Deadstock; destroyed in the name of fashion


There are many dirty secrets in the world of fashion and the issue of the destruction of unworn stock is maybe the most hidden. Deadstock is the term for such unwanted stock that has not sold for a variety of reasons; overproduction, defects, poor buying or design decisions and sometimes even the weather.

Bad Practice

In 2017 the fast fashion giant H&M was accused of burning 12 tonnes of unsold garments a year. Investigators from a Danish TV show tracked where unsold garments went to and found a waste disposal company in Roskilde. It was here that they witnessed some 30,000 kids and ladies trousers being destroyed. H&M claimed that the garments did not meet their strict safety requirements either due to mould or chemical restrictions and therefore had to be incinerated. However, when tests were done on garments they managed to rescue and compared to identical ones sold in store, they found no difference. It is therefore reasonable to assume this was deadstock that the brand wanted rid of on the quiet.

The Swedish brand was previously accused of destroying unwanted garments back in 2010 when clothing that had been cut up with razors had been found dumped on Manhattan streets. After an uproar in the press H&M promised to not do it again, but the Danish disposal company claim to have incinerated 60 tonnes[i] of H&M deadstock since 2013. This has now become such an issue for H&M that they have recently admitted to having $4.3 billion[ii] in unsold clothes.

This destruction is sadly a common practice throughout the industry as backed up by many employees of other high street brands, who have been asked to cut up, burn or otherwise destroy unsold garments[iii].

“Potentially 10 million items of clothing become ‘deadstock’ every year. That’s a lot of clothes to miraculously make ‘disappear.’”[iv]


Clothing has been found outside Walmart stores with holes punched in it preventing it being worn[v] and Celio, a French retailer[vi] was slammed on social media after cutting up and discarding their unwanted garments. 42.9 tonnes[vii] of clothing, shoes and jewellery were also found to have incinerated by Bestseller, the Danish company behind Vero Moda, Vila and Jack Jones and Radio 4 exposed that jackets and sleeping bags were slashed and binned by the outdoor company, Millets.

This is not just a high street problem however, luxury labels are also at it as Orsola de Castro, who is a designer who utilises fashion waste in her work, says:

“The issues of incineration when it comes to fashion waste is nothing new. It is something that brands and factories alike have been doing for years.Luxury brands are the worst when it comes to incineration, as they would rather burn unwanted or damaged leather products then sell them as it may damage their reputation[viii]

Symptom of the System

Some companies give their surplus to outlet or discount stores and some even to charity and staff but these are few and far between. This excess of hidden waste is particularly hypocritical from brands such as H&M who using recycling schemes tell us we need to recycle clothing. More needs to be done to tackle such hidden practices but unfortunately it is a symptom of the fast fashion system. Many of these brands drop new stock into stores every week and this speed and volume is where such problems arise. Purchasing fast fashion is therefore condoning this waste.


#deadstockdestruction #clothingincineration #fashionwaste

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