It might just be October, but it is no secret that the fashion industry has had a few skeletons in its closet for a while. Though in the past largely ignored, the harmful environmental effects of the fashion industry have been slowly permeating the news cycle in the past few years. And, with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok, the conversation has only been amplified.
On October 12, American fashion brand Coach took to Instagram to announce it would cease the destruction of “in-store returns of damaged and unsalable goods” going forward, citing being committed to sustainability. “We always strive to do better and we are committed to leading with purpose and embracing our responsibility as a global fashion brand to effect real and lasting change for our industry,” the brand captioned its posts, which included a few announcements via slides. Coach also announced the unwanted goods will now be “dedicated to maximizing such products for reuse in our Coach (Re)Loved and other circularity programs.”
The brand’s announcement came in response to a video by Anna Sacks (aka @TheTrashWalker) that went viral over the past weekend. “Welcome to my first unboxing video…” starts Anna, as she holds up slashed Coach bags and calls out what she explains are the brand’s policies. “I am going to bring some of these into Coach and ask them to repair them for me,” continues Anna, offering multiple alternative solutions to the destroyed merchandise in her video, which was posted with the hashtag #donatedontdump.
Of course, Coach is not the only brand that has perpetuated such practices. A previous report by Vox showed that many well-known and established brands also intentionally destroy their own unsold merchandise, citing overproduction as one of the main reasons. There’s also the desire of maintaining exclusivity, of course. In 2018, Burberry also announced it would stop destroying unsaleable products after a similar public outrage unfolded. But it’s not a luxury fashion problem either; Amazon was in hot water this summer because a former employee claimed the warehouse where they worked destroys hundreds of thousands of items each week.
To coincide with the announcement, Joon Silverstein, global head of sustainability and digital at Coach, also spoke to WWD, stating that the number of products that are destroyed amounts to less than 1 percent of Coach’s global sales. “Over 40 percent of our retail stores have stopped damaging product,” Joon added. “Reducing waste is one of the most important strategies... When it comes to damaged or defective product, we have been working on many avenues. It’s unfortunate these posts came out now because we had been doing this thoughtfully.” The brand’s Insta announcement is meant to reaffirm its commitment to sustainability and the plan to expand its (Re)Loved program to 16 more stores by the end of October with a full rollout to all retail stores in the first part of the new year.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I also think it seemed deliberately limiting,” Anna told Forbes reacting to the brand’s announcement. Sustainability may be in fashion, but it is actually part of a continuous commitment and conversation. Now, all eyes are on Coach to see how it carries out its commitment.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue