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What happens to clothing that goes unsold?

What happens to clothing that goes unsold?

According to ShareCloth©, 150 billion garments are produced each year, with 30% never being sold and over 50% of fast fashion being disposed of within a year.


The exact amount of ‘deadstock’ – clothes that are unable to be sold at full or discounted prices and must be gotten rid of somehow – is unknown.  Even assuming a generous sell-through rate of 90% leaves 15 million items of clothing to miraculously disappear each year. 


It’s a well-kept secret of people working within the fashion industry that unsold or damaged clothes are often destroyed by incineration, but the lid is increasingly being lifted off as well-known brands policies have crept into the spotlight over the last few years.


In their first quarterly report of 2018 (1 December 2017 – 28 February 2018), H&M reported to have unsellable inventory worth USD $4.3 billion.  In 2018, luxury brand Burberry admitted to having destroyed over £90m worth of unwanted items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply. Maria Malone, principal lecturer on the fashion business at Manchester Metropolitan University explains that Burberry has had to work hard to maintain it’s exclusivity and brand value in a time where counterfeiting and discounts are widespread. 


No one wants to take the blame for fashion waste which is essentially the result of trying to sell clothes that customers don’t want.  There is an urgent need for fashion buyers to curb their enthusiasm so their stores are not overflowing with excess stock, and for brands to rein in their ordering to responsible quantities.


As a brand that prides itself on ethical production, Anarkid is taking the following steps to minimise our fashion waste and find that ‘sweet spot’ between supply and demand:


  • Technology improvements

With 14 seasons of learnings behind us, we have invested heavily into technology and systems which allow us to best predict the sales of future seasons to avoid over-production.


  • Design focus

Many of our prints and designs are gender-neutral, so that parents can buy fewer, but better-quality clothing for their children that can be shared between siblings and last longer.


  • Finding uses for cut-off fabrics

Anarkid is dedicated to using every piece of fabric that is created during production.  This season, we are using smaller cut-offs to make matching Barbie clothes and scrunchies.


  • Inspiration and education

As a fashion brand, it is our duty and responsibility to encourage our customers to re-use and re-purpose their Anarkid pieces.  Our Instagram page is full of inspirational outfits so parents can achieve lots of different looks using the same pieces.  We also regularly add ideas to our Pinterest board that has ideas for re-purposing clothing to give it a longer life.


  • Donations

Given we don’t often over-manufacture clothing as we produce quite small runs, we generally don’t have much ‘deadstock’.  Wherever possible, samples and faulty items are donated to local daycare centres to be used as spare clothing and/or painting smocks, as well as any local charities that are in need of children’s clothing.


Image sourced from Ethical Fashion Review.


  • Kate: October 06, 2020


  • Haley: October 05, 2020

    Thank you for writing about this, I worked in retail for many years as a teenager and always wondered about this!!

  • Kat: September 24, 2020

    OMG, those numbers are shocking. I knew it was bad, but I had no idea it was THAT bad. Thank you for sharing, love your brand.

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