IN THE BAG: Pedestrians walk past a Burberry store in the Causeway Bay shopping district of Hong Kong. Picture: BLOOMBERG/XAUME OLLEROS
None IN THE BAG: Pedestrians walk past a Burberry store in the Causeway Bay shopping district of Hong Kong. Picture: BLOOMBERG/XAUME OLLEROS

London — Britain’s Burberry will no longer burn millions of pounds worth of unsold luxury goods or use real fur in its collections following a furore over it environmental record.

It admitted in July to destroying £28.6m worth of unwanted items in a single year to prevent them being sold at below market prices and devaluing the brand.

This cast a light on waste in the fashion industry — both luxury and mass market — just a few months after the owner of Cartier and Montblanc admitted to having to buy back their own watches from dealers to prevent overstocking.

Burberry also said on Thursday it would follow the likes of Versace, Gucci and the trailblazer for ethical fashion, Stella McCartney, in removing real fur, such as rabbit, fox, mink and Asiatic raccoon, from its ranges.

The fashion industry is under pressure from consumers and environmental organisations to make itself more sustainable and many retailers have been called out in recent years for destroying unsold stock, including by slashing or punching holes in garments before throwing them out.

In the watch market, Richemont, owner of the luxury brands, said they would buy back unsold stock from dealers and would not move them to other markets. Instead it planned to recycle the precious metals and stones that were in the high-end pieces.

Burberry, whose coats sell for more than £2,500 and handbags retail at about £1,500, said it would expand efforts to re-use, repair, donate or recycle its products and work to develop new sustainable materials.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), welcomed Burberry’s move to stop using fur, which the fashion house’s CEO said was part of bigger shift and Peta said was a sign of the times.

"Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible," Marco Gobbetti, who is in the process of repositioning the label to be more upmarket, said.

Transformation

In the financial year to end March, Burberry said it physically destroyed £28.6m worth of finished goods, up from £26.9m the previous year, including £10m worth of beauty products, such as perfume. It says it is now working with the sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse to transform 120 tonnes of leather off-cuts into new products over the next five years.

"This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products." Gobbetti is hoping new designer Riccardo Tisci, the former Givenchy star who designed costumes for Beyoncé and Madonna, can transform the quintessentially British fashion house.

Campaign group Humane Society International said animal charities would unite during this year’s major fashion shows to call on Italian brand Prada to follow Burberry’s lead on ending the use of real fur in its collections. "The few fashion houses refusing to modernise and listen to the overwhelming public opinion against fur are now sticking out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons," Peta’s director of international programmes, Mimi Bekhechi said.

The head of the International Fur Federation, Mark Oaten, said substituting natural fur with "plastic petroleum-based materials, like fake fur" was neither luxury nor responsible.

Reuters

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