most avoidable would be end of season items which have not been sold. Trends are constantly changing (a problem in itself) and a brand may have changed their designs significantly from one year’s AW season to the next for example. Unfortunately, not wanting to be seen to damage their brand reputation by putting items on sale for a reduced rate, some opt to destroy stock instead. This is particularly true of luxury brands, who even dispose of items in order to preserve the allure of a product that is hard to obtain for some customers. Other reasons for garment disposal are things like faulty stock, but just because an item is not suitable to be sold, it may be suitable for donation. Brands need to be leading the way when it comes to textile waste, so as to set a good example for the consumers who buy in to those brands.

TRAID – What avenues are there for corporations to dispose of clothing in a positive way?

Rob Williams: There are so many options for businesses and consumers to dispose of clothing in a way which isn’t damaging to the environment, that it makes an almost impossible case for burning or sending items to landfill. Businesses who are concerned about the potentially negative consequences to their brand of donating clothing can donate to charities like Traid who offer de-branding services. Being able to completely strip an item of clothing of all branding means that the clothes donated are put to a good use whilst not leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of a consumer who may have paid full price for the exact same piece only recently. Having a positive attitide to recycling is also something which is much needed and easy to adopt for brands. With sustainability being such a prominent subject in the industry right now, many consumers are looking to buy only from companies who actively promote the work they do to minimise their impact on the environment, meaning that a brand who publicises their willingness to donate is likely to attract a larger customer base.

TRAID – How does the future look for the textile waste problem if no action is taken?

Rob Williams: Unfortunately, the future is not bright for the textile waste problem if trends continue as they are. By 2030, the total amount of fashion waste is expected to rise to 148 million tonnes, equivalent to 17.5 kg per person across the planet. Part of the issue is that over 72% of garments use synthetic or non bio degradable fibres like polyester, which can take 200 years to decompose. If these fibres continue to be disposed of in landfill sites then the problem will only get worse, not only in the sense of physical space taken up in sites by all of these items, but textiles sent to landfill can cause chemicals in groundwater and release methane which is a gas attributed to climate change. If we can work now to push businesses to be more responsible when they’re disposing of their textile waste, we can work to create a positive outlook for the future.

Contact TRAID to find out more.