After it became public knowledge that Burberry was burning their leftover garments, UK brand Elvis and Kresse stepped in. The sustainable luxury brand is helping the fashion giant reach its environmental responsibility goals by turning its offcuts and leftover stock into accessories and homewares.
Elvis and Kresse’s handbags are indistinguishable from any other high-end brand – but every one of their items is made from upcycled materials. Fire hose, parachute panels, printing blankets, and now Burberry cast-offs are all part of the accessories’ make-up.
The recycling move comes after Burberry acknowledged in its annual report that it burned unsold clothes, accessories, and perfume adding to £28.6 million (NZ$56.6 million). It’s not the only designer brand to burn unsold stock – but it is one of the only brands to name the amount they burned.
Arnaud Cadart, a portfolio manager at Flornoy and Associates, stated that few luxury brands held sales for unsold stock. “Once you do some private sales to employees and journalists, it’s dumping,” he explained.
Burberry tried to minimise the PR damage done by explaining that it harnesses the energy from burning items, but critics pointed out that the environmental impacts of textile-burning weren’t the only problem – it’s also socially irresponsible given the number of people in poverty in the UK. “There are people who don’t have clothes to put on their backs,” said Cadart.
On September 6th Burberry declared it would no longer destroy unused goods. This commitment is part of a “responsibility agenda” it has put in place for the next five years, which includes a promise to no longer use real fur in its collections.
“Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible,” said Marco Gobbetti, Burberry’s CEO. The Global Fashion Agenda forum and the Boston Consulting Group have stated that the fashion industry produces around 92 million tons of textile waste annually.
Elvis and Kresse created a system to turn Burberry offcuts into small pieces that could be woven together. It does this in-store for its seasonless products – designed to last a lifetime, not just SS19. The brand also hosts workshops teaching customers how to weave and upcycle themselves.