A Dark Side to Unsold Fashion – and How to Change It

Each year tons of garments are left unsold. The equivalent of one truckload of clothes is dumped or burned every second.[1] As shoppers, what can we do?


Brands carry a hefty responsibility to predict which trends, colors, and fabrics will fly off the shelves. But no matter how accurate these forecasts are – there will always be unsold merchandise.[2] In fashion, most products aren’t designed with disassembly in mind, which means their parts cannot be repurposed into other goods or properly recycled. That’s why most brands destroy excess inventory as it is often the least costly option.[3] Here’s how we can do our part to help break the cycle and champion better practices.


You need it, they make it

To reduce garment waste, buyers can look for brands that embrace a made-to-order approach. These companies produce clothes only after having received an order from a customer.[4] Molby the Label, a custom-order fashion brand, designs handmade and stylish garments which can be dressed up or down for all occasions. As its founder, Karina Molby, once said “If my followers like it, then I can make the order. And if it’s not so popular, I don’t have a warehouse full of unsold dresses.”[5] To discover other made-to-order fashion brands, check them out here.


Closing the loop

To avoid clothes ending up in landfills, customers can shop at second-hand markets or participate in recycling programs. Several platforms, such as ThredUp, have enabled people to sell apparel online and make a profit. This process avoids the manufacture of new garments and, at the same time, prevents clothes from being thrown away. On the other hand, some brands, including Nudie Jeans and Levi’s, encourage buyers to give back their old wardrobes to receive discounts.[6] The Italian clothing brand Napapijri also recently dropped a new collection of jackets made with one ingredient. This allows the entire jacket – from fabric to trimmings – to be 100% recyclable. Shoppers have the option of returning their old jackets after 2 years of usage minimum for a 20% discount off of future purchases. Discover these 5 fashion brands with recycling programs worth trying today.

A force for good

Some green labels are working to intercept our “throw away” culture. The fashion brand Frankie Collective has a “Rework” collection that breathes new life into vintage garments that would otherwise end up in landfills. The company Re/Done partners with Levi’s and Hanes to give a fresh makeover to past, classic collections.[7] Other firms that are committed to sustainable practices include B Corp brands, which leverage their business models as a force for good. Here are 3 things to know when buying from a B Corp brand today.



[1] “Redesigning the future of fashion” | Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Available at: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/fashion/overview

[2] “What happens to unsold clothes may surprise you!” | Eluxe Magazine. Available at: https://eluxemagazine.com/culture/articles/what-happens-to-unsold-clothes/

[3] “Why destroying products is still an “Everest of a problem” for fashion” | Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/why-destroying-products-is-still-an-everest-of-a-problem-for-fashion?status=verified

[4] “Made-to-order fashion is giving garment waste the chop” | Wallpaper. Available at: https://www.wallpaper.com/fashion/made-to-order-fashion-explained

[5] “Made-to-Order Fashion Is on the Rise—Here Are the Brands You Need to Know” | Who What Wear. Available at: https://www.whowhatwear.co.uk/made-to-order-fashion-brands/slide4

[6] “What happens to unsold clothes may surprise you!” | Eluxe Magazine. Available at: https://eluxemagazine.com/culture/articles/what-happens-to-unsold-clothes/

[7] “8 Brands That Are Using Deadstock and Upcycled Materials in Their Clothing” | Who What Wear. Available at: https://www.whowhatwear.co.uk/deadstock-clothing


Author: Naomy Gmyrek