Washington Post Feature: CSB Director Tensie Whelan Highlights Growing Consumer Demand for Sustainable Apparel Brands

clothing hanger on fire

After being criticized for destroying inventory to maintain exclusivity, luxury brands are putting more focus on sustainability. CSB Director Tensie Whelan talks about the benefits for apparel brands to adopt sustainability in a recent article published in The Washington Post. 

High-end retailers have a long history of destroying merchandise. However, as consumers shift increasingly toward valuing a brand’s environmental and social impact, the same high-end retailers created initiatives aimed at more circular solutions. 

Burberry stated they would end their practice of destroying merchandise and increase efforts to reuse, repair, donate, or recycle unsold products, and the brand’s financial value grew after these promises. Such examples show how sustainability provides competitive advantage in today’s market. 

The article cites brands like Reformation, Patagonia, and Allbirds whose reputations for being environmentally friendly drive their desirability. To this point, Allbirds’ share value rose 93% on its first day of trading. With the emergence of such consumer preferences, apparel makers need to consider how to properly control their inventory. Two ways this can be done are reducing the amount of excess merchandise being produced and ensuring excess is disposed of in an ethical way.

Excerpt: “ It was deemed better for unwanted designer handbags, shoes and dresses to go up in smoke than to get marked down, end up in down-market stores or be worn by the less affluent. Seeing a brand’s logo in any of these scenarios would jeopardize its value, so the thinking went.”