The huge competitiveness in terms of price, style and quality.
Concerning prices, there are industrial relocations in Asia and in Africa to offer the lowest prices in the market thanks to a cheaper workforce in those countries. Brands have to do that because customers are looking for low prices and very fashion pieces at the time. People want to have the possibility to buy clothes even if they know they will wear it only one time. They buy more regularly and unbridled, so the offer must keep pace by offering more and more collections. That’s what Zara, H&M and even Primark propose: a new collection in store every two weeks. That is what is called fast-fashion (Definition: An approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers). It has completely revolutionized fashion and its consumption.
The fashion system has changed…
Sadly, relocation and frenetic subcontracting carry out a decline of employees working conditions and quality of life. Brands can neither check their production nor know how their clothes are actually made because of the distance. Some manufacturers do not respect human conditions and even less environmental conditions. Because of the bad quality of materials used to produce more clothes, water sources such as rivers are toxic and endanger employees and family’s life. Clothes that are not sold are incinerated and seriously pollute the country. For example, H&M has more than 3,5 billion euros of unselling, an increase of 7% over last year.
Some interesting figures:
Over the last few years, there has been an increase in clothing sales and a decrease in its use:
- In France, we throw 80 new articles per person and per year on average.
- Many clothes are only worn 7 to 10 times in their lifetime.
- More than half of the clothes produced by fast-fashion are thrown away in less than a year.
This graph shows that the clothing utilization is decreasing year after year, contrary to the clothing sales which is increasing. Clothing sales have doubled in 15 years. In 2010, it was the first year there were more clothes sold than clothes worn.
What about luxury production?
Clothes, accessories or shoes of the majority of luxury brands bear the label “Made in France”.
Did you know that only the last stage of production is taken into account? As Donald Potard said: “very little is produced in France”. As a matter of fact, a dress made 90% abroad can be labeled “Made in France” if the last stage of production was in France. Affixing the “Made in France” to a piece of clothing in these conditions is “quite legal” even if it is completely immoral. On the other hand, this practice would be forbidden for haute-couture, because the rules are extremely strict.
Many tanneries working in the luxury sector send their leather to Italian subcontractors specialized in the drying of skins. The skins weigh between 20 and 30 kilograms and the workers carry hundreds every day. There are a lot of foreign workers and when they do Ramadan, they can stay a month without eating or drinking. Moreover, working conditions are really bad and risky: most of the time they work in a building displaying 45°C. At the end of the day, they have no more energy.
The origin of materials used by luxury brands is also a problem. Do you know where the furs of Max Mara come from? If we listen to the brand, it confirms that “fur comes from certified suppliers”. However, in reality it comes from rabbit farms in China. To cut costs, fur farmers pack animals into unbearably small cages. In China, there is no law obliges the owners to the least standard of hygiene. There are excrements pile up along the cages, some rabbits have respiratory problems… We are far from the answer of Max Mara on this subject!
A bad inventory management can be dramatic for the luxury industry.
Some luxury brands, after a private sale to their best customers, employees or journalists, slash their unsold or incinerate them. A polluting practice, even obscene, at a time when recycling should be obvious to spare energy resources and raw materials.
It is the case of Burberry. This year, the British luxury brand claims to have destroyed last year more than 31 million euros of clothing and cosmetics. It us up to 50% from two years ago. Based on the average prices of the brand, this corresponds to the destruction of more than 20,000 trench coats.
Same for Richemont, the company that owns Cartier and Montblanc. It destroyed more than 520 million swiss francs of watches in only two years.
According to the brands, these destructions are intended to protect the intellectual property and prevent counterfeiting. Cultivating the rarity of their products and therefore their high prices, brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès cannot sell off the prices. Therefore, luxury brands have to perfectly manage their inventory.
And you, do you have something interesting about fashion production and consumption to share with us ?